During the climb towards the refuge, you will see the summits of recent mountain chains like the Alps.
Glaciers, water, wind and gravity are the agents of erosion which will gradually break down the mountain reliefs and transfer the eroded materials towards the Mediterranean.
In the Maritime Alps, glaciers were the initial agents of active erosion. They have now disappeared and the erosion continues die to mountain streams and rivers which wear away the floors of valleys, the cycles of freezing weather followed by thaws which crack the rocks and the effects of gravity on the steepest slopes.
The Gordolasque valley
Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra)
The Salt Road
The track which leads to the Nice refuge is one of the secondary passages of the Salt Road via the “Pas de Pagari”. Frequented since ancient time, this Pas gets its name from Paganino dal Pozzo,an Italian entrepreneur who, in 1453, was appointed as salt tax adjudicator by the Duke of Savoie.
Paganino was responsible for the construction of a new route via the “Pas de Pagari” to transport salt from Provence to Cuneo in Piedmont.
The eclogite of Lac Niré
Just above Lac Niré, on the right bank of the mountain stream, among the migmatite, can be found very dark rocks which take the shape of huge lentils (geologists call them “black puddings”).
When you look closely at these one of these lentil, you can see very different minerals to the ones you find in migmatite. The rusty red coloured ones are garnet and the darker ones are amphibole.
This very distinctive rock with characteristic fine and very dense crystals is eclogite; it is quite rare and a remainder from oceans which have disappeared. It is a metamorphic rock which springs from the transformation of basalts, ancient lava from the oceanic crust.
From Countet Bridge (marker 411), take the path which runs alongside the Gordolasque mountain stream. On the right, the Grand Capelet (2935m) towers over the valley with its imposing bulk and the Tête du lac Autier (2740m) with its flat summit shows the way to go.
You will then go past a heap of big blocks which have fallen from the mountain, an ideal terrain for climbers.
At marker 413, note the glacier cliff and its smooth rocks which the mountain stream flows over in waterfalls. Cross the river via the wooden footbridge and climb up the opposite bank. Follow the Autier mountain stream until marker 414. At the marker, take a left turn and climb over the Mur des Italiens.
Keep climbing amid this more chaotic and rocky scenery until you reach the dam of the Lac de Fous, which was built in 1968 (marker 416).
Head right on the GR52 which runs alongside the artificial lake and lead to the Nice refuge (marker 417). Continue towards "Baisse du Basto".
At marker 418, cross the mountain stream and start climbing the Niré valley until you reach Lake Niré (2350m), which is aligned with the summit of the same name.
Follow the same route for the return journey.
Information available at Belvédère Tourism Office 0033 (0)4 93 03 51 60).
Access and parking
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