Mercantour Estenc to Roya – Day 2

Mercantour Estenc to RoyaFrom the crest of the Cime de Pal.

Mercantour Estenc to Roya. Day 2 of 5 Crossing the Mercantour National Park.

You learn every day, sometime the hard way. Today I’ll be learning the hard way.

Not too early but not too late

After a quite long day 1, with very little sleep to start, I really needed a good night sleep. When the guys at the Refuge de la Cantonière say they don’t serve breakfast before 7h30, I am almost pleased. In the evening, I got everything ready for the next morning and I am already trailing since 10 minutes when 8′oclock is ringing.

Mercantour Estenc to Roya Leaving EstencLeaving Estenc via the Vallon de l’Estrop.

The valley of Estenc is not directly exposed to the sun and the starting path to access the Valon de L’Estrop is fresh. My feet on the grass covered by the dew get wet. Anyway, it is always a pleasure to climb the first hundreds of meters in quiet and fresh air without sun-cream blocking the skin from breathing. Don’t get me wrong, as soon as the first rays of sun come out, I am fully protected.

I make my way rather easily to the Col de Gialorgues and the Baisse de la Boulière.

Mercantour Estenc to RoyaValley of l’Estrop.

Cime de Pal, My Garden Centre

The Baisse de la Boulière is the entrance gate to my garden centre. You know, when you spend more time evaluating and trying trail options than running the good trail ;-)

Mercantour Estenc to RoyaBaisse de la Boulière from the crest of the Cime de Pal. If you can’t clearly see the trail, that’s because the snow and the erosion took it.

Some sections of the path down for the Baisse de la Boulière have almost disappeared. Sometime running is really the only fast and safe option to pass with adhesion.

From the Baisse de la Boulière I was originally supposed to go up the Cime de Pal, then go down directly to the Col de Pal. A really short option in length and height difference. The thing is that the way down the Cime de Pal is not a running trail at all. Best case, it is a ski route on the way up.

Mercantour Estenc to RoyaOn the short way to the crest of the Cime de Pal.

So after reaching the crest, I try what seams to be a more viable option: going down to the Col de Pal from the crest. And I do go down the first ridge. That is not realising that the second ridge is around 30m high and even more steep. I decide not to take any more risk. Next time, I may try the initial route from the Cime de Pal.

Mercantour Estenc to Roya Down the Cime the PalGoing down the first ridge from the crest of the Cime de Pal.

For now, I go on the west side of the crest to finally go back to the junction that leads to the Col de Trente Souches.

The last option: Col de Trente Souches.

Going via the col de Trente Souches is now the only choice but not an easy option. It is a loop over 12km +650m/-970m, which adds 9km and +/-550m to the stats of the day. In practice the extra loop will be even more difficult and longer…

Mercantour Estenc to RoyaThe view of the Col de Trente Souches from the west side of the crest of the Cime de Pal.

Mercantour Estenc to Roya Col de Trente Souches

Col de Trente Souches

I know now that the day will be long, which motivate me even more to run wherever it is possible. Going down to the Col de Trente Souches is not slick but I manage my way no too bad. From the col, it is a 30cm highway to Les Tourres tiny hamlet. On the way, I cross a patou (big aggressive white dog keeping sheep); we both prove our superiority ;-) I step 2m aside and he is going back to the sheep :-).

Mercantour Estenc to Roya view from Col de Trente SouchesCan anybody tell me what are the sheep doing on this grey steep and very slippery slope?

When the day gets even longer…

The tiny hamlet of Les Tourres is a remote location. There is a really small number of hikers and trailers that pass by and go to the Col de Pal from there.

The 25 years old sign post, still sending but well worn out is attesting.

Mercantour Estenc to Roya Les TourresThe 25 years old sign post in Les Tourres.

If the signs on the path are not matching the map, if the path is no longer there, it does not make much difference. That is how I find myself lost 200m away from the path but next to a sign! Even if the path is not as described on the map, some very careful reading would have helped. By the way, I am now down to 1608m height and the temperature is quite high, something close to 30C.

Mercantour Estenc to RoyaLost sign (yellow mark on the tree) and lost path?!

That is how, trying to get back on the path, I am first climbing an extra +210m. Then I climb +100m off track, straight in the slope hopping to join the path that should come across my way. And it does, pfiou. I can now go up again to the Col de Pal and admire the view.

Mercantour Estenc to RoyaView of the Cime de Pal from the Col de Pal.

The Col de Pal is really a remote location. That is the first time I do feel alone, although I have been alone since several hours.

So, maybe now you can appreciate, from the great panorama above, that I was supposed to get down from the top of Cime de Pal and I went down the first ridge (on the right of the Cime), stopping at the second ridge that is 30m high.

From the col to the Baisse de Barel, I took an alternative route passing by the highest point around.

Open your eyes

At the Baisse de Barel there is a sign saying it takes 2h to go down to Roya. Some people have engraved “+45mn”. Keeping all proportions in mind, that is not that wrong. You may try to run, I am doing my best effort, but there is no path on this -600m slope. You better keep your eyes open – yes the landscapes and the view are great – as the only indications are sticks hammered in every 300m but some have fallen. There are kerns further down but there are not on the shortest route.

Mercantour Estenc to RoyaView of the Cime des Barrières from the Baisse de Barel. Can you see the next stick?This one visible on the picture is still standing.

On the way down, the Trou des Corneilles, a natural bridge, is really impressive and the path next to it, so narrow and very exposed too.

I find my way to Roya. The day has been long, quite difficult for the mind and somehow for the body. Cleaned stats say +1820m/-2130m/45,5km including significant section without path. I decided to stop here instead of risking myself on the way to Longon.

This means I will have some pressure on day 3, Roya to Isola 2000, as I will have to catch-up the delay of today.

Mercantour Estenc to RoyaFlowers on the way to the crest of Cime de Pal.

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