Time: 9.5h. Up: 1350m. Down: 1700m.
Distance: 22km. Difficulty: hard.

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Stage 59: Névache (1600m) to Briançon (1254m)

Click and drag on map above to see area around trail. Click here for large zoomable map.

Avery long spectacular hike today, but one that is only to be attempted in good weather (if this is not the case, see Alternatives below). After climbing out of the Clarée valley, you spend the rest of the day traversing a high ridge with immense views in all directions. Eventually you'll come to one last promontory, the Croix de Toulouse (Cross of Toulouse), high over the ancient fortified town of Briançon.

The Croix de Toulouse is a most significant name, signifying as it does your first encounter with Provence! You might wonder why, given that neither Briançon nor Toulouse are in Provence.

The explanation is that in this case "Toulouse" is actually a misnomer, since the Croix de Toulouse (a Greek cross with 3 gold baubles on each arm, a.k.a. the Croix du Languedoc or Croix Occitane) originated with the Counts of Provence in 950 or so, and only later became associated with the Counts of Toulouse through marriage.

However, and sadly, in spite of this show of erudition, I've no idea why the promontory bears this name. But despite such shocking ignorance, encountering Provence merits celebration! After a final thrilling descent, passing through many military fortifications and with a continuous, almost birds-eye, view of Briançon below, why not stay two nights and take a day off to recover... and also to look around the famous fortifications, built by Vauban during the reign of Louis XIV, which, although many times besieged, have never been conquered.

Today's route is identical with the GR5c (NOT the GR5) except right at beginning. From Névache head east a kilometer along the "main" road to the Pont de Fort Ville. Join the GR5c here, cross the bridge, and begin climbing. At a fork after a couple of hours, take the right hand path to the pass of Porte de Cristol (2483m). On the far side traverse east to Col de Granon (2404m), where you begin to climb again up to the Crête de Peyrolle (a high ridge around 2600m). At the far end of the ridge the trail descends in zig-zags to the Croix de Toulouse (1962m), from which a trail initially to the east descends steeply and in further zig-zags down to Briançon.

Alternatives: if the weather is bad, take a day off -- the ridge is too high and exposed to hike except when the weather is fine. If the stage seems too long for you even when the weather is fine, one option is to descend from the Porte de Cristol to the village of la Salle-des-Alpes (1436m) from which you can take a taxi the 9km to Briançon (this is a 2.75h, -1100m, 7km descent from the Porte de Cristol, making the day's total around 7.5h, +940m, -1200m, 15km). If you can't face any hiking at all this day, just take the bus from Névache to Briançon.
Maps: IGN-3535OT Névache, IGN-3536OT Briançon.

The House to House blog... stage 59.

<A couple of representative photos from this stage will be added here after the hike>
In the meantime, click here to go to all of the H2H photos on Flickr.

GPS Track
<To be added during or after hike>

Room and Board Options
Lunch: picnic... at least twice.
Dinner and overnight: there are many restaurants and places to stay in Briançon (for a complete list, see here).

Getting There and Back
Névache: there are regular buses from Briançon to Névache (for bus information see here).
Briançon: there is a railway station here (for schedule information, see the SNCF).
ViaMichelin Road Map and Driving Directions: centered on Névache, centered on Briançon.

Background Information and Links
Many and various...

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