Boréon: Lacs Bessons 2545 m

The lower dark lake of Bessons

The upper region of Boréon is extremely popular during the summer season. The magnificent forest, good variable trails, and super views over the mountains…Most of the trails go inside the Mercantour National park. Here you can find everything from leisurely walks to demanding Alpine trails.

One of the classic hikes goes up to Lacs Bessons (2545 m). The twin lakes are located in their basins under Tête de la Ruine (2984 m) and several other peaks approaching 3000 m.

The main season for this hike is from July to October. The first part of the trail is the GR 52; we used the lower parking at 1600 m. The upper parking is at 1660 m altitude but mind the potholes in the last part of the road! We followed the GR 52 heading to Refuge de Cougourde to signpost # 423 and further to signpost #424. This is the crossroads where we turned left following the narrow path in the woods. It is neither signposted nor marked with any colours, just cairns, heaps of stones. We followed closely the trail to Vallon Sangué, and came gradually above the tree line. Here the trail leveled off a bit, heading northwest. We crossed the stream that ran in the valley a few times. At the confluence of two streams the trail headed north, and started to climb steeply again. We ascended to Lacs Bessons Valley. Once again we crossed the little stream before climbing steeply northeast in a rocky mountain slope. After this ascent, we again turned north then northwest and then finally the first lake was in front of us. The landscape was truly sauvage. On the way up, we saw numerous marmots a few chamois. The solitude was remarkable. We heard the marmots’ screams but nothing else.

We climbed a little further, and could see the upper lake and the isthmus between them. We had our picnic by the lakes, and then returned along the same trail. Serious hikers might consider continuing to the nearby peaks such as Tête de la Ruine.

This itinerary is recommended only in good weather. Poor visibility and rain can make some parts of the trail dangerous.

Total ascent:                  940 m (from the lower parking at Boréon)
Duration:                        6 hours

Map: IGN Vallée de la Vésubie 3741 OT

Trail image courtesy of Google Maps


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The small dishes, antipasti, tapas, meze, which are served in cafés, restaurants and bars have a long tradition in the Mediterranean countries. In Italy, antipasti are served in restaurants at the table to begin a meal. Good Italian restaurants still have impressive and delicious antipasti buffets, and it is well accepted nowadays that you skip the pasta if you have enjoyed the antipasti buffet.

By chance I came across my notes of a truly magnificent antipasti buffet that we enjoyed at our hotel during a skiing trip in Madonna di Campiglio many years ago. At home, nobody would cook an antipasti buffet like that followed by pasta, main course and dessert, but I thought why not have antipasti as dinner and nothing else.

These varied small dishes enjoyed with a glass of chilled rosé, a green salad and good country bread can keep you happy on a summer evening without cooking the pasta or heating the barbecue. Many of these dishes can be cooked ahead of time. The following four dishes are just a tasty sample of the sumptuous antipasti buffet served in Madonna di Campiglio.

Dish 1.

Mix together sliced, tinned Italian artichokes, baby salad leaves, cooked prawns, minced flat-leaf parsley and freshly ground black pepper. Make a dressing of 1 part of freshly pressed lemon juice and 3 parts of fruity olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving and toss.

Dish 2.

Toss together cooked brown beans, minced parsley and vinaigrette. Make a vinaigrette of 1 part of red wine vinegar and 3 parts of tasty olive oil. The beans are best if soaked overnight and cooked just before serving. If you use tinned beans, rinse thoroughly in cold water and dry before mixing with parsley and vinaigrette.

Dish 3.

Mix together thinly sliced courgette, and thinly sliced cold roast beef. Pour over some vinaigrette and toss.

Dish 4.

Thinly slice an aubergine and brush olive oil on the slices. Roast the slices in 200 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes until soft. In a frying pan, fry sliced mushrooms with some garlic in rapeseed oil. Mix together the aubergine and mushroom slices. Toss in a little vinaigrette and grind over some black pepper.


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Hike to Grand Glaiza 3293 m

The summit of Grand Glaiza (3293 m/10804 feet) in Queyras can be ascended from south by following a very long ridge called Crête aux Eaux Pendantes. The northern side of the mountain facing Italy is very steep.

Experts claim that ascending Grand Glaiza is easy. Even so, to reach this altitude means that you need to negotiate some steep parts, and the final ascent always is rocky, and often lacks a visible path. In any case, the ascent is long, and the altitude takes its toll.

We started the ascent from the refuge of Torrents les Fonds (2040 m) in the beautiful and tranquil valley of la Cerveyrette. From the village of Cervières, we drove along a good albeit narrow paved road D89T to the parking les Fonds just before the refuge.

We crossed the river after having passed the refuge, and found the signpost showing the GR58 trail towards Col du Malrif (2866 m). The trail first ascended gently in the verdant valley. In south, the summits of  Pic Lombard (2975 m) and Petit Rochbrune (3078 m) and their steep northern precipices dominated the scenery. The trail followed the stream named Pierre Rouge for quite a while, to about 2500 m altitude. The mountain ridge was now well visible in front of us. We climbed along a steep and rocky trail as far as to Col du Petit Malrif (2830 m). From the mountain pass, we already had a great view of the biggest of the Malrif Lakes namely le Grand Laus below us. We continued heading northeast climbing to the nearby Pic du Malrif (2906 m). From here, we admired the nearby peaks, notably the majestic Mont Viso (3841 m).

From Pic du Malrif, we descended a little along the trail to Col du Malrif (2866 m). At this point, we left the GR58 trail and followed the well visible trail along the long mountain ridge. There were only cairns, no other marks. Some parts of the trail ran in gentle grass, but the higher you ascended, the rockier the trail came. Our goal, Grand Glaiza was looming in front of us. Once over 3000 m, we started to feel the altitude when struggling uphill. The last 30 vertical meters or so became a bit difficult as the trail was hard to see. The terrain was rocky with a lot of moving slate. Once at the summit, the verdant Thures Valley on the Italian side was seen over 1000 m below. In north, the partly snow-covered Vanoise summits were visible but some clouds prevented from seeing Mont-Blanc.

We returned along the same trail and had our well-deserved picnic a bit lower.

Ascent: 1250-1300 m
Les Ecrins seen from the ridge to Gland Glaiza

Duration: 7,5-8 h

View towards Mont Chaberton and Thures Valley

Map: IGN 3536 OT and 3637 OT

Descending from Grand Glaiza along the ridge


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Hike along GR 58 from St-Véran

The village of St-Véran

Our second day in St-Véran (2040 m) started with rain and thunder. However, after breakfast the weather improved, and we decided to start the hike along the GR58 towards Ceillac.

Our initial goal was Col des Estronques (2651 m) and the nearby Tête de Jaquette (2757 m) roughly halfway between St-Véran and Ceillac. The trail first descends about 200 m from the village centre, then ascends about 800 m to the mountain pass.

The trail was good and well-marked (GR trails usually are). We first climbed rather steeply in the beautiful woods. This trail was much less frequented than yesterday’s trails from Chapelle de Clausis. Once past the tree line, we reached a verdant alpine meadow where the ascent was less strenuous. Col des Estronques eventually came visible in front of us. Unfortunately, at the same time, the weather deteriorated rapidly. We had about 50 vertical meters left to climb when a fierce thunderstorm was right above us. The mountain pass in front of us disappeared. We had barely time to grab our raincoats when the rain started. We now saw several hikers carrying large rucksacks coming fast down from the Col des Estronques, probably doing the several day Tour of Queyras.

We descended rapidly. Luckily the weather often changes quickly in mountains. After about 30 min or so the storm had passed, there were even some sunny spells, and we could enjoy our picnic on a mountain side further down.

In spite of not reaching our goal on this hike, we actually did more climbing than on the first day. Don’t try to push on in high terrain when the weather is deteriorating. We knew that it could happen, and chose an itinerary from where it was easy to turn around if needed.

Total climb: 750 m + 200 m = 950 m
Image of GR58  trail to Col des Estranques

Duration: 5 h

Map: IGN 3637 OT

Trail image courtesy of Google Maps


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