VIA FERRATAS OR HOW TO SAFELY EXPLORE THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Entre randonnée et escalade! Between hiking and climbing!

Ever wanted to try outdoor climbing, but didn’t quite feel ready or brave enough to bite the bullet? Well, we might just have the perfect solution for you – Via Ferrata trails!

Italian by origin, the Via Ferrata trails were created to help infantry travel safely through the Dolomites. These “iron roads”, situated on rock faces, are equipped with cables, ladders, steps, grips and bridges, making them the ideal cross between footpath and vertical rock climb. All you will need is a helmet to protect yourself against falling rocks, a harness that clips into the cable safety system as you progress along the trail, as well as some gloves for a firm grip, and appropriate footwear for stability.

This assisted climbing activity is a great way to admire the valley from high above and to experience the wilds in complete safety, but nonetheless it does require hard work and not all the routes are for everyone. So, depending on whether you are a total novice or an experienced climber, here is a short list of the most popular Via Ferratas in the Alpes-Martimes, classified according to their level of difficulty.

Via Ferrata Balma Negra – Roubion (Easy/moderate)

Just 70 km north of Nice in the Mercantour National Park, this relatively short and straightforward Via Ferrata is ideal for beginners. Located on a 40 to 50 metre cliff, the route overlooks the Tinée valley and does not present any difficulties, aside from a 20 m high crossing towards the end.

Time required: 1.5 hours
Max altitude: 1,450 m
Height gain: + 50 m.
Route length: 300 m
Season: April – October

Via Ferrata Les Canyons de Lantosque – Lantosque (Moderate)

With its 5 monkey bridges, 5 suspension bridges, a 100 metre wall and a fun zip line to end the adventure, this Via Ferrata is an all-time favourite among climbers. Its popularity probably has a lot to do with the fact that the route is located in a beautiful canyon and gradually increases in difficulty.

 

Time required: 3 hours
Max altitude: 500 m
Height gain: + 100 m
Route length: 950 m
Season: April – October

Via Ferrata Le Baus de la Frema – La Colmiane (Difficult)

The oldest and most famous Via Ferrata in the Alpes-Maritimes is also one of the most difficult. The route, which leads to the summit of Baus de la Frema, is full of exposed ladder sections, high ropes crossings and vertical slabs, and takes nearly 5 hours to complete.

Time required: 4.5 hours
Max altitude: 2,246 m
Height gain: + 501 m
Route length: 1,600 m
Season: May – October

Via Ferrata L’Escale – Peille (Very difficult)

 

Just a few miles from Monaco and about 30 minutes from Nice, the Escale Via Ferrata is a challenging and physically demanding route that is divided into four sections, each lasting 45 minutes. It provides beautiful views over the village of Peille, but definitely requires some previous climbing experience.

Time required: 2.5 hours
Max altitude: 750 m
Height gain: + 230 m

Route length: 800 m
Season: Year round
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Via Ferrata Les Hérétiques – Tende (Very difficult)

Probably the most spectacular trail, this Via Ferrata offers a fun 120 m zip-line as well as a wonderful panorama over the Mercantour massif and the mediaeval castle of Chapelle St-Sauveur. This is the reward for overcoming this sporty 1km long route.

Time required: 3.5 hours
Max altitude: 1,338 m
Height gain: + 330 m

Route length: 1,000 m
Season: April – October

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LA FÊTE DE LA TRANSHUMANCE IN ROUBION, WHERE THE SHEEP IS KING

Récit dans riviera Buzz d’un dimanche ensoleillé à Rubion pour la Transhumance. Story in Riviera Buzz of a sunny Sunday in Rubion for the “Transhumance”.

Roubion

Every autumn, thousands of sheep leave behind the upland pastures where they spent a peaceful summer to find shelter in the low-lands.

And every year, this procession gives rise to the traditional Fête de la Transhumance in the village of Roubion, a perched village located on the descent from the Col de la Couillole.

Last Sunday, just a few hours after torrential rains transformed most of the French Riviera into a terrifying flood zone, the sun was back and people turned out in large number to cheer on the farmers, their dogs and their adorable woolly quadrupeds as they passed through the 12th century old village on their way to the Var.

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The festivities started at 8:30 am with the baking of bread, some traditional dancing and a craft market. Then it was time for everybody to gather on the main square to welcome the colourful and noisy procession (the sheep wore tags and the few goats that accompanied them tinkling collars) in a friendly atmosphere.

A bit behind schedule, the animals finally arrived around 11:45 am to the applause of the waiting crowd. If today most flocks are moved by large double-decker trucks, this annual celebration offers a unique opportunity to witness the sheep being herded down the small roads and to walk with them from the village to the station of Roubion Les Buisses, just a couple of kilometers away, to the sound of traditional Provençal music.

The hike is easy and takes about half an hour but for those who cannot walk, free shuttles are also available.

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Once in the station, the sheep continued grazing on the lush green pasture but the festivities did not end for the bipeds. Many stalls offered delicious food (cheese, sausages, ham, socca…), home-made jams and local wines, while a small farm provided for some great entertainment.

Roubion has been hosting this annual transhumance fête since 2003 and this year’s celebration once again offered a breath of fresh air – a nice parenthesis in a somewhat difficult weekend on the Côte d’Azur.