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Alps by the Sea

Where are the Maritime Alps?

The Maritime Alps are at the South-West extremity of the main watershed of the Alpine chain. This sector lies between two important international passes the Colle di Tenda (1871 m) and the Colle della Maddalena (1996 m). To the north of the latter lie the Southern Cottian Alps, with Monviso as their principal peak. From the Tenda pass, the stretch of Alps which runs down to the Tyrrhenian Sea is known as the Ligurian Alps.

So, if we look from south to north at the Italian side of the Maritime Alps, they comprise the left side of Valle Vermenagna, the Valle Gesso, and the right side of Valle Stura . The first two are depressions at right angles to the main axis of the range and are relatively short, Borgo San Dalmazzo lies at the entrance to the two valleys and is less than 25km from Terme di Valdieri. Terme is in the heart of Alpi Marittime and is the starting point for climbing Argentera 3297 metres, the highest peak in this sector. Valle Stura on the other hand runs parallel to the main watershed and is considerably longer: it is 60 kilometres from Borgo to the Maddalena pass. Unlike the Italian side, where the pre-alpine band is virtually non-existent, on the French side the Maritime Alps occupy a vast area, spreading with grandiose canyons (Daluis, Cians, etc.) and deep cut valleys down almost to Nice on the coast.

The geological nature of the Maritime Alps is unmistakeable: made up of an ellipsoid of gneiss surrounded by rings of sedimentary cover (schists, limestones and dolomites) of all ages. There are a number of peaks over 3000 metres (among the better known are: Monte Clapier 3045 m, Cima della Maledia 3061 m, Monte Gelas 3143 m, Cima di Brocan 3054 m, Cima di Nasta 3108 m, Cima dell’Argentera 3297 m, Corno Stella 3050, Monte Matto 3097 m, Cima del Corborant 3010 m, Monte Tenibres 3031 m). Although they are retreating fast, there are the southernmost glaciers in the Alps in the Marittime. The Clapier glacier is only 45 kilometres from Monaco, which has the highest average temperatures of the Côte d'Azur.

The Maritime Alps are administered by the Province of Cuneo on the Italian side, which is the southern part of Piedmont Region.


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