Grand Tour of Argentera and Vallée des Merveilles
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Grand Tour of Argentera and Vallée des Merveilles
Valdieri

Grand Tour of Argentera and Vallée des Merveilles

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A Franco-Italian itinerary in the central zone of the European Marittime-Mercantour Park.
These wide open and wild spaces provide hikers with a wide variety of fauna, from ungulates to marmots, magnificent landscapes and also cultural discoveries with the forts of the Maginot Line and the rock engravings of Vallée des Merveilles, which are 5000 years old.

16 points of interest
Architecture

The Valdieri Royal Hot Springs

First cited in the mid sixteenth century. When King Carlo Emanuele III decided to valorize the Valdieri hot springs, in 1755, a building and other appurtenances were quickly built in order to create a spa around the sulfurous waters. Cavour called Valdieri "the richest in health-preserving waters in all the nation, and perhaps in all of Europe as well". Vittorio Emanuele II, who first visited Val Gesso in 1855, became a frequent guest at the spa, and it was at his behest that, on 10 July 1857, the first stone was laid for the structure that was to become the Hotel Royal.

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Lake

The Lagarot di Lourousa

Springwater, welling up among meadows and larches, forms numerous limpid pools and streams; the water is at times turquoise, at times milky and at others perfectly transparent, making this a particularly striking location, perfect for a contemplative rest. The Canalone di Lourousa, bordered by Monte Stella and the Corno Stella and scoured by the Gelas di Lourousa, lies beyond the plateau of the same name, and a look over one's shoulder yields a view of the imposing outline of Monte Matto.

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Lake

The Chiotas Reservoir, the Della Piastra dam and the Lake della Rovina

The Chiotas Reservoir is closed off by two dams: the Chiotas dam and the Colle di Laura dam. The Chiotas dam, an arch-gravity structure, is 130 meters high and stretches for a length of 230 meters. Its thickness varies from 37.5 meters at its base to 5 meters at the top. The mass gravity Colle di Laura dam is smaller, rectilinear and only 30 meters at its maximum height. Its length is 70 meters. The Chiotas Reservoir has a carrying capacity of 27.3 million cubic meters of water.

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Architecture

The Genova Figari Refuge

To valorize the hiking trails along the Argentera Massif, in the last years of the nineteenth century the Liguria chapter of CAI decided to build a refuge near the upper Gias del Monighet, in the Vallone della Rovina. The Genova Refuge, as it was named, was inaugurated on 15 August 1898.
But the fate of the first refuge in the Maritime Alps was definitively sealed in 1968: the reservoir of the new Chiotas dam would submerge it permanently. ENEL assumed the task of building another refuge, which was inaugurated in 1981.
The refuge is named for Bartolomeo Figari, who as Secretary General of CAI saw both the successful conquest of K2 and the birth of the National Alpine Rescue Corps, to which he bequeathed all his worldly goods.

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Peak

Col de Fenestre

A communication route within the House of Savoy, the col became part of Italian territory in 1860 and a border col in 1947, the date at which the border was moved to the watershed. When the weather is clear, the view extends beyond the plain of Pô to 200km to the north: Cervin (4478m) and Mont Rose (4634m) are visible in these conditions.
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History and historical trail

Terre de cour

The black rock marks one of the borders of the Terre de Cour, formerly a domain of the Count of Provence, before it was returned to the House of Savoy in the 14th century. Two inscriptions on the black rock provide a reminder of the past: “B” for Belvédère, “SM” for Saint-Martin-Vésubie. Terre de Cour was located exclusively in these two communes but they have to share the ancient rights to pasture and wood with Lantosque and Roquebillière.
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Geology

The scars of erosion

When they converge, runoff streams of water leave the ground bare, breaking a fragile equilibrium. In addition, footfall due to tourism damages the ground and raises the question of preservation of natural environments. Plant cover has to be maintained as it protects the ground from erosion and guarantees its stability. Restoration work has been carried out to guide and direct the hundreds of hikers who love these wild areas.
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History and historical trail

Col de Fenestre mule track

This track has been used for a thousand years and was regularly maintained to allow mules transporting salt to pass with ease. The technique used to make and maintain these tracks involved self-locking stones. Identically sized slabs were arranged vertically in close lines. Fine materials were then used to hold it all in place. Gutters provided a run-off area for rainwater.
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History and historical trail

La Madone de Fenestre sanctuary

In the 8th century, a modest refuge already, providing accommodation for travellers. This sanctuary with its imposing forms was built by the Benedictines of Borgo San Dalmasso and destroyed by the Saracens in the 10th century. The Templars restored it in the 13th century shortly after the Virgin Mary appeared at the Grand Caire window. Subsequently, the sanctuary was devastated by fire several times and then rebuilt. Today it belongs to the diocese of Nice.
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Refuge

La Madone de Fenestre refuge

Club Alpin Français

Capacity: 62 Possibility of eating and having a shower

Warden: Mid-June to late-September + school holidays and weekends in winter

Tel. 04 93 02 83 19

Out of season upon reservation: Patrick Miraillet: 04 93 03 91 02

 

Online reservations: http://chaletmadonedefenestre.ffcam.fr/

 

Useful numbers:

St-Martin-Vésubie Tourism Office: 04 93 03 21 28

Park House: 04 93 03 23 15
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Geology

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.

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History and historical trail

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.

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Fauna

Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra)

A mammal of the Bovidae family and the subfamily of the Caprinae, the chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) is a mountain dweller par excellence. It can climb 1000m upwards in 15 minutes (a hiker would take 3 hours). It can be recognised thanks to its horns, which are straight and then curved backwards, and quite small compared to those of the ibex.
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Know-how

Mountain climbing in the Mercantour

At the start of the 20th century, for the first mountain climbers, the Mercantour was a taste of adventure. Little by little, the summits of the chain were conquered, initially via the normal routes and then, with the arrival of modern mountain climbing, along the most difficult routes. From Victor de Cessole to Patrick Bérhault, the greatest names have been involved in climbing in the Mercantour. Today, whether they are snowy, icy or rocky, the reputation of certain routes is well established.
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Refuge

La Cougourde refuge

Club Alpin Français

Warden: June – September: Manuel Putelat

             September – June: Charly Barcelo: 06 18 54 02 43

Reservations by telephone or e-mail: refugelacougourde@ffcam.fr

Refuge landline: 09 78 23 31 59

 

Website: http://refugelacougourde.ffcam.fr/

 

Useful numbers:

St-Martin-Vésubie Tourism Office: 04 93 03 21 28

Park House: 04 93 03 23 15
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History and historical trail

Trails of Freedom

Betwee the 8th and 13th of September, 1943, just days after Italy's surrender, about twelve hundred Jewish civilians of all ages and walks of life, originating from Saint-Martin Vésubie, crossed the Alps together with the Italian troops of the IV Army Corps. On foot, following two different routes, over the Colle di Finestra and the Colle di Ciriegia, the refugees arrived, respectively, in Entracque and Valdieri, where they were housed in the barracks and wherever else possible. A plaque affixed to the wall of the barracks at Colle di Ciriegia commemorates these events.

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Altimetric profile


Recommandations

This itinerary takes place along high-valley Alpine paths. The accommodation sites listed are the only ones which are available along this route. Before heading off on a hike, ensure that you have studied the safety advice. If you are setting off on this hike in the early part of the season, you will need to take particular care as patches of snow can still be present in higher areas.

Specific regulations apply when you cross Vallée des Merveilles. Signs on site.

·         Do not leave the marked paths

·         Do not touch or damage the rock carvings

·         Do not use hiking poles without placing rubber tips on the ends.
Is in the midst of the park
The national park is an unrestricted natural area but subjected to regulations which must be known by all visitors.

Access and parking

From Borgo San Dalmazzo (province of Cuneo), go to Valle Gesso. Go through Valdieri and continue to Terme.

Parking :

Terme di Valdieri. Pay-and-display carpark in summer.

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