This ride uses the well known path of the “Via Alpina”, a huge European route which snakes between the Adriatic and the Med, crossing a total of eight countries, along the arc of the Alpine chain, from Slovenia to Monaco, covering over 5000km.
The section that this trip tackles is the crossing of the Mercantour. It tracks the line from Le Boréon, to the reaches of the High Alps, taking in the villages and hamlets in the Tinée and Vésubie valleys. This great combination of wild places with centuries old traditional village, offers a fantastic “out of time” week – fantastic scenery combined with the heritage of ancient pastorialism.
This is not a round trip, so either the outward bound or inward bound section is offered – six days for each!
Depart at 09.00 from Estenc
Estenc / Saint Dalmas le Selvage
The trail on day one weaves between the Val d’Entraunes and Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage, a traditonal route, during which the Sanguinière valley allows riders to enjoy the wonderful flora of the area and appreciate the reddish stone blocks of the area whose « blood tinged » hue gives the valley its name. Crossing the Braïssa col and the descent via the larch forst of Sestrière, is a perfect introduction for the coming days.
Saint Dalmas Le selvage / Roya
From the alpine village of Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage (1 500 m), Via Alpina borrows the GR5 to go back up easily in the mélézin of the Anelle pass. A track comes down then on Saint-Etienne-de-Tinée.It is soon the valley of Demandols that we go back up to the meanness of high mountain pasture. We cross then a funny landscape: the family ski station of Auron. We win a touchy one which results in a panoramic view which dominates the authentic hamlet of Roya, our evening stage.
Roya / Longon
Having crossed the Roya river via a small bridge, the Via Alpina heads up again via the Sallevieille valley. The path can be difficult, with a need for riders to lead their horses to cross land slides, or persistant snow paths, beneath the imposing Crousette col at 2480m. The ascent is rewarded by a view of the magnificent Mount Mounier, in all its glory. The team then head off towards the Moulines col, where one would really think one was in another world, vast unspoilt plains !! Enjoy Vignols, and then the approach towards Longon, where grazing cattle will give you a good feeling for the quality of your overnight stay in Longon refuge.
Longon / Rimplas
In the fourth day, The Via Alpina quits the 'heart' zone of the National park shortly after the refuge and goes down regularly through the magnificent forest of Fracha up to the suspended village of Roure, panoramic and possibly gastronomic stopping place. The plan of the GR5 plunges then brutally towards the Tinée valley by a series of laces repeatedly cutting in front RM 30. We so reach the center of the village of Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée. One young steep path, lead us until Rimplas or we spend at night.
Rimplas - Granges de la Brasque
Moving out of the village in the early morning, the next section is in forest – and more specifically the Valdeblore Black Forest. The village of La Bolline lies below the trial, while the riders head towards the high ridges at 2000m, the first within the back country of the Alpine massif. The trail for the rest of the day, is on high, with mountains on one side and the sea to the other. The Granges de la Brasque offer the overnight stay. The site is a former military site, now forgotten among the trees – a calm and imposing location.
Les Granges de la Brasque / Le Boréon
The first part of this day is along the traditional trial along which cattle are driven, north or south for the transhumance. The quickly reached fort on the col affords an excellent view of a forgotten valley, and the morning’s descent really does feel as if one is in virgin territory. Forest paths lead riders to within spitting distance of the village of Venanson, which dominates the valley of the Vésubie, and then to the conclusion of the ride, the lake in Le Boréon. Back to reality.
Return to Le Boréon at 6.00 PM