Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lion Mountain - Part 2


In the last post, we had been abandoned & left to explore the village of Treize Cantons in Vieux Grand Port. So far, we've had a history lesson, crossed a dual bridge, frightened a spider & saw some floating lands. Now, it was time to climb the mountain – Montagne Lion, 480m.


I have to apologise for the delay in posting this because my Internet was down for 5 days, followed by my hard disk failing. I managed to backup all my photos, except for that Lion folder (how predictable!). Eventually, I managed to recover them using Ubuntu. :)



As you might remember, the trail starts at the police station of Vieux Grand Port.


Mountain Lion Map - Trails

In fact, there are two trails. There's the original trail which goes through a dried river bed & climbs the south-east side of the mountain. & there's the 102 steps trail which starts, plainly, at a 102-step staircase & goes up to the Eastern Viewpoint & eventually meets up with the other trail up to the summit. We decided that we would explore both trails, going to summit by the river bed & returning via the Eastern viewpoint.




Once past the police station, we took the first lane to the left.


© REy

This is the same street some years ago, found in this Lion Mountain album on Picasa. There are more photos of the trail, well worth a look for comparison. Look for the [2007] tags where I’ll be linking to some of the photos.




Following the lane we reached another fork where we went not-left before we came to an old house, which was locked.


Panorama 6

Beyond, there was a field road up the mountain. Thankfully for us, some of the sugarcane had already been harvested, so we had clear view of what was lying in front of us.


Panorama 8

& behind us was the bay of Grand Port.


Panorama 9

It seemed so wrong to be trekking when we could have been relaxing by that wonderful sea!




As we climbed, we saw what looked like an unkempt garden, with flower plants & ... [2007]



... the skinned carcass of a hare. A warning to trespassers or an ominous sign? (Edit: Apparently, before the hare, there were monkeys...)





Behind this boulder, we found the start of the mountain trail.





Clearly, this pathway was being maintained by someone with a taste for bananas, roses & hare.



& shoes.



A last glance at Vieux Grand Port before... [2007]



... we started the ascent! [2007]



Wow! That was hard!



We had barely gained a few metres that we needed a stop.



It was apparent that Lion Mountain is not a popular hiking destination as the last one I had climbed.



The trail being so rarely used, parts of it was being taken over by nature.



Clinging onto roots & branches we slowly made our way upwards.



& then I knew why people were so shy of Lion Mountain.



A huge boulder blocked our path & the only forward was to climb it. My two pixelised friends were already up while I was stuck...
As you can see from here [2007], mountaineering isn't easy. A rope would have been handy, but all I had with me was my hands. I took my time; analysing the boulders, looking for footholds, testing, going back when I thought I couldn't do it. With my heart in my throat…



… I eventually made did it, unscathed. But there was more…



This was only the first of many there's-no-way-I-could-climb-that difficulties which we had to surmount to keep going. Believe me, going through repeated adrenalin rushes isn't fun. [2007]



You might think that our biggest handicap so far had been the mountain? No, it was something else. What is the most resilient parasite?

A bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? No. An idea? Not even close.



It's the female mosquito. Bloody suckers! The most useless creature in the world. Designed with the only purpose of sucking your blood & spreading diseases.

Thousands of mosquitoes, attracted by our stench fragrance, were feasting upon us. They gave us no time for respite. Either keep moving or else be figuratively eaten alive.



As midday was upon us, we were lost sight of the trail. We were surrounded by trees & no sign of the way up. During our entire climb, we hadn't seen anyone else. In fact, on that particular day, we were the only persons on the mountain. Not a good idea if you are lost.




We decided to make a lunch stop while I turned towards our guide. Our infallible guide who has been showing us the way since the start of our journey. No, it wasn't these descriptions of the trail which I downloaded from the Internet (here & here).



My faithful GPS device. I had loaded the .gpx tracks of the two trails (download here & here) & all we had to do was follow, as the N900 showed our current location in real-time & warned us if we straying. Apparently we were on the right track, although I had missed the place where the trail had forked...



After the brief lunch where we eaten by the mosquitoes, we plunged into the wilderness as guided by the GPS track.



The earth was slippery, but we finally got out & found that we had reached the plateau, the "back" of the Lion.



It was here that we caught our first glimpse of the scenic views that were awaiting us further ahead.




After all that hard work, eventually we had been been rewarded with a flat surface. The stroll through the jungle allowed us to outrun the mosquitoes.



While the ascension had been hot & stuffy, we had a nice breeze flowing through the trees.



The trail started rising sharply & we finally saw what we had come for...


Panorama 10

Panorama 11

What a view of the bay of Grand Port! [2007]



The régates race at Pointe des Regates, with a sugarcane field on fire in the background.


Picture 188

Ilot Chat & Ile aux Singes.


Panorama 12

A few metres higher, the village of Treize Cantons was before us.



The trail we came across through the sugarcane fields.


Picture 218

Some monument.


Picture 197

Picture 198

Ile de la Passe & Ile aux Fouquets.





We continued on & found the junction with the 102 steps trail from the Eastern viewpoint.


Panorama 13


We knew the summit was near as we could glimpse the North-East coast. Rocks turned into huge boulders, as the track twisted right & left through the branches.




Steeper & steeper...


Panorama 14

Breath-taking. Literally. [2007, 2, 3]




Beyond this point, we were scrambling up what appeared to be the “head” of Lion, squeezing in-between the boulders.



Any fall would have been deadly. The remains of this long rusted wire netting testified to that. [2007]




Once past this difficulty, we plunged straight through the dense forest...




... until I saw some light at the end of the tunnel.


Panorama 17

The summit! Yes, we made it!


The video. Sorry for the camera shake!


Picture 260

Alright, it's a bit underwhelming compared to Le Pouce. Hey, it’s only 480m!


Panorama 16

The views on the Eastern coast was amazing though! The Bambous Mountains far ahead.





We rested for half an hour & took some photos with our model.


Panorama 18


It was already 14h30. Climbing Lion Mountain took nearly 3 hours! Time to get back.



I was dreading the return journey because climbing down these boulders would be quite risky. [2007]


Panorama 20

That's the Eastern Viewpoint where we were heading.


Panorama 21

Another panorama of the Bay of Grand Port.




I blame the shutter lag for missing the moment when all 3 met. :(




The descent was easier than I expected.




In under half an hour, we were back on the "back," & reached the junction where we took the left-most trail & let ourselves be guided once again by the GPS.



A Paille-en-queue. Contrary to popular belief, there are no lions on Lion Mountain, but only birds & bats.



The Eastern Viewpoint.


Panorama 23

Panorama 24

Couldn't get a decent panorama with that clump in the middle.



Panorama 25

But we got a good look at the whole stretch of Anse Colas...





We had to double-back to find the place where the trail went down from the Eastern Viewpoint. Without the GPS track, we could have been searching for hours!





The way grew gradually flat, but rockier & more painful to our sore feet. However, this was the least of our worries as our old enemies were back. Yeah, mosquitoes.


Panorama 26


The jetty at Bois des Amourettes. While planning the journey, I had thought that after our climb, we would have some spare time to visit it. Alas, we were running late. It was already 15h45.




We had made good progress so far, but it wasn’t enough. We should have come across the 102 steps by now. Time to speed up.



& then disaster… we got separated!


Picture 298

Picture 299

What happened was that we reached near this rocky portion that was sloping upwards, while we were looking for a way down. In our haste to get home, I ignored the GPS track; anyway it was hard to know where we were because for some reason the app couldn't retrieve the satellite imagery.

My two friends had already climbed down the left side of the mountain. When I tried the path, I felt the earth giving away like sand causing rocks & roots to go tumbling down. I quickly scrambled up the path as I realised this was certainly not the trail!


We were stranded; my friends below & me at the top. I should have double-checked the trail description & trusted my GPS, but failed to do so in my carelessness. Checking the web page, I found that it mentioned something about climbing a "falaise & crête." I shouted my findings to my friends & told them to contour the mountain until they reached those 102 steps. (I was following the red track, while my friends took the blue path)

So, here I was, alone, with my N900. & the only way downwards was upwards.


Panorama 27

This is what I saw when I climbed the small hill.

I apologise for hereby turning this photoblog into a book, because from here onwards, taking photos was the least of my concerns. I tried shouting out to my friends but they were so far below that they were out of earshot. Inexplicably, I lost network coverage, so I couldn't call them either. I had to keep going to prevent myself from succumbing to panic. Little did I know that they were in trouble as well as the rotting leaves down below had turned the forest ground into a treacherous slide.

Meanwhile I was having problems of my own. I was climbing down the hardest part of Mountain Lion, doing it barehanded, unaware of what was below. My backpack was hardly heavy, but it wasn't more valuable that my life. So I let my backpack lead the way, letting it roll downwards, while every ounce of my concentration was focused on the cliff. That was how I proceeded, backpack first & me following behind. (This photo will give you an idea of what I was facing, taken from this blog)

Until the cliff gave away to boulders, where I was forced to play the game of thorns, avoiding them i.e. Shaky, tired & alone as I was, the only thing that kept me going was the GPS track that showed that the end was near.



At last, the ground became flat & I was reunited with my friends who had been waiting for me.



A few metres down, I saw what looked like some concrete structure.



The 102 steps!



Unfortunately, I had little strength left to count if there was really 102 steps. I was more content that our ordeal was coming to an end.




The trail ended into a mud track which lead us out into the sugarcane fields.



& back onto the road in Vieux Old Grand Port... Time 17h00. It would be a long way back home!


Panorama 28

As it turned out, the climb was harder than the hardest parts of Le Pouce! If Le Pouce could be described as easy-medium, Lion would definitely be in the difficult category.

We came, we saw & we were humbled. Although our journey had been rewarded by those stunning views, climbing Mountain Lion also taught us a few lessons.

  1. Always plan your journey! Get a guide!
  2. Ropes!
  3. Bring your mosquito repellent!
  4. Don't lose your way!

So, after 15km of walking, 3km of of climbing & 1km of getting lost.... the worst explorers of all time had been saved, time & again, by a tiny device. I love tech!

For my part, in a single day, I saw an overturned truck, watched airplanes take off & land, I got lost & found my way twice, I crossed a bridge, I admired monuments & ruins, spotted islands, climbed a mountain & some boulders, I saw a spider, a bat, a Paille-en-queue, a helicopter & two boats, descended down a cliff, was mesmerised by amazing landscapes, climbed down 102 steps, witnessed an accident on my way home and took 1024 photos... What an EPIC day! :)






Yashvin Awootar

Additionally, one should not judge the mountain by its height :P

I lol'd at the model shooting and the part where the photoblog turned into some climax of a book.

Siganus Sutor

Test, test...

(Li p manz mo bann commentaires sa lion-la !?)

Siganus Sutor

[Luckily I pasted it in Word before posting. Since you have installed that Disqus option the comments have been behaving in a funny way on my side of things.]


"the skinned carcass of a hare"
Ou sir enn yev sa ? Sak fwa ki monn tour enn "zafer" anpandan dan sa plas-la li ti enn bout zako :
"In fact, there are two trails."
Even three. My father-in-law always mentioned another trail which doesn't start at Vieux Grand Port police station. You see it when you arrive at the top of the grassy slope you took up before turning left 90º: from this point it is going down towards Ferney. I've never used it myself and I believe you wouldn't have much sea view on this side of the mountain.
"Couldn't get a decent panorama with that clump in the middle"
You could have gone further east by a few tens of metres. You would then have had a clear, unobstructed view over that whole stretch of the southeastern coast. In fact this is THE view that is worth the ascent.
"Some monument"
These are British fortifications from WWII. In fact what you had at the top of the 102 steps was a watch point, to check whether the Japanese or the Germans were in the process of attacking Mauritius at Grand Port.


San fois la ti en lievre. Gros zoreilles la ti p parait. Hmm, 1 dimoune bien dangereux sa!

Yes, once we had reached the slope, we found a trail going to the South. It's only later when I checked the GPS tracks map that I realised that it went to a viewpoint. Didn't know that it was actually a trail.

I don't remember finding any path beyond the clump, so I guess we didn't look hard enough.

Do you know where I can find maps of Mauritius with all existing mountain/trekking trails?

Siganus Sutor

"the grassy slope you took up before turning left 90º"
Before turning right I mean. You turn left at this junction when you are going down. (We usually do it anticlockwise.)

Siganus Sutor

Yes, to go to the end of the lion's back you need to go over a small piece of rock (on the left-hand side) and find your way through some small trees. Things were much clearer there some years ago.

Unfortunately I don't know about any map of Mauritius showing the trekking paths. In the 80s I had bought a guide — written by an Englishman I think — which explained very well how to walk to such and such peak or natural place. I believe it was burnt down when one house caught fire, alas, and I don't know whether it is still published nowadays. I haven't seen it ever since. (It nearly got me into trouble once: my cousin and I decided to climb Piton du Milieu and we followed the book's recommendations explaining where to find a ladder going over some fencing, until we were joined by two men in a 4×4 asking us how we had gotten into the "chassé".)

As far as I remember the track to Piton de la Rivière Noire doesn't have any turn-off: it's a long walk in the thick of the goyaves de Chine and you have no view whatsoever until the last 100 metres or so. I can't imagine someone getting lost there.

The metal structure you saw on the Lion's head is only the remnants of a triangulation station used for geodetic survey. It was a 3-m or so tripod with a steel triangle on top. I might still have a picture of my wife standing next to it, taken 20 years ago, and at that time it was pretty much complete. Vandals must have been working hard since. (I remember there was also one on the highest point of Trou aux Cerfs, but this one has also disappeared.)


I'm sure the SMF & Fire services must have such a map. I will try to contact a friend who knows some SMF guys.


Found this old book. Sadly, it doesn't contain mountain trails.


Great post! That tongue-in-cheek style of writing really made me laugh but some of the lines made me feel like I was on the top of the mountain and was soon going to fall. :)


 The anatomy of CM6: ONLY ONE LEFT HAND ! LOL

Who are your pixelised friends? Why are they way ahead of you everytime?


Because I'm so busy taking photos that I get left behind every time. :)


Absolutely marvelous recit of what you have been 'going thru' up there, I did that thrice, and took different pathways each and every time. I should consider myself to be lucky to be still alive at now, that was just so dangerous, I mean, as you have had said, Le Pouce Mt is quite a kid compared to Lion Mountain albeit the height difference would hint towards the contrary!
But, the scenery above, the everything, from what-makes-it-so-serene above to what-makes-it-the-so-impregnable, the air, the feelings, LOL,  I just loved it!

Reading this artifact was like climbing that once again (my virtual 4th time, ;) ).
Thank you so much for this one, loved it! =).


 Thank you for your comment. Indeed, Lion is the hardest mountain I've ever climbed. :)

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...