At Col de la Choupette, at the foot ofGros Morne, it’s time to put on our gear.Grand Bénard,one of the island’s peaks, can be seen clearly at the end of the ridge that we are going to follow.Olivier points out all the peaks, hamlets, ramparts and even the waterfalls in Cilaos and Mafate, way below us. The view is breathtaking and slowly the light gently falls on the edge of the steep ramparts. In silence, we watch the dance of the clouds that periodically cover up and then reveal the panorama surrounding us. Then Olivier explains the safety instructions as we rope ourselves together. In effect, we will have to work as a team patiently so that the group advances at the same pace, safely. Bolts have been fixed in the rock so we can secure ourselves along the route.
We set off on the vertiginous trail which at times has sheer cliffs of nearly400 metres on each side. In places we have to climb some rocky walls, circumvent them, one foot in front of the other, in front of the narrow rocky strip. Some passages are particularly complicated and we keep our wits about us as we move forward, all atmore than 2,000 metres above sea level.Olivier knows this place like the back of his hand and points out which holds to use, which muscles to exert and which viewpoints to admire.
It makes for a fabulous and unusual spectacle: we are like tightrope walkers in the air against a breathtaking, wild and unspoilt background. Tiny in this vast place, bowled over by the successive panoramas.
In the distance, we see the first rocky outcrop which dominates the ridge that we have been following for just over an hour now. The first Salaze, this monolith a dozen or so metres high, is just a carabiner away. We still need to cross a few impressive precipices before a well deserved rest at the foot of the 3 sisters, famous throughout Reunion Island.
Olivier then suggests the bravest of us take on this day’s grand finale. We climb the central Salaze where a zip line awaits us to take us to the first of the 3 sisters. Balanced on the rocky peak a few dozen centimetres wide, we enjoya magnificent 360° view of the cirques of Mafate and Cilaosin their entirety. Probably the most beautiful panorama on the island. An opportunity to capture the moment with some pictures and videos taken by Olivier and to congratulate each other: perched on our rock, we are proud of ourselves.
The return is much easier despite some impressive abseils, including one sensational one more than 30 metres long into the void, before setting foot back on the trail. The clouds have risen and the ridge is almost fully covered as we head back to our starting point.
When we get back to the kiosk, we share a drink with Olivier and our little group of tightrope walkers for a day, to gently settle our emotions. Our minds are still up there, with the 3 famous sisters who have granted us this memorable day.