Col de l'Echelle
(Ladder Hill)

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Time: 2 hours. Difficulty: 3. Trail is not blazed. This hike acquaints you with the vegetation of high-altitude savannahs and provides beautiful panoramic views. Trailhead: Depart and return to Savane a Mulets.

After about 15 minutes you'll see the branch trail to ascend l'Echelle from the south; first, you climb the Matylis Ravine, then go past the fumeroles of Morne Mitan. The electric line on the left feeds part of the geophysical system that monitors the volcano.

Numerous switchbacks get you to the summit of l'Echelle in 30 to 40 minutes. During the climb, you'll have a good look at la Citerne (Cistern) volcano with its circular crater partially filled with water.

The low altitude vegetation here is often filled with blooms in October and November: fuchsias with garnet "bells," the yellow flowers of mountain daisies, gracious and delicate orchids with their sweet perfume, mountain pineapples with their red or yellow flowers, and the lycopods which resemble tiny Christmas trees.

At 1,397m, in front of you and quite near, is La Soufriere. Notice the different "mouths" of explosion from 1976.

You can then begin the rather delicate descent, toward l'Echelle, in a northwesterly direction. The trail passes beside a large rock, the "Devil's Footstool," and arrives at the hill of Morne Mitan where you find an electric post.

Bear right toward the north, in the direction of the geophysical shelter, which you see below. The flanks of l'Echelle and Morne Mitan are covered with peat mosses of different colors, scattered with flowers, and stones projected by La Soufriere.

At Col de l'Echelle, turn left between the fractured rock and the fumarole, then follow the blue trail into the mass of debris above the Ravine Matylis. You'll soon arrive at the road. Turn to the right; Savane a Mulets is about 400 meters away.

From l'Echelle you can also make the circuit of the volcano in a reverse direction.

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