« It's not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.» - Edmund Hillary.
The Alps :
The Alpine massif stretches over part of Europe; the Alpine arc with more than 1,000 km, begins at the edge of the Mediterranean with the Southern Alps located in France and in Italy, and develops with the Northern Alps in France, in Italy, in Ex Yugoslavia, in Switzerland, in Germany and Austria. The Alps have very diverse geological formations (crystalline rocks, limestones, marly). The Alps can be subdivided on geographic, geological and topological criteria, into three distinct parts :
- the western Alps, which form an arc between the Mediterranean Sea and Valais ;
- the central Alps, between Valais and Graubünden (eastern Switzerland) ;
- the eastern and southern Alps, which saddle in the Pannonian plain west of the Carpathians.
The highest point of the Alpine massif is "Mont Blanc (4.807m)". The Alps have several summits of more than 4,000 meters, there are more than 80, of which more than half in Switzerland; to name only the best known :
- the Mont Rose (4.638 m), located on the border between Switzerland and Italy, it is the second highest massif in the Alps, after Mont Blanc.
- the Cervin or Matterhorn (4.478 m), located on the border of Italy and Switzerland, hence the two names.
- the Jungfrau (4.166 m), located in Switzerland in the Bernese Alps.
- the barre des Ecrins (4.103 m), located in France in the Massif of Ecrins.
- the Grand Paradis (4.061m), located in Italy.
The Alps also have many passes located at more than 2,000 m above sea level. The Alpins massif is the result of recent tectonic movements born from the collision of the Eurasian and African plates. the French Alps are young mountains whose uplift began during the Cretaceous.
The Alpine massif includes several National Parks :
In France :
- the national Park of Vanoise,
- the national Park of Mercantour,
- the national Park of Ecrins.
En Italy :
- the national Park of Grand Paradis,
- the national Park of Dolomites.
En Swiww :
- tha national Park of Grisons.
En Austria :
- the national Park of Hohe Tauern,
- the Park of Kalkalpen.
French national parks :
The national Park of Vanoise :
was the first National Park created in France in 1963. It is located in the department of Savoie, and extends between the Maurienne and the Tarentaise. The highest point, La Grande Casse is 3,852 meters. The heart of the park extends over approximately 53,000 hectares.
The Vanoise national park has a common border with the Italian national park of Grand Paradiso on 14 Kilometers, the two parks have been twinned since July 8, 1972.
It is the kingdom of Ibex (over 2000), chamois (6000), marmots and columbine. We do not only find the famous ibex and the marmot, but also a very diverse fauna and flora with more than 2000 varieties of flowers.
The national Park of Ecrins :
was created in 1973. It covers a high mountain area whose beauty of the peaks is known worldwide and makes the happiness of the mountaineers: the Meije, the Barre des Ecrins (4102 m) and the Pelvoux. Over 100 peaks exceed 3000 meters.
It is the largest national park in France. The heart of the park covers an area of over 91,000 hectares. It is a high mountain region, with peaks around 4,000 meters.
It is home to important glaciers, both in number (around forty) and in size, these cover around 20% of the space in the heart of the Le Glacier blanc park, which begins at 4,102 m above sea level and its brother the Black Glacier, is located at the foot of high peaks of which the Ecrins bar is one of the most beautiful sites.
The national Park of Mercantour :
was created in 1979, and spans two departments of the Southern Alps (Alpes Maritimes, and Alpes de Haute Provence). Its coverage area includes 7 valleys: Roya, La Bévéra, Vésubie, Tinée, Haut Var, Haut Verdon and Ubaye. The highest point of the park is the summit of Gélas with 3,143 meters. The contrasts of the landscapes are very marked, because of its particular geographical location, at the crossroads of Alpine Mediterranean and Provencal influences. It is in this region that the wolf made his return to France from Italy.
It contains the valley of wonders. This valley is famous for its rock engravings ", (more than 40,000 engravings have been identified) and takes us to the origins of humanity. It is a unique archaeological heritage.
Mont Bégo, 2872 meters above sea level, which overlooks the Valley of Wonders, has mineral characteristics that make thunderstorms and lightning particularly violent.
The Pyrenees :
The Pyrenees are a mountain range in southwestern Europe. They extend over a distance of more than 400 kilometers in an east-west direction, from the Mediterranean Sea, to the Atlantic, at the Bay of Biscay. The Pyrenees form a real geographical barrier separating the Iberian peninsula in the south from the rest of continental Europe in the north. They constitute a natural border between Spain and France.
The Pyrenees have several peaks over 3,000 meters. This altitude characterizes the high Pyrenean peaks. To cite the most important :
- Pic d'Aneto 3,404 meters located in Spain is the highest peak in the Pyrenees.
- the Vignemale 3,298 meters is the highest peak on the French side.
- the Mont perdu 3.355 mètres.
- the Peak of Marboré 3.248 mètres.
- the Peak of la Munia 3.133 mètres.
- the Peak Long 3.192 mètres.
The Pyrenees landscapes are characterized by certain points
- the rarity and high altitude of the passes, called ports.
- the upper part of the valleys sometimes ending in a circus, the most famous being the "Cirque de Gavarnie", but we can also cite the "Cirque de Troumousse", and the "Cirque de Lescun" in the Aspe Valley.
- the large number of mountain streams, called "gaves or nestes", typical of the French Pyrenees.
The national Park of Pyrenees
Situé sur les départements des Pyrénées-Atlantique et des Hautes-Pyrénées, il a été le troisième parc national créé en France en 1967. Ce parc de plus de 45.000 hectares comporte une flore très riche, plus de 4.500 espèces végétales dont environ 160 espèces endémiques dont l'ancolie des pyrénées et le chardon bleu sont les plus connues, et une Faune très importante (plus de 4,000 espèces).
The Pyrenees National Park is a border park, on the Spanish side, there is the Aigüestortes National Park in Catalonia, the Ordesa and Mont-Perdu National Park.
The Pyrenees also include other regional natural parks : the Regional Natural Park of the Catalan Pyrenees, the Regional Natural Park of the Ariege Pyrenees, as well as natural reserves like that of Néouvielle in the Ossau valley.
The "Cirque de Gavarnie"
The Cirque de Gavarnie closes the upper valley of the Gave de Pau. This circus is one of the most visited places in the Pyrenees. In the middle of the circus is the large waterfall with a height of over 400 meters. The Cirque de Gavarnie has several heights, on the highest part, we find the Roland's breach. This huge natural fault, 40 m wide and 100 m high, opens into the cliffs above the "Cirque de Gavarnie".
According to legend, this breach was made by Roland (nephew of Charlemagne) who broke his sword “Durandal” there. Located at an altitude of 2,804 m, this fault is located on the border between France and Spain.
East of Pic du Marboré is the twin brother of Cirque de Gavarnie : Cirque de Troumousse. This 4km diameter circus stands at around 2,200 meters above sea level. Among the peaks which surround it, the peak of Munia is the highest with an altitude of 3.133 meters.
For my part, I find the Cirque de Troumouse more wild. No doubt this is due to its lower tourist frequentation, this one being less famous!
The Canigou Massif
Le Canigou is the mountain of the Catalans, on both sides of the border. The Canigou massif in the eastern Pyrenees, dominates Roussillon from these 2,785 meters. Whether you are on the peaks of Corbières, Conflent, Cerdagne or in the Perpignan plain, and even on the beaches of Roussillon, you only see him. At the very top, a cross carries the Catalan flag.
This massif shelters the famous Abbey of "Saint Martin du Canigou", built in the 11th century on the northern flank of Canigou and rehabilitated from 1902. It is perched on a rocky promontory, at 1,100 meters above sea level, and overlooks impressive gorges. The Canigou massif also shelters the "Priory of Sérabonne".
The Aspe Valley
The Aspe valley is one of the three valleys of Haut-Béarn with the valleys of Ossau to the east and Barétous to the west, in the heart of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. The Aspe valley is close to Spain and the Basque Country, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean.
The Aspe valley is one of the paths of St Jacques de Compostelle (the Arles way), a pastoral valley with its transhumance and ancestral traditions, a valley where cross-country skiing is in the spotlight with its station Somport, famous for its cheeses. This one kept a rather wild character. This is one of the last regions of the Pyrenees where there are still bears. The upper Aspe valley is home to part of the Pyrenees National Park.
Some of the photos in this gallery were taken in the "Cirque de Lescun", which is dotted with magnificent peaks :
- Aiguilles d’Ansabère
- Peak d'Anie
- Table des trois rois
The small village of Lescun located in this circus is about 870m above sea level.