Cime du Gelas, the highest mountain in French part of Maritime Alps. The chain of mountains that include Cime du Gelas forms the French Italian border. The standard route uses the east couloir leading to La Selle, obvious fissure separating south and north summit (3138 and 3143m).
The first successful ascent up Mont Gelas was realized in 1864 by local count Paolo de Saint Robert. Today the smaller neighbor summit eternalize count’s name. The word “gelas” remind us that glaciers used to surround the mountain once upon a time. It is interesting to research books and photo exhibits from last century and see big glaciers on photographs. Remarkable photographer was a noble Victor di Cessole. He was not only accomplished climber with many first ascents but also scientist and artist. His photos demonstrate those impressive glaciers captured only 100 years ago. On his account is first winter ascent of Cime de Gelas in 1896.
Getting There and RouteThe climb is possible from France and Italy. This description uses the access from France. The CAF refuge Madonna de Fenêtre is one of the rare huts accessible actually by road. To drive there you will need to arrive to Saint Martin Vésubie from south and drive to parking around hut. Public transportation TAM runs buses from Nice to Saint Martin-Vesubie. There are also trains from Paris that stop in St Martin-Vesubie. (www.scnf.com), From Saint Martin-Vesubie small bus goes three times a day in summer, check web www.Cg06.com for all buses
East Couloir: This is the easiest route up mountain. It uses the weakness between the two summits. Start hike from Madonne de Fenetre, taking GR 52 trail to the intersection (368) where you choose right trail marked in direction of Col de Fenetre. The trail climbs up and after-before big switchback you will notice obvious path branching to the right. At that point you will be at 2250m and as landmark you can see above you big rock. If you pass this point, you would arive to the lake-Lac de Fenetre.Follow the trail that winds between rocks in uneven terrain and sometimes disappears. Occasional cairns will help to continue toward Lac Mort. On the way you can see on your right down the Lac Balaour and in front of you Mont Gelas. Continuing is same direction, you arrive to Lake Blanc. The mountain left from Mont Gelas that is crevassed in middle is Cime Robert and on the right hand side crest of Mont Colomb dominate the view. Go around and on east side the couloir comes to view. If there is snow, crampons and ice axe are necessary.
Other routes possible South Arrete etc.
Red TapeWithin the borders of the Maritime Alps Natural Park dogs generally are not allowed, except on a few trails. Off road Mountain biking is allowed. No fees applies to enter National Park.
Maps and bookIGN (1/25000) #3741 OT "Vallée de la Vesubie"
IGN (1/25000) #3841 OT "Vallée de la Roya
Book: Les plus belles randonnées des Alpes du Sud Bernard RANC - Editions GAP 2009