Hiking the GR5 from St Gingolph to Menton

15 days. 600 kilometres. A hike across the Alps from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean in July 2012.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 15 - Refuge des Merveilles to Menton

Distance: 45km, Ascent: 1910m, Descent: 3940m, Time: 11h30m
GR5 - Day 15
After hanging around all yesterday afternoon at Refuge des Merveilles, I was glad to be on the move again.

I had by now pretty much mastered the art of slipping out of the communal dorm at 5am, without making a sound. A flask of coffee and some bread and jam were waiting for me downstairs in the boot room.  By 5.30am I was on my way, the dark night sky showing a faint strip of red on the horizon.

Luckily the path was pretty easy to follow in the half-light conditions, and I was soon at Pas du Diable 2436m. For here it is more or less downhill all the way to Sospel, with just a few minor re-ascents along the ridge. The route did require a bit of concentration, since the path would twist and turn from one side of the ridge to the other, or occasionally follow the high ground on the crest of the ridge. Eventually I was on the long final descent to Sospel, scattered with a few interesting remains of old artillery barrels. Just before reaching Sospel I made a wrong right turn down a mountain bike descent, and found myself skittering down a dusty trail almost too steep to maintain any footing.

Once at Sospel, I took a few minutes to grab some food and drink, before launching into the final climb up and over the steep wooded hills between Sospel and Menton. Partly because of the trees, and partly because of the heat, this section felt much longer than I was expecting, and there was a real sting in the tail with the last climb to Col du Berceau. There was great view across the Mediterranean from here, but also an extremely steep 1,100m descent to contend with in scorching heat.

When I finally reached street level in Menton after a frazzling descent, I wandered along past the marina then found the first available section of beach to go for a swim in the sea. Something I never managed to do at the end of either of my Pyrenean crossings.

View GR5 - Stage 15 in a larger map

Stage 15 - Refuge de Merveilles to Menton

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