Tête-Mercière

DSC_0972
… right. Temperature on the littoral 36 centigrades. Sun like lead (odd piece of metaphore, but there you have it). 1½ hours drive up in the Tinée valley, at c. 2000 meters, temperature has dropped to 24, and it feels even a wee bit chilly if you can believe it. Isola 2000 is a winter alpine ski station, the centre having that slight delapidation that is so often the case with these resorts – also the desperate search for summer activities that could make the pace attractive (and make money) to (from) tourists outside its normal season. Sometimes you get a bit of ”The Shining” feel when walking arround the corridors, looking for a toilett (hot water isn’t working, but the place has been cleaned according to a sign on the wall).
So, get on the boots, the backpack, drink some water, set the GPS tracker in the smart phone, and off we go.

Tête-Mercière is the hike for today, a steepish ascent of 500 meters to the top of the said mountain, then down on the other side and back to Isola 2000. We start by crossing a bridge into a wood, larch mostly, with birds that totally neglect to let themselves be identified. Bother.  As we cross ski pistes, Christina points out her favorites from previous winters.  The forest opens up, and the view becomes breathtaking …  DSC_0951DSC_0950 What you find relating to human activities up here is mostly ruins of old military installations from the time when this was Italy and the hereditary enemy was France, unbelievable as that may seem today. Still, used to be the truth and, in fact, from the Valois kings of the Middle Ages up until and including Napoleon Bonaparte, French monarchs did more than wishful thinking concerning parts of Italy they considered would be better off under French administration. Never succeeded for any length of time, though. DSC_0952

Up here, the wind is definitely chilling, though not in an unpleasant way, as long as you keep moving.  Up here you will see small groups of Alpine choughs (Pyrrhocorax graculus), Alpine swift (Apus melba), and raven (Corvus corax). We have reached what appears a grass clad slope, with indications of sheep passing by (don’t step in it).

Time for a break.  In the shelter of the mountain station of an old military cable car, we sit down for lunch: goat’s cheese, olives, bread, dried abricots, and water. We are now already descending, our current altitude is c 2 400 above sea level. Enjoying the smell of herbs, thyme, grasDSC_0958s …

We descend and the grasslands turn into rocky scree. Lots of other hikers here, and temperature on the rise as we are now sheltered by the surrounding mountains.  We have passed not far from here previously and we find thDSC_0974e balise 91 which we completely missed when we passed a couple of weeks ago. However, this time we are unable to find the balise 90 and descend through some wetlands – better luck next time …

DSC_0975

Mineral water and sallad in a small bar, then back home to our little corner (not’ p’tit coin).

 

 

Itinerary from car to bar on Google acording to GPS

Not’ p’tit coin …

Some musings on life, the Universe, and everything, with  a certain francophile accent. To be updated on Mondays or when we feel like it.

Right. Let’s get it on.

First topic: Hiking.

In small villages in SE France, in the department of Alpes-Maritimes, you here and there find these poles with signs pointing towards mountaintops, passes, and other small villages. Even in fairly large towns you may find them, and out in the countryside. These poles are called ‘balises’, they are numbered, and they are marked on the IGN topographical maps. They are there to point out hiking trails of very different degree of difficulty. Between them, along the trail, you may find small dabs of color, either yellow, signifying a local trail (”petit randonnée”), or white and red, signifying one of the ‘larger’ trails that connect e g Nice with Marseille (true!) known as ”grande randonnée”. On the web site Randoxygéne you will find a wealth of described and fairly well laid out hikes, easiest being ”Difficulté Facile”, mounting to ”Difficulté Alpine” which means climbing gear. The descriptions are in a printable format, they have previously existed in the form of a set of brochures but, they are, apparently, out of print.

What do you need for a summer hike?

  1. Consult weather forecast. Twice. You do not, repeat not, want to get stuck in a mountain thunder storm.
  2. Shoes. Good shoes. NOT jogging shoes. NOT sandals. You need hiking boots.
  3. Water. Drink regularly. Remember, when you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. You will then make unwise decisions, lose your way, et c.
  4. Munchies, salt and sweet. You lose a lot of sweat, so you need salt. You lose a lot of energy, so, something to regain it.
  5. Never forget the Oz meme, ”slip slap slop” (slip on a T-shirt, slap on a hat, slop on sunscreen)
  6. Map. The ”Carte de Randonnée” is required.

Other things that may come in nicely are walking sticks (the ”Oy, yew fergot your SKIS, mate” kind), an altimeter (each ascension of 100 meters calls for water break), and a fresh T to change into when you get back to civilisation. You might have some fun with your smartphone GPS – we find them largely useless when out and about but they make nice tracks to look at and admire when you get home.
A few cold beers in the fridge for when you get home is nice.

The nature in Alpes-Maritimes is in places spectacularly beautiful, in some places outlandish. If you love butterflies, you’ve come to the right place. Some flowers, some birds (but on a hot summer day they are not very active).

You will most likely find yourself alone on the trail. WE rarely run into other people – sometimes a French hiking club, sometimes a bewildered Dutch couple, once a young man in suit, tie, and white shirt who refused to believe that the maps were correct and besides, he had an appointment … (in fact, sign of dehydration, there). Christina claims that he was, in fact, the person who would later become the Mayor of a certain large town in the department, but I am not certain.