Hiking (mountain trail, in places narrow and exposed)
Alpine route (equipped or very exposed section, snow field, blocks)
St-Etienne-de-Tinée » Roya
Continuing on the GR® 5, the trail leaves the medieval village of St-Etienne-de-Tinée and borders the Tinée stream before rising up to the Auron ski resort, which it circumvents through the forest to reach the grassy Blainon pass. It reaches the stage destination at the hamlet of Roya, after passing via the Clot Giordan basin.
Markings in red and white all along this stage. Pass in front of the village police station and then below the D39 to follow a little road that turns into a well-built path. At a hairpin bend, join the D39 close to the Saint-Maure chapel. Head to the south (left) to take the Auron road (D39) for 200m. Take a stairway to the right and head uphill into the forest. Walk past a wayside shrine and after numerous bends, the trail arrives at the little pass (1,665m) situated on the edge of the Auron plateau. Take a road (Chemin de Demandols) to reach Auron at 1,602m in altitude. Follow the ski lift pylons of the Riou to cross it. Stay below the D389, pass below the cable of the Las Donnas ski lift and then in front of a chalet and a fountain (the last waterhole before the Roya area). Head eastward, circumventing the golf course and take the rapidly climbing path. Cross a little pass (marker 12) and follow a well-built path first on a level course and then passing Belvédère des Chamois. An uphill course of hairpin bends leads to a forest track that must be followed to the east. Leave this track on the right to take a well-built path and climb to the Blainon pass (2,011m). Descend on the southern slope of the pass. Walk past a shepherd’s hut (1,922m) and then the ruins of the Saint Sébastien chapel (1,795m), from where the trail descends to the little Lugière valley, which must be crossed. Descend to the left and, after the Salle barns, you will reach a Calvary and then a fountain before reaching Roya (1,500m). (Paul Guglielmi, CDRP 06)
Natural and cultural heritage
In the peripheral zone of the Mercantour National Park, this section of the GR® 5 trail (linking Chamonix to Nice) ventures into the heart of a well-known tourist area, where this is a mixture of forests and pastureland marked by man-made developments and natural restrictions. The exit from the village of St Etienne-de-Tinée opens onto the worrying Clapière landslide, which started 12 years ago and has since been the subject of a multitude of concerns: there is a real risk of the Tinée river bed filling up, which would cause flooding in part of the valley. A tunnel has therefore been built to deviate the course of the water and the road has been raised onto the opposite slope. A little further on, the slopes of the largest skiing area in the southern Alps stretch as far as the Blainon pass and take advantage of the surrounding geographical diversity (deep gorge, green, level meadowland, a stream and lake, summits and cliffs) to offer a range of sporting activities. In spite of this extremely developed tourist offer, the villages of St Etienne-de-Tinée and Auron have preserved the traces of much less recent history. For centuries, their proximity has united them: Auron supplied the wheat for the large mountain market town until the farmland was converted to ski slopes in 1937, co-managed by the two villages. The chapels with their listed frescoes stretch out along the trail, testifying to the perpetual quest for divine protection. In Auron, the Roman chapel of St Erige-de-Auron was built in 1451 and bears the effigy of this saint who protected or resuscitated stillborn children, healed sickly infants and gave the dumb the gift of speech. Towards the East, it is possible to see the traces of the Chemin de l’Energie trail on the mountainside, a structure of around 8km built between the 2 wars by the company “Energie électrique du littoral” to dispatch material and workers. The aim was to produce hydroelectricity using water from the Rabuons lake, captured and then channelled into a penstock. This ambitious project did not survive the Second World War. After this juxtaposition of local heritage and modern techniques (in 1937, Auron became the 3rd location in France to build a ski-lift), the Blainon pass offers a vast panorama: to the North West, the Las Donnas peak, to the West the Tinée valley against the background of Mercantour, and to the South the little Roya valley. The descent to the hamlet of Roya passes between sheepfolds, alpine barns and chapels. A few barns that can only be accessed on foot have, moreover, been renovated by private individuals who spend part of their year in residence here. A hut has been built at the end of the valley. Unfortunately, it burned down several years ago and is still under reconstruction. (Sara Zeidler, Gilles Chappaz, Grande Traversée des Alpes)