Green and red in Gorges du Cians

For many visitors, the road D28 along Cians valley up to the mountain resort of Valberg is just a thoroughfare.

You enter the Gorges du Cians almost immediately after the intersection near Touët-sur-Var in the Var river valley. In spite of many improvements, some parts of D28 are still quite narrow. On one web site, it is even listed among the most dangerous roads in the world! The steep mountain walls on both sides change their colour from limestone grey to red as you ascend towards Beuil. A local bikers´ web site calls the valley “Le Colorado Niçois”.  Similar colours can be seen in Gorges de Daluis as well as in some parts of Tinée valley.
Many mountaintops around Cians River have a round form reminiscent of fells in northern England and Scandinavia. In spite of this, many of them reach 2000m and more. The landscape is different compared with the Alpine peaks visible not that far in the north.

This is hinterland, arrière pays, and when you hike here you are more or less off the beaten track. We describe a hike that starts from the valley at 1288 m from a place called Pré de Chaudi. It’s basically a parking lot by the D28 road. Unfortunately, a large part of it was filled with red land and rocks probably as a result of last winter’s landslides on the road.

The first challenge was crossing the Cians River as the trails at this point start on the other side. As this was our first hike here, we could not know if there ever had been a bridge. Nothing resembling even remnants of a bridge was visible. In early May, the melting snow in the Mounier Mountain massive (2817 m) obviously results in a lot of water. As you can see in the clip, it’s by no means a wide river at all but you don’t want to start the hike with wet gear! After a while we located a fallen tree trunk suitable for the crossing.

Our goal was Les Cluots at 2106m. There are many variants. Diehard hikers even have the option of climbing all the neighbouring peaks (Tête de Pérail 2016 m and Tête de Giarons 2027 m) as well.  The initial ascent goes through a forest to a sheepfold at 1600m. The trail marked with yellow is perhaps less clear after this point but one can actually walk almost everywhere; shortcuts are possible. As you continue above the tree level navigation should be easy enough in clear weather. In early May numerous alpine flowers, such as the edelweiss and gentian, were in full blossom. At signpost 76 (1950 m) all three peaks are visible. We could immediately conclude that Les Cluots northern flank was still covered with snow. With our gear, we therefore opted for Tête de Pérail instead. The vertical ascent was 730 m, duration 4.5 hours and driving distance from Nice 65 km.

Map: Moyenne Tinée No 3641 ET

Map of the trail

Image courtesy of: Les Plus Belles Randonnées des Alpes du Sud (Bernard Ranc); Éditions Gap. This recommended book also has the description of the hike in French.


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