This is a long one. Not for the beginner, or the faint-hearted. 950m up, 950m down. Starts at 1,700m, and ends up at almost 2,600m.
Starting from the abandoned village of le Pra, deep in the National Park of Mercantour, it’s uphill almost all the way. First, there’s a fairly steep hike out of the Tinee valley, but an hour and a half later, you’re in a lovely little prairie which makes a perfect lunch stop.
Another half an hour of flattish trekking, following the very pretty Tortisse river brings you to the huge basin backed by the Cime de Fer and the dramatic Aiguilles de Tortisse. Then you’re back into uphill mode – a hour up to the chilly Col du Fer, and the Italian border.
At this point, we’d been going for 5 hours, and were running out of daylight, so we decided to abandon the loop, and go back the way we’d come. Two and a half hours later, a very pleasant stroll into the setting sun brought us back to the parked car and a hot drink.
It was hard work, but well worth it. On the way up we saw loads of marmots; on the way back a few deer, and some chamoix. Great stuff!