The lake of Rabuons seen from the summit of Corborant
Maritime Alps are a wild and complex chain lying in the Southern end of Western Alps; the main ridge runs on Italy-France boundary from Colle di Tenda (1.871 mt a.s.l., 44°09’06’’N; 4°52’30’’O) at South-East to Colle della Maddalena (1.996 mt a.s.l., 44°25’17’’N; 5°33’15’’O ) at North-West.
As their name means, Maritime Alps are a part of the Alps located close to Mediterranean Sea (sea = mare in italian).
The Italian side belongs to Cuneo Province, Piemonte Region, the French one mainly belongs to the Departement des Alpes Maritimes (06) and Alpes de Haute Provence (04). Starting from North, at first the chain runs from Nort-West to South-East from Colle della Maddalena - or Col de Larche in French (road col)- to Colle di Ciriegia (walking col). In the southern part the chain runs from East to West from Colle di Tenda (road col) to Colle di Ciriegia (walking col).
Monte Argentera m. 3297, the highest of the range; Cima di Nasta m. 3108; Monte Matto m. 3097; Monte Gelas m. 3143; Il Baus m. 3067, Cima di Brocan m. 3054, Cima Paganini m. 3051, Corno Stella m. 3050; Monte Clapier m. 3045; Tenibres m. 3031; Corborant m. 3010
Brocan-Baus-Nasta, Argentera, Oriol, Bresses, Prefouns, Testa Malinvern, Lombarda, Lausfer, Corborant, Ischiator, Tenibres, Ubac, Enciastraia, Rocca dell’Abisso, Vernasca, Basto-Grand Capelet, Clapier-Maledia, Gelas, Agnel
Italian side or Eastern side
The chain runs in its southern part from Ventimiglia to Colle di Tenda (SS nr. 20/E 74, Km 38). To reach the chain Central part it’s useful following from Cuneo Gesso Valley towards Valdieri and then either to S. Anna and Terme di Valdieri (NW side of Argentera Group) or Entraque (SE side of Argentera Group).
To reach the Northern Side of the chain from Cuneo follow Stura Valley, from which on the left-hand side some secondary valleys lead to the foot of the main mountains (some valleys, such as Vallone di S. Anna and Valle del Rio Corborant, are provided with drivable roads; the Vallone di S. Anna road, starting from Vinadio, crosses the boundary at Lombarda Col mt. 2.351 mt a.s.l., leading to Isola, in the French side).
French side or Western side
From Nizza head toward North (following at first the road D6202 Route de Grenoble/Route des Grandes Alpes and then the road D2565) to St. Martin Vesubie (Km. 65), Isola and St Etienne de Tinee. From La Bollene, Roquebilliere, St Martin Vesubie, Isola the secondary roads allow to go up the valleys toward the main chain.
Monte Tenibres m. 3031 - Corborant m. 3010 - Becco Alto d’Ischiator m. 2998 - Monte Enciastraia m 2955 - Cima las Blancias m. 2970 - Testa Malinvern m. 2939 - Monte Laroussa m. 2905 - Cima di Collalunga m. 2759 - Rocca di San Bernolfo m. 2681, Testa dell'Autaret m. 2763, Punta Maladécia m. 2745
Apart from the main boundary chain, two important subgroups are lying entirely in the Eastern side (Italy): Monte Matto Group and Monte Argentera Group.
Inside the Southern sector is lying the highest summit of the chain: Monte Argentera or Serra dell'Argentera m. 3297
Other important summits: Cima di Nasta m. 3108 - Monte Matto m. 3097 - Cima della Maledia m. 3061, Corno Stella m. 3050 - Rocca dell’Abisso m. 2755 - Monte Clapier m 3045 - Monte Gelas m. 3143 Testa di Tablasses m. 2851 - Caire di Cougourde m. 2921 - Caire de Prefouns m. 2840 - Cima di Mercantour m. 2775 - Cima di Fremamorta m. 2731
Both the "GTA Grande Traversata delle Alpi Piemontesi" trail in the italian side and "GR5 Grande Randonnée 5" trail in the french side are well-known and highly reliable hiking itinerary.
The first trail is starting from Ponte della Rovina and running to Valle Stura.
The second trail is starting from Larche and running to Nizza.
Eastern Side (Italy)
Bozano mt. 2453 - Dante Livio Bianco mt. 1910 - Gandolfo 1847 mt. - Genova – Bartolomeo Figari mt. 2015 - Lausa mt. 2400 - Laus mt. 1910 - Migliorero mt. 2100 - Morelli and Buzzi 2350 mt. - Pace al Colle della Maddalena mt. 1996 - Questa 2388 mt. - Regina Elena mt. 1800 - Remondino mt. 2430 - Talarico mt. 1750 - Zanotti mt. 2200
Barbero mt. 1670 - Baus mt. 2568 - Costi-Falchero mt. 2275 - Guiglia mt. 2437 - Varrone mt. 2090 - Vigna mt. 2880
Western Side (France)
Bousieyas mt. 1883 - Chastellar mt. 1507 - Chastillon mt. 2034 - Cougourde mt. 2090 - Rabuons mt. 2523 - Salese mt. 1724 - Ski Club Nice mt. 1519 - Vens mt. 2370
Climate and Nature
Due to the location of the chain, it rains more than in the other parts of the Alps, mostly in spring and autumn (rain) and in late winter (important snow-falls). The French side (West) counts more rain-falls, because of the Atlantic perturbations coming from West.
Many rare and endemic species live in Maritime Alps, due to the geographic position under the influence of sea in South side, to the typical alpine climate in the northern side and in the higher zone and to the ancient glacier’s action, rocks variety and man’s activity.
No other place in alpine chain is so rich in animal and vegetable species.
You can find both artic species as Ranunculus Glacialis and mediterranean species as Lavandula Angustifolia and Juniperus Phoenicea. But the most important endemic specie is Saxifraga Florulenta, which lives only in the small range from Mont Frisson and Vens Lakes. Clarence Bicknell, the famous English botanic, called it “Maritime Alps’ glory”. This incredible plant can live till 50 years and it flourishes only a time, just before dying.
Bears, wolfs, lynxs and vultures (gypaetus) have been missing for years, but many other animals still populate valleys and high peaks. Ibex and chamois (rupicapra rupicapra) are common all over the Maritime Alps territory.
There are different kinds of rocks in the area, but the most common ones are “granite” (as in middle part of Argentera Massif) and “gneiss”; sometimes you can find a few kinds of limestone, in some valleys as in Valle Stura and in the lower part of Valle Gesso.
There are not special restrictions in climbing, hiking and mountaineering, anyhow, due to the wilderness of the area and the very high number of animals and vegetable species, both sides of the chain are under the authority of two Natural Parks: the Argentera Natural Park on the italian side (East), established in 1980, twinned with the Mercantour National Park on the french side (West). May be in future they will form a unique european Park. So, for this reason, the Maritime Alps territories are subject to some important rules. Free camping is not allowed and fires are forbidden. To bivouac is authorized only at more than 1 hour’s walk from Park boundaries or from access roads. The whole fauna and flora is protected. Don’t disturb fauna and other mountaineering and hikers’ peacefulness with every kind of noise.
Please respect the following rules inside Argentera Natural Park and Mercantour National Park:
"Le Alpi del mare" (Les Alpes de la Mer) by Flaviano Bessone
Map "Alpi Marittime" 1:30.000 - Meridiani Montagne Ed.