Mercantour Refuge de Nice to Sospel. Day 5 of 5 crossing the Mercantour National Park.
Today I race with the train
Last day of this crossing of the Mercantour, I’m in rather good conditions, I shall be in Sospel tonight. There I must catch, worst case, the last train to Nice. So arriving with sunset is not an option. And another early start is well advised. Last evening I tell my room-mates:
- I will try my best to be quiet tomorrow morning
- Don’t worry we will wake up early
When I leave at 5.50AM the entire refuge is asleep.
I’m glad I also carried my breakfast all those days and could have it starting this last day.
My first steps are in the night but soon I switch off my headlight and carry on with the dawn.
The Lac Niré and upper lakes, on the way to the Baisse de Basto, have all incredible colours.
A lot of snow
As I was already focusing on my arrival in the hot temperature of the afternoon, at Sospel, I forgot that I could still encounter snow along the way. Between 2400m and 2700m, before arriving to the Baisse and for about 1km I move on a layer of cold, nearly iced snow.
Just below the snow section, I can see a first group of several ibex as I go down toward the lac du Basto.
Lets go to the third valley of the day
I cross over the Baisse de Valmasque and I am now in the very special Vallée des Merveilles.
From the very top, I am running down the trail quite fast focussing on the various rocks and steps. In one turn I find myself face to face with a tall ibex. Before I realize it, the animal has moved behind the nearest rock and soon got close to his numerous fellow creatures.
Then I come across some peaceable chamois and keep going half way through the valley before I can see the first of many hikers going up the valley. I have to admit I did not look too much at the various wonders of the valley – I’ll come with a history guide some time later – and rushed, poles’ tips covered (to protect the carved rocks), through the valley.
Chamois at the top of the Vallée des Merveilles.
Last steps in the high mountain
That is it, by leaving the Vallée des Merveilles towards the Pas du Diable, I make my way out of the high and fresh mountains. At this time of the day, I don’t realise I should have refilled with water in the various lakes, even if sheep were just above.
Baisse du Diable, Running into hell
Few hours ago, I was still running over snow, now as I go down the valleys, the temperatures are raising up to 35C in the sun and I’m terribly missing water.
On the schedule side, it is rather good. The trail is now far from flat but it is rather slick; I can run very long distances and go fast between cols to baisses.
The rocky mountains have transformed into alpine pasture and soon forest is showing further down in the valleys.
I am still on schedule, I can take the heat quite well, but from the l’Aution I start to severely suffer from dehydration. I am miles away from any village and there is not even a lake or known stream around. When I meet hikers that offer me some water, I just can’t say no. That is another 15km that I will run in 35C with only half a liter left.
Baisse de Ventarben, Baisse de la Déa… I keep running down toward Sospel. Not only the landscapes but also the sounds have changed with the many crickets in the high grass.
That is it. I finished crossing the Mercantour National Park. I just need to reach Sospel, still running without water. I am on the famous mountain-bike tracks of Sospel where I use to race and it makes the impression of speed even lower
When I meet my first inhabitant of Sospel, obviously my first question is, where can I find water? And I go drinking one liter even before I pass the city gate.
Finally in Sospel, I am completing the crossing of the Mercantour National park, from Allos to Sospel in 5 days. I am very pleased with hundreds of magic images in my mind. I learned a lot again on this trail and this gives me some confidence for the 8 marathons trails I am about to run in China.
The cleaned stats for this last day say: 44,5km, +1860m, -3740m.