Walking the GR52 - Details
The season for walking the GR52 is from mid June to the end of September. While it may be possible to walk it at other times the possibility of snow closing the higher cols is very real and most refuges are closed. In early June an ice axe and crampons may be needed. Even in early August of 2004 there were a few snow patches in the higher valley heads to be crossed.
The FFRP (Fédération Française de la Randonée Pédestre) topo-guide is No. 507 Tinée-Vésubie covers the GR5 from Larche to Nice and the GR52 from St Dalmas Valdeblore to Menton. This is in french and I am not aware of an english language guide. Some updates about changes to routes and services can be found on the FFRP web site (www.ffrandonnee.fr).
The FFRP publish walking guides to almost all GR routes in France. In each guide is a route description, transport links, services along the way and extracts of 000 maps with the route marked. Most contain interesting snippets of history, architecture etc relevant to the towns and features along the route. For many sections they are satisfactory for navigation but a larger scale map is recommended to provide an overview of the area.
The FFRP has an office at 14, rue Riquet, 75019 Paris selling guides and some maps.
The IGN 1:25,000 TOP25 series are best. Make sure you have your maps and guides BEFORE leaving St Sauveur de Tinée or St Dalmas!
There are no supplies between St Dalmas Valdeblore and Sospel apart from Le Boréon which are down by the lake and a little off route. You need to be aware that businesses come and go and closing times/days change. The guide I used was the 11th edition published in 1997. They are not updated frequently as this part of the GR5/GR52 is not heavily used, so take advantage of the services you find when and where you find them and have a backup supply of food.
In 2004 there was a seasonal office for the Parc National du Mercantour in the main street of St Sauveur de Tinée which should have up-to-date details of refuges etc and also sold some maps.
I understand search and rescue costs are recovered from those being rescued and can be very high. Most European walkers have insurance coverage through their national walking/climbing organisations but for those without, the purchase of a "Randocarte" costing about 30 euros from the FFRP in Paris provides a year's worldwide rescue insurance and other benefits including discounts in some refuges. The French Alpine Club has a similar scheme.
The route is marked with the standard white oblong over a red oblong.
All images and text in this web site are copyright (2004) J. M. Fowler.