Hike to Cime du Diable

Summit of Cime du Diable

Cime du Diable (2685 m) is a prominent summit in a chain of mountains in the Mercantour National Park, separating the Gordolasque and Roya valleys.

Legend has it that in ancient times the villagers in the Paillon Valley used to believe that devil lived on Cime du Diable, hence its name. When the taxman had visited the villages, they used to say that devil just descended from the mountain.

But there is nothing devilish in the ascent to Cime du Diable; it is a long ascent, but at least you can arrive at the summit along a path, albeit not signposted. Some parts of the trail are steep and exposed but nevertheless negotiable for a seasoned hiker in good weather.

We started from L’Authion above Col de Turini. Starting at 2000 m or so sounds tempting, but keep in mind that this itinerary to Cime du Diable contains several descents, resulting in much more vertical climb.

We parked by the D68 road (2030 m) (one-way counter clockwise traffic), and walked up to nearby signpost #410 (2080 m), next to Pointe des Trois Communes with a ruined fortification. We descended along the GR52 trail, heading north northwest. The October morning was clear, and our summit was well visible but still quite far away. We came to Baisse de St-Véran at 1836 m, marking the lowest point of this hike.

We ascended to Col de Raus (1999 m), then to Baisse Cavaline. After another short descent, the long ascent started, soon in an Alpine environment where the trail (still GR 52) became steeper and rockier.

We reached Pas du Diable (2450 m), then Lacs du Diable ; signposts #404 and #405. We forked left, leaving the GR trail, and climbed to nearby Pas du Trem (2480 m). The summit was now above us. The unmarked (some cairns) trail zigzagged steeply on the eastern face. After the exposed part, the trail levelled off temporarily before the final climb to the summit. At the summit, there were two cairns and a stick, nothing else. As you can see from the images and the short video clip, we chose the right day!

We decided to descend along an unmarked trail (cairns) on the mountain’s southern flank. The trail continued along the eastern flank of the neighbouring Mont Capelet Supérieur (2637 m) where we had to negotiate big boulders  in places (last image above). Getting lower, we eventually reached the grassy slopes above Baisse Cavaline, where we re-joined the GR52, and headed back to our starting point.

We met two lamb flocks, dogs and shepherds during the hike. This time the dogs were well trained, obedient and we had no problems in passing them.

Climb: 1170 m

Distance: 17 km

Duration: 7.5 h active

Map: IGN 3741 OT Vallée de la Vésubie

Cime du Diable hike track
Location of Cime du Diable
Southern flank of Cime du Diable


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Chickpea starter

Chickpea starter

In a small restaurant in Nice, we once had a clever starter: chickpea purée topped with some whole beans, olive oil, and chopped herbs. The restaurant is known for its innovative and gourmet cuisine. This kind of starter is also very healthy; it increases your blood sugar slowly and is good for your heart.

2 servings

A glass jar of 250 g cooked organic chickpeas
½ clove garlic, pressed
4 tbsp. fromage blanc or thick Greek yoghurt
Juice of ½ lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp. olive oil
About 2 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs

Rinse the chickpeas under running water. Save some beans for decoration and place the rest in a food processing bowl. Add the fromage blanc / Greek yoghurt, pressed garlic, lemon juice, black pepper, and 2 tbsp. olive oil.

With a food processor or a handheld mixer, purée the chickpeas into a nice consistence. Divide the purée on two small plates. Add some whole chickpeas on top and sprinkle with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Decorate with fresh herbs.


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Hike to Lacs de Vens

Lacs de Vens near signpost#27

This must be one of the classic destinations in the Mercantour National Park!
The six (or so) beautiful lakes in the upper Vens Valley can be reached from the Vens parking or Le Pra a bit further away by the D64 road. We chose the first option, which is shorter in distance.

The start is at 1550 m elev. and in spite of a vertical ascent of about 850 m the trail is never too steep or difficult. In fact, during the high season in summer, the parking is often packed with cars as this is the principal itinerary to Refuge de Vens.

We walked first along a dirt track as far as to Torrent de Vens where we crossed the stream along a wooden bridge,passerelle, to signpost #21. We started to ascend following the left bank of the stream. At 1850 m, we crossed the stream again along a very good bridge. The incline of the upper valley became steeper, but for the hiker the zigzagging trail ensured an agreeable ascent.

We reached signpost #22 (2293 m), forked right and climbed to Pas des Pecheurs above one of the lakes. We descended to signpost #27 by the lake, where we found a good spot for our picnic.

Since the weather was deteriorating, we decided to skip the smaller southern lakes, and took the trail that circled along the shores towards Refuge de Vens. Light drizzle started on and off. It was late September and the refuge was now closed.  We turned to signpost #24 near the refuge, then climbed to the crossroads and signpost #23 (at 2400 m the highest point of this hike). From here, we continued to signpost #22 and took the same path back to our starting point in the valley. On the way down, a lone chamois crossed the trail just in front of us.

In this magnificent part of Mercantour Park, you can choose several itineraries depending on the time of the year, the weather and your preferences.

Our itinerary is shown below, with relevant signposts marked.

Climb: 900 m

Distance: 15 km

Duration: 5h 10 active

Map: IGN 3639 OT Haute Tinée 1

Lacs de Vens trail track


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Winter salad with beetroot tartare and chevre

Winter salad with beetroot tartare and chevre

The following recipe was inspired by a lunch in a small restaurant in Nice. This restaurant cleverly adapts its daily menus of a starter and a main course according to the seasons. I added some winter salad leaves and goat cheese, chevre, to the beetroot tartare to make it a complete, light lunch salad.

2 servings

2 peeled and cooked beetroots, pref. organic
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. freshly pressed lemon juice
Zest from ½ organic lemon
A handful of crushed hazelnuts
Two handfuls of winter salad leaves, such as rocket or baby red oakleaves
2 tbsp. olive oil vinaigrette
About 8 slices of goat cheese, chevre
1 tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped parsley or chives to decorate

Chop the beetroots and pace in a bowl. Mix with 2 tsp. olive oil, 2 tsp. lemon juice, zest from ½ lemon, and a handful of crushed hazelnuts. Divide this mixture in the centre of large plates.

Place winter salad leaves around the beetroot. Sprinkle vinaigrette on the leaves and top them with goat cheese slices. Sprinkle 1 tbsp. olive oil on the goat cheese slices and grind over some black pepper. Decorate the beetroot tartare with chopped herbs.

Serve the salad with some good country style bread, preferably rye bread.


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Cime de Pal

At the summit of Cime de Pal 2818 m

Finally, the weather forecast was favourable for our ascent to Cime de Pal (2818 m) above the hamlet of Estenc (1778 m) in the upper Var Valley.

We had admired the silhouette of Cime de Pal from Auron, with its long ridge stretching to the north, and its quasi-vertical southern wall. The ridge has been praised by many mountain aficionados. The image below the map shows the mountain viewed from different directions.

We headed to Estenc from Nice on a chilly but clear September morning (a 2 h drive). The temperature in Estenc was just 6°C.

From Estenc (signpost #40), we started along the GR trail to Col de Gialorgues. We crossed the Var River, walked past several chalets before the trail proper began. We ascended, partly in the woods, to Pas de l’Estrop. Getting higher, we came to the vast l’Estrop Valley where progress was pleasant mostly along soft alpine meadows. The peculiar shape of Roche Grande (2752 m) was on our right-hand side.

We reached Col de Gialorgues (2519 m). From here, even the summit of Mont Viso was visible in the distance. The main trail continued straight down to the Gialorgues Valley and St-Dalmas-le-Selvage whereas we forked right and climbed to Baisse de la Boulière (2629 m) along an ancient military trail. From here, our summit was visible in the south east.

We now descended a bit along the narrow trail that went down to Entraunes. After about 400 m, we located an unmarked (albeit the cairns) trail that climbed up to the ridge. On a clear day, with cairns in sight, navigation was not difficult. The itinerary is marked with an interrupted line both in digital and paper IGN maps.

We were lucky to visit the famous ridge that connects Cime de la Gorgia, Cime de Bolofré and Cime de Pal on a clear and sunny day. We headed south, towards the summit, following the cairns. In places, the trail would have been almost invisible without them. Approaching the summit, the trail became steeper with some exposed parts. The narrow summit was marked with a big cairn. The wind increased, and it became quite cold in spite of the sun. We descended almost immediately, using the poles that were of great help (loose slate rocks).

We took the same itinerary back but in the l’Estrop Valley had to make a small detour as the lamb flock and the guarding dogs were now roaming freely not far from the trail. In the morning they were still all inside the fence next to Cabane de l’Estrop.

Climb: 1100 m

Distance: 19 km

Duration: 7 h (active)

Map: IGN 3540 ET Haute Vallée du Var

Cime de Pal trail track

Cime de Pal viewed from different directions



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