Define: difficult

Monday, November 11, was a French holiday celebrating the Armistice. It was also the weekend where I had nothing planned despite having a five-day weekend. Oops. You bad traveler, you. So, I made plans with a friend to go hiking. To compensate for having not planned ahead for the long weekend, I may have been overzealous when choosing the difficulty level of the hike.

But I’m blaming it on the fact that the French and I have very very different definitions of “difficult” when it comes to physical activity. See, on the website, under “difficulté:” there were either ones with “aucune” (none) and ones with “oui” (I don’t think I need to translate that for you). Well, I didn’t want to spend however much just for a stroll in the mountains! So we chose “oui”—or rather, I did.

In the description of the hike we were about to embark on, Pas de Rocheplane at the St-Hilaire-de-Touvet massif, it tells you in greater detail what specific type of difficulties lay ahead. Here, it read “passages difficile,” or, “difficult passages.” You would think no big deal, right? Yeah, that’s what we thought too.

transisere bus

As always, to get to any mountain from Grenoble, you have to take the Transisère bus about an hour up into the mountain (7,40€ roundtrip).


We started off a little pathetically. Unable to even find the entrance of the trail (take the website’s directions with a grain of salt), we realized—after climbing on all fours for 30 minutes due to the incline—that we weren’t even on the trail.

“How do people climb this?!” my friend asked a bit angrily, her face flushed and damp. Laughing a little guiltily, wiping the sweat running down from my forehead like a river, I looked around and spotted a trail marker to our left.

“Uh, don’t kill me but… I think there’s an actual trail to the left,” I said, pointing to a trail clearly marked and graveled. “You know, I think we should be pretty proud for having blazed our own trail.” She growled in response and wordlessly crabwalked to the path. My cough concealed the hysterical laughter that had been bubbling.

I don’t know how we missed it. There was a pretty obvious, unnatural expanse where the trees were evenly spaced out for the path. We’d just been romping around like cavemen, walking parallel to the trail, getting mud all over us.


“That’s it. I don’t care if it’s 10 AM—I’m eating my damn lunch. Girl needs to refuel.” She snatched her chèvre sandwich out of the bag and, after tearing into it, continued to munch on it the next half hour of the hike—which wasn’t much better in terms of difficulty or incline.

Before emerging from the wooded area like two wild women, we peeked both ways to make sure no one was around. Ah much better… not. When the not-trail intersected with a flat gravel road obviously meant for cars, we hurriedly snatched our opportunity to stop the torture. 


Oh my god a flat road!


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“Michelle, what are you doing?” On all fours, yet again, I looked back at her.

“I’m trying to climb up to get a better view of the valley,” I said as my hands and feet slid backwards a couple of feet.

“Michelle. You’re eye-level right now.”

I scrambled up frantically, slipping the whole time; each step resulted in sliding twice as far backwards. “If. Only. I. Can. Reach. That. Big. Rock!”

“You’re on the ground, Michelle.”

I stubbornly refused to move from the spot for another 5 minutes. The lengths I go to for a mediocre shot…

IMG_2604 After hiking for less than half of the time, we decided to turn back when we reached a point where only aerobic gymnasts could scale. This evil point called for us to hug the mountain to a point where it intersects with a small waterfall; the trail continued on the other side.

Needless to say, we never really made it to the top. Instead, we got lost for an hour and a half.


Before realizing we’d been walking an hour in the wrong direction.

IMG_2629 After realizing.

After getting back into town, soggy, lost, and oh-so-tired, we checked out a map and realized we’d only had 600 meters left to go before reaching the top. But those 600 meters were crazy steep, we convinced ourselves.

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Peeking around the Tourism Office, we caught a crowd of people near the edge of a short trail. As we walked towards them, my breath caught in my throat as the trees parted like curtains to reveal the most beautiful clearing ever.

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A clearing also used for paragliders. So, while waiting for the last bus back down to Grenoble, we sat back and enjoyed the show…



After chilling an hour or so in the clearing, we suddenly realized how, well, chilled we got. The whole time, the sun had been making its rapid descent behind the mountains—at 4:30 PM due to France’s Canada-like coordinates. I could no longer feel my toes or fingers.

“I can’t tell whether my nose is running or not because it’s numb,” my friend said.

“Can you check to see if I still have fingers? I can’t look,” I replied.

And so, when I got back to the warmth of my room, I treated myself for a day well done with a bottle of rosé and tomato soup. This girl went to bed early that day.

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PS: if you don’t mind, can you tell me which sizes the vertical photos you prefer? Thank you :)

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  • Elle

    Haha! What an experience! I would have been so annoyed, but you seem to have stayed happy at least :) Too bad you didn’t make it to the top, but you’re right, those last meters were probably crazy steep and perilous. I probably like the smaller vertical photos, since I can see the whole thing on my (small) laptop screen without needing to scroll a bit.

    • Mishfish13

      Oh no, don’t take me wrong, we were annoyed :p But these mistakes always seem funnier in retrospect haha…

      Thanks so much for the tip on the vertical photos! I love LARGE photos but I noticed that you couldn’t see the overall effect as the smaller ones

  • Anna

    I love hiking in France and we did the saaame thing by creating our own ridiculously difficile path up a mountain. This looked like lots of fun though and very pretty.

    I like photos to take up the whole screen but smaller, if that makes sense – can you get them to sit side by side so you have two vertical photos and no white space around? You can stick a bit of code into the text editor to make it work if you’re theme doesn’t allow it. Or get a widget…

    • Mishfish13

      We always make things so much harder for ourselves. Sigh.

      Thanks so much for the feedback and the tip! I’m going to try and do two, smaller verticals side by side :)