Walking the GR52 - Day 1





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The torrent descending the Vallon de la Chanaria above St Dalmas de Valdeblore.

Date 1 Aug 2004 Weather Hot with threat of an afternoon storm
From la Bolline To just beyond col du Barn.
Difficulty 1,457 m ascent, 200 m descent - route easy, navigation easy

I left la Boline (995 m) about 8:30 and wandered through the village centre - boulangerie, epicerie (raisins) and some badly needed cash on Visa. The village doesn't have a cash machine or bank so they work around it with the tabac entering the cash out as a purchase - cost €1. When leaving the town I kept hearing the simple but catchy tune that was being played the previous evening and eventually saw a band of young people marching along playing as they went - mainly flutes and drums. Climbed 300 metres along country lanes and later joined the D2565 to St Dalmas Valdeblore and the end of the GR5 for me.

A quick visit to the mini-market for an ice cream before turning left and up the GR52. A long steep grind up a road to the top of the town then continued up beside the equally steep torrent along an old path, open at first then through forest to a now abandoned farming area (spring) and out into the open. Winter's avalanche tracks cut through the thinning forest as I approached the treeline. Crossed the zigzagging gravel road frequented by paraglider enthusiasts heading up to their takeoff point and sidled across the slope to rejoin the road which climbed then descended.

About here the heat and humidity of the valley were finally replaced by the pleasantly warm and fresh alpine air. It had been a long slow grind and in late afternoon finally climbed into col du Veillos (2,194 m) past hordes of descending picnickers. This was the start of an interesting and scenic section. Rather than descend, the route continues up the ridge at a somewhat gentler gradient before sidling the steep western slopes of Mont Pépoiri and winding up through rocky steps past small glacial tarns into col du Barn (2,452 m). A total ascent for the day of 1,457 metres.

With the sun starting to set I descended the steep rocky slope on the other side to a spring and headed down a lush valley of alpine grasses and pockets of conifers surrounded by rocky peaks for 15 minutes to a pleasant camping spot in an alpine meadow. This turned out to be the only place on the entire walk where I had to zip up the insect netting on the tent.

All images and text in this web site are copyright (2004) J. M. Fowler.