What we don't see from this approach is the rugged uninhabited northern side of the ruptured landscape. Deep canyons and craggy spires charting, and charted by, the course of rushing torrents of water. Flooding from massive rainfalls at the peak makes this an inhospitable landscape that has wisely been left to nature.
We have watched Pelee and it's moods over our last few visits to Martinique, always tempted to tackle the peak but knowing that conditions must be right or we would be miserable. Winds at the top are constantly howling, added to cold and wet and it would be unpleasant to say the least. So, patiently we have watched and our patience has paid off as we were treated to two days of light cloud shrouding the top, quite often breaking to provide a peek at the peak. This was it, we were reaching for the top!
Given the height of this mountain, we were definitely not hiking up all the way from the bottom. There is a wonderful trail system across the peak and the best place to start was at the car rental agency in St. Pierre! It's low season in the islands now, so why not?
We drove up the southern slope of Mt. Pelee, through the town of Morne-Rouge and up to the 1st Refuge which lies at about 2,600' where we then carried on up the mountain on foot. Here began the real adventure.
|The northern tip of Martinique is dominated by Mt. Pelee. We took the eastern approach. The western is currently closed and the northern from Grand Riviere requires a guide and two days!|
|The hike took us up the slope, over the dome and around the old caldera.|
|The first steps of many - and look, you can see the peak above!|
|The lower part of the trail is well set up with many steps to help prevent erosion.|
|We joined the group and trundled higher and higher sometimes in the cloud and sometimes sunshine.|
|Group photo of everyone on the mountain at this point, including this charming dad who had pulled his kids out of school for the day for a bit of exploration. The little girl climbed the mountain barefoot so she wouldn't mess up her shoes!|
|That's where we're heading - one of the domes at the top of the mountain, momentarily clear of cloud.|
|Looking back down the spine of the slope and the trail we had climbed.|
|All very atmospheric and we're seeing lots of beautiful alpine growth at this level.|
|The growth is delicate and multi-coloured with tiny little flowers and fronds.|
|It's also lush and wet with moss growing on the tree ferns and completely soaked from the clouds that keep drifting by.|
|Before climbing down we checked out the track on the opposing slope. This turned out to be hand and foot work all the way up.|
|Le Chinois behind us - still smiling :-)|
|The rugged northern view - hard to tell from this picture just how rugged it is. No habitation out there.|
|The variety of alpine growth is stunning.|
|There is a trail to the west that leads down to the village of Le Precheur.|
|However, due to washouts it is currently closed. Glad we didn't plan our day to come up that way.|
|More surprising and beautiful alpine vegetation.|
|Click on the picture to see more detail.|
|One final view - this one to the south west and if we had binoculars we could pick out Mowzer at anchor on the coast at St. Pierre.|
The hike took us over five hours and while we could have done it faster, we thoroughly enjoyed stopping and watching the view or the tiny flora while up on top of the mountain. Remember too that we didn't climb Le Chinois and if we'd done that it would have probably added another hour to our time up there. The hike is tougher than La Souffriere on Guadeloupe but perhaps not quite so dramatic as there are no vents on Pelee. Two days after doing the hike, my calves were quite tender from the descent.
We finished up our day's adventure with a drive further through the rain forest around Fonds-St-Denis and Henry happily even found a road-side waterfall to show me. He had promised one at the beginning of the day but I was super happy this one didn't involve too much of a walk since my legs were pretty tired after Pelee.
|Henry proudly shows off The Gendarme Falls.|