Martinique
Hikes of the Carbet Mountains
The Pitons by Way of Morne-Vert
Part 1

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Time: 5 hours, one way. Difficulty: 5, truly tough.

Trailhead: The trail ends are situated in the parish of Morne Vert; one in the Mont-Joly district, the other in the Carbet district. To arrive at Mont-Joly, just before the town, take the road indicated as Canton Suisse. After a kilometer, take the fork to the left at a small metal shelter. The trailhead is located 1.3 miles (2km) from this crossroads.

To get to the Caplet district turn right, behind the church, in order to take a concrete road. Take another right at the next fork, which leads to the other end of the trail.

This hike is one of Martinique's most demanding walks. The gradients are very important: it's 2362 feet (720m) just to ascend Piton Lacroix. The slopes are always very steep: 40 percent average for Lacroix; more than 50 percent for Morne Piquet; in other places, even slopes of 100 percent (45 degrees).

The entire path is punctuated with passages that require some climbing. Pay extra attention to the terrain, which can be very slippery.

From Mont-Joly, the trail first crosses several produce gardens. The slope becomes steeper, crosses a pasture, and enters the rain forest to begin the ascent of Morne Tranchette, 757m high. The rain forest consists of breadfruit trees, heliconias, and--in less steep areas--trumpet wood. The summit takes 45 minutes.

After descending for a few minutes, you next begin the 1.5-2 hour ascent of Piton Lacroix. The difficult climb takes place almost entirely in the forest; yet on the opposite slope, unsheltered from the prevailing winds, the vegetation thins out at around 700m.

The slope is so steep, you'll need to scale several vertical sections. The small plateau at the summit is 1,196m high, so catch your breath while admiring some beautiful countryside.

You'll feel a new respect for the wind during the 30 minute descent of Piton Lacroix's northern slope. Its high-country vegetation includes lycopods, mountain pineapples, ferns, and stunted shrubs.

From the ridge joining Lacroix to Morne Piquet, the verdant districts to the west of Morne Vert are enclosed by fields and hedges, a landscape some say resembles Normandy or the foothills of the Alps.

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