Mercantour Allos to Estenc – Day 1

Mercantour Allos to EstencView to the North from the Pas de la Grand Barre, close to Mont Pelat.

Mercantour Allos to Estenc. Day 1 of 5 Crossing the Mercantour National Park.

5:15AM and the GPS made the night even shorter!

That is a really short night. Due to some GPS issues, I have been loading routes and points, doing software updates until 1:00AM. Obviously that is the beginning of many issues with the GPS. You should not go for a trip with new equipment that you do not master.

Anyway, with 4h15 of sleep, I am going to run my first marathon of five today, I’m ready for it.

Mercantour Allos to EstencThorame-Haute train station, just one step away to the route through the Mercantour.

6AM, I’m in the train to Nice. 7AM, I’m in the train to Thorame-Haute, 10AM I finally arrive in Allos with the bus shuttle. It is over 130km of distance. I could not arrive earlier with public transports. It is late, it is hot, I can’t wait! Just like a hunting dog, I immediately rush to the mountains. That is how, neglecting to put some sun-cream, I will look like a guy from the north after one day on the French Riviera :) :-/

Mercantour Allos to EstencThe valley of Allos.

Mercantour Allos to Estenc Crossing the National Park

The original route was starting from the Col d’Allos. Since the bus shuttle dropped me in Allos, I started from Allos, climbed up on GR56B from Allos 1420m to the height of 2110m to catch the route close to the start. The weather is given to turn bad in the evening, but so fare no much cloud around. Cool :)

Mercantour Allos to EstencSome banking rocks along the way.

That is it, I am on the route. If not just to arrive before any evening storm, I run to complete the marathon of the day. The path of the start offers rather flat sections that are good for running.

Mercantour Allos to Estenc

When there is little to no more trail in exposed sections.

Running, running, but be really focused on the path and be careful. This same portion of the route has a lot of very narrow (15cm or less) to non-existing sections while being exposed to 50-100m cliffs!

Mercantour Allos to EstencA 15cm path about to go away, above a 80m cliff.

The 11kg Bag

If only I had a lighter bag… Now the bag is 11kg. The thing is, I planned to complete the crossing of the Mercantour National Park in 5 days whatever the conditions, so I have all the required equipment. It is not pure trail running with a light back, it is not trekking: it is tough!

Believe me, I waited every single piece of equipment to the the gram and made sure everything was relevant. Oh! And that includes 5 meals and 5 supplies for running, in order to test energy supply and restock in real conditions.

Mercantour Allos to EstencTra la Mèle viewing the cliff of the cascade du Pichs.

On the GR56

Some time on this GR56 I encounter some shadow sections in the forest. It is now around noon, the sun is high and really hot. Some little less hot sections are very welcomed. But, hey, there is no free reward; here shadow means nettles :/. It is said that nettles are good for blood flow :D

Mercantour Allos to EstencNettles on the GR56.

Not meany people around. I have crossed only two hikers as I was still close to Allos and now for hours I am alone in nature. I will see some more people when approaching the waterfalls of the vallée du Talon.

I am going up the valley and this means crossing the waterfalls on narrow path with some slippery steps. But it is so beautiful!

Mercantour Allos to EstencThe trail crossing the waterfalls of the vallée du Talon.

Mercantour Allos to EstencBelow the Cimet.

From there I will be alone until the end of the day. I keep going up in the valley just under the Crête du Cimet up to the Petit Col de Talon (2678m).

Mercantour Allos to EstencViewing the valley below the Cimet from Petit Col de Talon (2678m).

Grand Barre

Just below the Col des Esbéliousses, I leave the GR56 and go free-ride. At the beginning there is a path, then only kerns… I am on the way to the Grand Barre to tip over, to the lake of Trou de l’aigle and reach the path to Mont Pelat (3051m).

Mercantour Allos to EstencWhen there is still a path in the direction of the Grand Barre.

Mercantour Allos to Estenc

Some free-ride section to go through, on the way to the Grand Barre.

This is a doted line on the map. A trace for skiers on the way up during the winter season. Right now, it is the the tricky bit of my trip. It is covered with snow, followed by a steep and very slippery slop, with very few stable rocks.

Mercantour Allos to EstencLa Grand Barre.

I prepared for it. That is the main reason why I’m carrying crampons (446g with the bag). I go for it, carefully but surely :) The surrounding landscape is amazing!

Mercantour Allos to EstencClimbing the Grand Barre.

Passed the Grand Barre, facing the lake of Trou de l’aigle, it is far less technical but still steep and slippery. I am keeping the crampons on for the first meters down.

Mercantour Allos to EstencFacing the lake of Trou de l’Aigle. Life Sports crampons on.

Mont Pelat (3051m)

The way to Mont Pelat is a return trip. When I reach the path that leads to it, I take my camera and the beacon, I leave the main bag with the marmots and go for the top.

Mercantour Allos to EstencAt the top of Mont Pelat 3051m, view to the North.

Mercantour Allos to EstencAt the top of Mont Pelat 3051m, view to the South.

Mont Pelat 3051m is definitely worth it, with the view over the lake of Allos (the largest altitude lake of Europe) and all the surrounding valleys.

On the way down, I get my bag back on the shoulders. Later on, on the route, I cross many marmots gazing in the hot wind.

Mercantour Allos to EstencAfter crossing many marmots, on the way to the lac des Garrets. A good running section, although it is slightly narrow and banking.

Sun-set on the Pas du Lausson

It is now pretty late. I take the opportunity to be aligned with the lake of Allos getting some GSM signal to leave a message to the refuge de la Cantonnière. For sure I am trying to be as fast as possible not to arrive too late, but when I close the camera bag, there is a new photo I cannot miss!

Mercantour Allos to EstencOn the crest between the lac des Garrets and the valley of Valplane, facing Les Tours and the Tete de Valplane.

I get to meet some chamois that at this time of the day, are not scared at all. And passing next to the Lac des Garrets is fabulous.

I shoot the last sun rays at the Pas du Lausson and then rush carefully through the wood of Garret to the refuge.

The Refuge de la Cantonnière is a nice place, its tenants are really nice and good cooks :P

End of the day, about 45km, +2300m. I am rather feeling good, no blister and plenty of magic images in my head. I look forward to day 2, from Estenc to Roya crossing the Mercantour National Park.

Mercantour Allos to EstencThe last sun rays on the Pas du Lausson.

Posted in Outdoor, Training

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