Tour de Gélas

Trekking Tour of Cime du Gelas in the Alpes Maritimes

In a nutshell

  • A short hard skirmish around the Mercantour’s highest peaks
  • As remote as it can get, if that's your bag!
  • Enjoy great hospitality with Andrea at the Pagari refuge and good beer at the Soria Elena refuge
  • Duration - 5 days, 4 nights

What's it all about?

A trekking short break holiday that takes you on a high level route around the most well known peaks in the Mercantour National Park.

It's a trail which can be done by hard nuts in a day!- but we are proposing the same circuit in a hard enough three days in terrain which takes you to rocky Alpine terrain and the promise of a good dinner.


  • Day 1 Arrive Nice airport, transfer to Berthemont les Bains, about 1 hour. Settle in, and look forward to your first evening meal with Mel & Liz.
  • Day 2 Leave Berthemont early (by ~ 8 am), and drive about 1/2 an hour to the Gordolasque valley to the Pont de Countet at 1,692m, where we start our foray into the heights of the Alpes Maritimes. We start by climbing the well maintained track up towards the Refuge de Nice at 2,232m, which is on the GR52 - one of the more popular long distances footpaths traversing the high cols of the Mercantour National Park. We have time to stop at the "Nice" for a morning coffee. After leaving the refuge we start to climb up into much more isolated terrain, and follow the small Vallon de Pagari, with Mont Clapier overlooking us on our right. A steep climb over loose scree brings us out on the Italian frontier at the Pas de Pagari at 2,798m, overlooked on our left by the sheer walls of Cime du Maledie, and dropping away from us the small Glacier di Pagari. We pick our way to the east of the glacier and down the small arréte leading down to our refuge for the night, the magnificently named Rifugio Frederici Marchesini al Pagari at 2,627m - the highest in the Alpes Maritimes. Ascent 1,100m, 9 to 10 hours trekking.
  • Day 3 The route we take is highly weather dependent, but in good weather we take the magnificent high traverse, seldom dropping below 2,500m, from the refuge, that leads us around underneath the Northern walls of the highest peaks in the Mercantour National Park. The plate techtonics at work in the Western Alpes has resulted in a vast escarpment gradually rising from the Rhone valley, and culminating in the line of high peaks along the watershed that is today the French/Italian border - thereafter to drop down spectacularly to the Piedmont plain and the Po plain forming most of Northern Italy. We cross underneath these towering granite walls, where there remain still, small glaciers, and so outside of August and September, crampons and ice axes are obligatory - there may well still be steep névé to negotiate. We pick our way over two ridges on steep ground, and then eventually drop down to the valley of the Gasso della Barra, and to the refuge at the Soria Ellena. Ascent 300m, 8 to 9 hours trekking.
  • Day 4 The longest day of our trek, takes us back over the border. From the Soria Ellena, we climb steadily southward along the well maintained footpath that leads us up to the Col Fenestre, the highest point on the old salt route that was used for mule packing salt from the coast to Piedmont, and overlooks the magnificent cirque of la Madone de Fenestre. We drop down past Lac Fenestre, to eventually re-join with the GR52, and start the final climb to the Pas du Mont Colomb - an interesting ascent, and an even more interesting descent on the other side back down into the Gordolasque valley! We then re-join our original footpath down to the Pont de Countet. Transport back to Berthemont for that well earned shower, home cooking and comfy bed.
  • Day 5 Transfer back to Nice.

What's included

  • Pick up/drop off Nice airport
  • Four nights accommodation – two in Berthemont – two in mountain refuges
  • Full board including beer and wine in Berthemont – refuge nights drinks at guests’ cost
  • Three days guided trekking

Dates :

2020 : Jul 09

Grade :

Walking - Challenging - suitable for adults

See our grades explained here

Pricing :

€735 pp