A Day in the Mercantour Alps   12 comments

Warning! A post with lots of smug, blue-sky and mountains photos!

One of the main reasons we took to four wheels for a couple of days was to head out into the mountains inland. As you’ll see from they post they are truly spectacular. We got lucky with the weather as well. After the previous rainy day the skies were completely clear and fresh. Leaving the Funsters for a day of beach luxury on sunbeds in one of the beach bars in Nice, we struck out at 6am for a mountain day.

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One our concerns was that after the record high temperatures it might be too hot for walking even at altitude. This concept was soon quelled when we parked up and abandoned our plan for an al fresco breakfast as it was too cold!

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From a plethora of great sounding routes in the guidebook we’d plumped for a start from Madone de Fenestre, high up in the Vallee de Vesubie, taking in a couple of mountain passes and chance of a summit. It proved to be inspired.

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It was a stunning day and sensational spot. A lush green valley with sparse forest, tumbling streams and towering rocky mountains.

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A view across the the Cime de L’Agnelliere which we’d be hoping to climb later.

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The route follows an old mule path up to the Col de Fenestre an ancient trade route between Italy and the coast. In later years as a frontier between Italy and France it was the scene of fighting during the second world war and an attempt by Italian Jews to flee the persecution that ended in tragedy, most rounded up and shot by the SS.

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On a brighter note the path is wonderful and allows easy progress high into these majestic mountains.

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We saw a few Marmots and this Ibex as well as several others at distance, always pleasing to see these nimble creatures at work on the rocky slopes.

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The views became ever more impressive as we climbed in perfect conditions. A warm sun but cool mountain air. Walking on a day like this hardly seems an effort.

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We passed the stunningly clear Lac de Fenestre. Thoughts of a swim quickly dispelled by the achingly cold water.

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Our objective, the Col de Fenestre behind.

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After a brief rest we pressed on, again the well made path making the climb easy and allowing plenty of opportunities to take in the views.

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Just below the pass are several military buildings, barracks and watch towers, now deserted.

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The name is the pass of the rock window and here it is at 2476m.

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Views down into Italy and the Val Gesso and over the plain of Peidmont. We could even see the what I think was the snow capped Pennine Alps far in the distance.

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Onwards and the route got even better. A high path traverses steep rocky slopes over to the Pas des Ladres, an old military route to a less used smugglers pass through the mountains.

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As we climbed higher the highest peaks of the range came into view.

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I think this is the Cime Gelas, the highest peak in the area but without a map I’m not entirely sure. Whatever, it was high and looked rocky and difficult, the domain of the rock athlete and dusted with fresh snow from the day before. It was the focus of attention for the rest of the day.

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This part of the day was a sheer delight. Looking down to the Pas de Ladres at 2448m with our peak objective behind.

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A view down to the Lac de Trecolpas another popular walk from the other side of the range.

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With plenty of time to spare we took on the optional climb to the Cime de L’Agnelliere. It much narrower path but still easy to follow as it twisted along the ridge.

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The summit was a surprisingly flat plateau of bare rocks topped with shattered rocky tors.

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The panorama to the south and the Mediterranean coast.

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And north to the mountains of the Mercantour.

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It was the perfect spot for a long rest and lunch.

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TJS had no interest in climbing to the actual summit but I was keen despite the slopes looking rather loose. After seeing a woman make easy work of it I gave it a go.

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Other than one slightly loose and exposed section it was easy and the views from the top at 2700m well worth the effort.

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The lady I’d seem climbing was still on the summit and she confirmed that the big peak opposite was the highest peak and a bit Internet research confirms it is Cime de Gelas, 3134m high.

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She also kindly took a photo of me on the summit but had set off when I asked if she wanted me to return the favour.

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I sat on the summit for a while taking in the sensational views but had to press on back down to recover my junior sherpa.

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Close up view of the Cime de Gelas.

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Sadly (always a little sad on days as good as this) it was time to head down.

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Retracing our steps to the Pas de Ladres we followed a different valley back down to the car. Different but far less impressive than the route up.

The panorama looking back to our two cols and routes before we headed back down to the car.

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Our desire to climb mountains on what was a city break trip satisfied we headed back to the coast. TJS to laze in the apartment, me to grab a quick swim in the sea to finish off a tremendous day.

We love our city trips but my heart will always belong to the mountains!

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12 responses to “A Day in the Mercantour Alps

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  1. Enjoyed your latest trek! Fabulous mountain views! I agree with you, my heart will always be in the mountains too.

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  2. Fantastic area. Not over popular either.

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    Blue Sky Scotland
    • There were a few people about bit nothing like the crowds you see in the Lakes and Snowdonia these days. It was a great choice of route and very lucky with such a clear day in the middle of summer

      Like

  3. What an absolutely sensatiional climb.

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  4. Beautiful scenery! I’m with you, my heart will always be in the mountains as well!

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  5. Wow!
    What a storming route. At 2700m, did you feel any affect of the altitude?

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    beatingthebounds
  6. You certainly get out to some beautiful, but different, places for walking.
    Learned the hard way myself that it might be warmin the valleys but cold up in the mountains when we took a cable car up the Picos de Europa in Northern Spain quite a few years ago.

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    • It was only chilly in the shade at first light. Rest of the day was perfect. Air was cool but the sun is powerful so it felt warm. Nothing better than 360 panorama of mountains and being able to see the coastline was an added bonus

      Liked by 1 person

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