Monday, 30 July 2012

Walking in the Mercantour - Sainte Etienne de Tinee and beyond.....

Chemin d'Energie - Mercantour - Saint Dalmas le Selvage
Walking in the Mercantour??  I should say
your intrepid explorers at spacebetween, have
been suffering again for the sake of their "art" -
and a reccie further north in the Mercantour to
a stunning area, which (rather shamefully) we'd
never got to before!!
After thee weeks of blazing sunshine, the expedition loomed large, and larger than most it seemed, with
 a rare wind from Lombardy (thanks Italy!), whistling down from the North East with enough gusto to destroy Denis Longfellow's sturdy barnum tent in Le Boreon at 1700m.

As we headed up the Tinee Valley we seemed to be taking the direction of the only cloud cover in the Alpes-Maritimes.....hey ho....going back to bed was not an option.....!!

The D64 leads, rather enticingly, to the Col de la Bonette, so at this time of year is awash with leather clad bikers, but we shall leave them to their fumes and head uphill.  The first parking lot in the Vens area is often full and quite remote, should you be worried about leaving your prize possession un-manned for a couple of days.  While there is also another area just up the track, the route up from here is a bit of a slog, straight up!!

Better to travel on an extra couple of kilometres to La Pra, where there's a resto (Le Pratois!, serving standard looking mountain fare), and a few humans to boot.  The pathway zig zags up before arriving at the gorgeous Plateau de Morgon, and then rises again to the Maison Forestiere de Tortisse.  From there we'd planned to tackle the Col de Fer, but given the "wet day out in the Lake District" weather we decided to head on down the the Vens Refuge and then take a wander out later in the afternoon.  Suitably "tea'd up" we headed up to the Col de Fer in the late afternoon, stunning landscape, and were rewarded with a load of furries in Marmot Alley, then the magnificent sight of some 50 of so mouflons just to the west of the col, running back and forth along the ridge like startled wildebeest.  The location of the refuge is quite stunning, and you can enjoy your evening meal having raised a glass to the donkey power which has provided you with your tasty repast!!!

We'd been keen to do the tantalisingly sounding "Chemin d'Energie".  Alas this is not a Chariot of the Gods moment, but rather, early efforts by EDF to exploit further the area's hydro electric power.   You may only want to do it once; its a flat, rather monotonous walk at 2300m, with incredible views of course, over the Auron and the surrounding mountains into Italy.

We'd missed a wetting on the first day but  there was no escaping the hail and stair rods just twenty minutes before we got to the Rabouns refuge (like the Facebook page!), where we were delighted to re-meet Hugo - the delectable guardian there.  Hugo has worked in various refuges in the Mercantour before being lucky enough to be granted his "own" summer gaff.  Madame Jones was very pleased with her vegetarian meal, and the genepy soaked, post dinner, sugar lumps....yum......

......could have done with a few more to cut out the sound of the (inevitable) snoring but such is refuge life.  There has to be some downside to the joys of being out in the great outdoors!!

The following morning, which loomed blue and clear, we wimped out of Mont Tenibre (3031m), thanks to bllstered feet (I should know better!), but headed happily downhill to the first car park and a welcome Leffe in Sainte Etienne de Tinee.

This week - Mounier!!!


Wild camp if you wish (bivvying is possible between 7 pm and 9 am) - but beware of the mozzies at lake side.

Don't light a camp fire - illegal anyway - but this year there are lots of park rangers about and they are within their rights to fine you up to €1500!!!

Take a spare bag and pick up any odds and sods that other scumbags have chosen to leave behind.

The Lacs de Morgon - as photographed by Bruno Hajjar - look wonderful - off piste so no-one much around.

If you are coming in from the Vens Refuge and planning to tackle Tenibre via the Breche, make sure you have an up to date map.  The earlier edition has paths which no longer exist.  Nice pic by Jean-Marie Bree.

Don't forget the earplugs!!


Map IGN Haute Tinee - Auron 3639

1 comment:

  1. We'd also seen a couple of mature ibex, two lammageirs, 5 chamois, and two urbanites from Nice in trainers and handy towels to stave off the rain!!