The Alps

The Alpine massif extends over a part of Europe; the Alpine bow with more than 1.000 km, begins at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea with the Alps of the South situated in France and in Italy, and develops with the Alps of the North in France, in Italy, in Ex Yougoslavie, in Switzerland, in Germany and in Austria. The Alps have geological trainings(formations) very diversified (crystalline rocks, limestones, marly). The Alps can be divided on geographical, geological and topological criteria in three distinct parts:

  • Western Alps, which form an arc between the Mediterranean sea and the Valais;
  • the central Alps, between Valais and Grisons (eastern Switzerland);
  • Eastern and Southern Alps, which extend in the Pannonian plain to the west of the Carpathians.

The highlight of the Alpine massif is the Mont Blanc (4.807m). The Alps have several peaks over 4,000 meters, we rescense over 80, more than half in Switzerland, to name only the most famous :

  • the Mont Rose (4,638 m), located on the border between Switzerland and Italy, it is the second highest mountain in the Alps after Mont Blanc.
  • the Cervin or Matterhorn (4.478 m), situated on the border of Italy and Switzerland, of or both names.
  • Jungfrau (4.166 m), situated in Switzerland(Swiss) in the massif of the Alps Berneses.
  • the barre des Ecrins(4.103 m), situated in France in the massif of Ecrins.
  • the Gran Paradiso (4.061m), situated in Italy.

The Alps also contain many passes situated at 2,000 m altitude. The Alpine massif is from recent tectonic movements born of the collision of Eurasian and African plates. the French Alps are young mountains whose uplift began during the Cretaceous.

The Alpine massif has several National Parks :

- In France :

  • National Park of Vanoise,
  • National Park of Mercantour,
  • National Park of Ecrins.

- In Italy :

  • National Park of Gran Paradiso,
  • National Park of the Dolomites.

- In Switzerland :

  • National Park of Grisons.

- In Austria :

  • National Park of Hohe Tauern,
  • Park of Kalkalpen.

The French National Parks :

The Vanoise National Park was the first National Park created in France in 1963. It is situated on the department of Savoy, and extends between Maurienne and Tarentaise. The highest point, La Grande Casse is 3852 meters. The heart of the park extends over approximately 53,000 hectares. The national park of Vanoise has a common border with the Italian national park of Grand Paradiso on 14 kilometers, both parks were coupled since July 8th, 1972.

This is the realm of Ibex (over 2000), chamois (6000), the marmots and columbine. We do not find that the famous ibex, and the marmot, but also a very diverse fauna and a flora with more than 2000 varieties of flowers.

The Ecrins National Park was created in 1973. It covers an territory of ​​high mountain peaks whose beauty is known worldwide and is a delight for mountaineers : Meije, the Barre des Ecrins (4102 m) and Pelvoux. More than 100 peaks over 3000 meters.

This is the largest national park in France. The heart of the park covers an area of ​​over 91.000 hectares. It is a region of high mountains, with peaks of around 4,000 meters.

It houses major glaciers, both in number (about forty) and in size, these cover approximately 20 % of the space of the heart of the park The White Glacier, who begins in 4 102 m of height and his brother The Black Glacier", is situated at feet of high summits, of whom the barre des Ecrins is one of the most beautiful sites.

The park also features a flora and wildlife very rich:

  • Flora : over 1,800 species have been recorded,
  • Wildlife : Among the mammals, numerous chamois, ibex, marmots, squirrels, ermine and fox ; among birds: the black grouse, the eagle-owl, the bearded vulture, the golden eagle.

The Mercantour National Park was create in 1979, and extends over two departments of the Alps of the South (Alpes-Maritimes, and Alpes de Haute-Provence). Its coverage area includes seven valleys: Roya, Bévéra, Vésubie, Tinée, High Var, High Verdon and Ubaye. The highlight of the park is the summit of Gélas with 3,143 meters. The contrasts of the landscapes are very marked, because of her particular geographical situation, in the crossroads of the influences alpine méditéranéenne and Provençal. It is in this region that the wolf made its return in France since Italy.

It contains the "valley des merveilles". This valley is famous for its rupestral engravings, (more than 40,000 engravings were listed) and leads us to the origins of the humanity. It is about a unique archaeological heritage.

The mount Bégo 2872 meters in height, which overhangs the valley des merveilles possesses mineral characteristics, that makes lightning thunderstorms and particularly violent lightning.

Alpine fauna :

The Alps are a diverse and varied wildlife that has adapted to the rugged relief and extreme altitudes. The foot of the Alps to the highest peak that is Mont Blanc, wildlife varies according to altitude. This chain of mountains, in the heart of Europe, is the most urbanized major mountain range in the world, it is nevertheless still rich in biodiversity. Some species are confined to high-altitude environments, others were forced by the pressure exerted by the man on their original habitats.

Mountain traditions :

The descent of cheeses at Champagny (Vanoise): The high mountain pasture of Lècheron is situated at 2094 meters in height, from June to August of farmers settle with their cows, for make on-site cheeses according to ancestral methods. This production of cheese made ​​in summer is lowered into the valley of Champagny le Haut, in the hamlet du Bois, to be sold, and gives rise to a festivity.
No road allowing vehicles to transport these cheeses, the descent is done on sledges «les orsets» with two men, one pulling the sled in front, the other one holding with a rope behind, indeed, the descent which is made on stiff paths and narrow, is particularly spectacular.

Mountain architecture :

The village of Le Monal is a classified site, because of its great interes, architectural, historical and landscape. It is within walking distance from a forest trail from the Sainte Foy Tarentaise' station. This beautiful little village of Haute-Tarentaise situated 1,874 meters above sea level facing the glaciers of Mont Pourri, is built in a flat area surrounded with larches. The village where most of the constructions go back up to the XVIIIè and XIXè century has a chapel, as well as ancient milk cellars. These milk cellars are stony constructions, on horseback on the brook, which allowed to refrigerated and thus to keep the milk.

Laces of Montmirail :

The Laces of Montmirail are located in the Vaucluse south of Vaison la Romaine and west of Mont Ventoux. They take their name from lace to the fact that they are finely chiseled by erosion. The highest point of this chaine eight kilometers long, is the crest Armand who peaks in 730 meters. It is a place very appreciated by the passionate persons of climbing.

This chaine is a part of the massif of Baronies, and it is about the first advance of the Alps in the valley of the Rhône. At feet of this rocky bar, we find of the vineyard, and somebody of the vintage wines of the Côte du Rhône :

  • Gigondas
  • Vacqueyras
  • Beaumes de Venise