Journey through the Alps



Menton (0m) to Sospel (348m) F01

9 Feb 2015

Stage: F01

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3742OT Nice / Menton / Côte D’Azur, and French IGN 1:25,000 3741ET Vallées de La Bévéra at des Paillons

Time: 7.11hrs (dept 09.24 / arrive 16.35)

Distance: 18.7km (ascent 1529m / descent 1186m)

Weather: clear, sunny & warm

Notes: The trail starts by the sea at the eastern edge of Menton, close to the border with Italy. There are good markers showing the GR52 and the route follows close to the Italian border as it climbs the hillsides above Menton. The trail crosses 3 passes (Col du Berceau 1050m, Colle Bassa 1107m, Col du Razet 1032m). It is possible that there will be some snow on the north facing slopes. This is a day for hiking shoes or light hiking boots.

Accommodation: There are a few hotels open out of season in Sospel. We stayed at Auberge du Pont Vieux.

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Sospel (348m) to Col de Turini (1674m) F02

10 Feb 2015

Stage: F02

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3741ET Vallées de La Bévéra at des Paillons

Time: 8.33hrs (dept 08.17 / arrive 16.50)

Distance: 24.7km (ascent 1941m / descent 492m)

Weather: clear, sunny & warm

Notes: There are several options for this day and the best choice will be dictated by snow and weather conditions. The GR52 trail heads directly north from Sospel gaining height and following a high ridge for a considerable distance. In a good snow year it might be possible to follow this on skis, but this would give a very long day. The D2566 road runs between Sospel and Col de Turini. Hiking this road could be the best option if there is a lot of snow on the ground. In a lean snow (or normal season) there are several hiking trails that will almost certainly be better done on foot rather than with skis. The GR52A is one option. We followed a version of this as can be seen on the GPS track. There are numbered marker posts shown on the IGN map and our route followed this sequence: 78, 55, 19, 18, 15, 16, 16A, 4, 5, 6, 179, 180, 34, 181, 182, 183, 184, 30, 31.  There was some snow on the ground at higher elevations, and some spring flowers starting to blossom on south facing slopes.

Accommodation: There are at least two hotels at Col de Turini (Le Ranch & Les Chamois) and two hotels at Camp d’Argent 1.5 km further on (Le Yeti & L’Estive). We stayed at the Yeti where the staff were not particularly friendly or helpful.

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Col de Turini (1674m) to Ref Merveillies CAF (2130m) F03

11 Feb 2015

Stage: F03

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3741OT Vallées de La Vésubie

Time: 8.19hrs (dept 08.16 / arrive 16.35)

Distance: 17.1km (ascent 1047m / descent 651m)

Weather: clear, sunny & warm

Notes: The route follows close to the line of the summer GR52 path. The map shows a recommended ski route and this is mostly very similar to the summer path. Much of the marked ski route follows ridge crests and the best line will depend on weather and snow conditions. It may be necessary to keep off the ridge crests due to high winds, exposed rocks, cornices etc and this can lead to slow progress. Traversing below the ridge crests on summer footpaths can be the most efficient option.

Accommodation: The Ref Merveillies has a winter section in the main building. The sleeping accommodation is OK but the wood stove in the kitchen area is small and not very efficient.

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Ref Merveillies CAF (2130m) to Ref de Nice CAF (2232m) F04

12 Feb 2015

Stage: F04

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3741OT Vallées de La Vésubie

Time: 6.45hrs (dept 08.49 / arrive 15.33)

Distance: 10.7km (ascent 791m / descent 701m)

Weather: clear, sunny & warm

Notes: The route continues on the GR52 although there are few visible signs. Follow the Vallée des Merveilles and make a straightforward ascent of Baisse de Valmasque (2549m). A 2km traverse above the Lac du Basto leads to another straightforward climb, the Baisse du Basto (2693m). The descent is a little steep for the initial 50m and then opens into a gentle valley leading to the hut.

Accommodation: Ref de Nice has a small winter hut that is separate from the main building. Christophe Fournier (gardien) will open the main hut on request even for small groups.

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Ref de Nice CAF (2232m) to Le Boreon (1497m) F05

13 Feb 2015

Stage: F05

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3741OT Vallées de La Vésubie

Time: 6.54hrs (dept 08.07 / arrive 15.00)

Distance: 16.1km (ascent 842m / descent 1547m)

Weather: clear, sunny & warm

Notes: There are two passes to cross on this day. The Pas du Mt Colon (2548m) is steep on the eastern side and quite narrow at the top, but easier on the west. The Pas de Ladres (2448m) is more straightforward. Between the two it is worth maintaining a high traverse, passing pt 2065m, and avoiding descending towards the refuge La Madone de Fenestre (1908m). When descending into the Val du haute Boreon from pt 2187 (marker post 427) if there are no ski tracks heading SW (the ski route shown on the map) it is best to continue W on the GR52 path and following this to Le Boreon.

Accommodation: There is both a hotel and a gite in Le Boreon. The gite is more conveniently situated on the ski route. With good weather both can be fully booked at the weekends.

Alternate Accommodation options: The CAF refuge La Madone de Fenestre is located between the Ref de Nice and Le Boreon. There is a winter room and this gives an option to break the journey in a different way.

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Le Boreon (1497m) to Isola 2000 F06

14 Feb 2015

Stage: F06

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3741OT Vallées de La Vésubie, and French IGN 1:25,000 3640ET Haute Tinée 2

Time: 7.52hrs (dept 08.27 / arrive 16.19)

Distance: 20.6km (ascent 1119m / descent 651m)

Weather: moderate to heavy snowfall

Notes: The first part of the day follows the line of the D89 road to the Col de Salése (2031m). The road will almost certainly be closed and snow covered. A short distance over the far side of the col the route leaves the GR52 (near signpost 267) and picks up a forest track leading to Passerelle d’Ingolf (1947m). This track leads via Vallon de Tavels (marker post 265) to Col  Merciere 2342m which gives access to the ski area of Isola 2000.

Accommodation & supplies: It is difficult to find accommodation for a few nights in Isola 2000 as all hotels and apartments want weekly bookings. There are several shops in Isola 2000.

Bad weather day

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Isola 2000

15 Feb 2015

Weather: Heavy snowfall – no movement possible

Bad weather day

Isola 2000

16 Feb 2015

Weather: Heavy snowfall – no movement possible

Bad weather day

Isola 2000

17 Feb 2015

Weather: Some snowfall & high avalanche risk – no movement possible

Rest day

Isola 2000

18 Feb 2015

Weather: Reasonable weather & high avalanche risk – no movement possible



David Hamilton
High Adventure
67 Castle Road
CV10 0SG


Telephone:    From UK    02476 395422
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Skype:  davidhamilton8848

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