Mount Chaberton fortress, BriançonMount Chaberton fortress, Briançon

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  • Off the path Explo
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    3.9 / 5
    Very very singular spot Fritz... And only locally famous!
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      5 / 5
      Very nice description and tips Fritz!
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      5 / 5
      Yes, and you added useful plans
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      Yes, 3 pics.
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The Tartar Steppe, 3000 m of height!... An impressive Italian fortress at the top of a mountain, with panoramic sight on the southern Alps...

My experience, Explo description: 

Built between 1898 and 1910 by the Italians to control the Montgenèvre pass (one of the easiest ways to cross Alps between France and Italy), this very impressive fortress included 8 turrets, sheltering a 8 149 mm artillery gun battery. This fortress was called "the fort of clouds". This fort, located on the top of a 3100m high summit, was then considered as the highest and most powerful of Europe.
It made rightly the pride of the Italian Army. Its dominant position allowed it to threaten the whole area, and particularly Briançon, the French opposite strong point.

On June 11th 1940, Mussolini’s Italy declares war to France, which is close to full collapse hardly one month after the German attack of the 10th of May. The French border of the Alps is only held than by some divisions of alpine troops which were not already engaged in Norway.
The artillery of Chaberton bombards the French strong points around Briançon, but ground gains are insignificant.

On June 21st 1940, the French succeed in destroying 6 of the 8 turrets with 280mm marine mortars which had served to Verdun (WW1 !). They were placed outside sight, at Poët Morand, about 1000 metres below, and guided by observers located in the Janus French fortress.
After the armistice, the border is moved and "Chaberton" has been since 1947 totally on French territory.

Nowadays, the 8 big towers still proudly raise themselves down from their 3100m height. Inside the fortress, you can see galleries, stores and barracks. In front of the towers, the Italians rased the summit of the mountain on a six metre height to establish a defensive glaze !

"Chaberton" is at first a really beautiful 1300m grade ballad, "a little bit physical", but without technical difficulty because almost all the trail is a good shape. On the summit (3131m), you can enjoy a panoramic sight on all the surrounding mountains : Oisans, Viso, Thabor, Rochebrune and Queyras....

For the History and military fortifications amateurs, it is one of the most impressive and the most exciting alpine sites. Towers and galleries are well preserved. Only artillery guns have disappeared, but masonry is still in good shape.

Attention : inside the fort, the visit of galleries is relatively dangerous : corridors are recovered with snow ice... Do not forget to take your own lamps !

For sport fans, do the "Chaberton marathon".
The race of Chaberton was regularly organized between 1964 and 1992 then disappeared.
A new edition took place on the 3rd August 2008, with 2 formulae :

  • >A "easy" route : 22 km with 1775m grade
  • >A "hard" route : 42,5 km with 2776 m grade

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It is also possible to make to climb to the summit by mountain bike, from the mountain Italian side, using the former military track.

My personal recommendations: 

All the region of Briançon is stuffed with forts of various periods. All of them are located in magnificent places :
Janus fort, Gondran fort, Infernet fort, Granon fort, Olive fort, Lenlon fort, Briançon Vauban ramparts, with the Trois Têtes and Randouillet forts.

How getting there: 

1) By the Chaberton pass : usual route : 1250m grade. No technical difficulty. Attention : there is some snow on the Montgenèvre pass north slopes from October till the beginning of July !

From Briançon, drive towards Italy (Turin) and go across Montgenèvre. Then drive towards the Italian border (Clavière) on approximately 500 m. Leave the car at the beginning of a little road on the left : chemin des Baisses (1850m height).

Go up the valley of Baisses ("G.R." trail = red and white marks) up to a sheepfold : 2025m height (3/4h). Then, leave the GR trail on your left and turn to the right (full North) towards the Seven Fountains hut (2253 m height, 1 hour).

Continue (N-NE) up to the Chaberton pass (2674m height, 1h15 walk).
At the pass, the landscape changes : you arrive on the former wide military track, which is regrettably degraded by motorcycles cross-country vehicles. The ascension continues in the middle of barbed wires and you quickly arrive to fort. Count on average about a 5 hours walk from the car park.

2) By the battery (fort) of the Chamois (1400m height, 5 hours long walk). This variant is more arduous and technical. It starts at Clavière. Advised for hard walkers, who not fear dizziness. Use this variant to go up to the fort, as you should rather go down using the normal way (by the Chaberton pass), following the Rio Secco river to Clavière.
From Claviere, drive down towards Suza and leave the car 600m after the cemetery, just before the series of tunnels (1700m height).

Take the trail on the left which leads to the Chamois battery. It successively pass through the " batteria bassa " then, the... " batteria alta " of course ! (2228m height, 1h3/4 walk). Then go north up the Portiola valley. You will arrive under the mountain edge (2700m height, 1.5h walk) where you will find the former intermediate cable railway tation.
Go west on the mountain edge to the summit (1.5h walk).

3) For the mountain bike amateurs.
From Oulx (Italy), drive up on the SS24 road towards Briançon. 1.5km before arriving at Cesana-Torinese, take a small road on the right and drive across Haylofts. Then go to Pra Claud (1589m height). Leave the car there.
With your mountain bike, follow the trail to Gr. Quagliet (1880m height). Cross the border (2400m height) and start to climb up to the Chaberton pass (by the east side of the mountain) (2674m height) and then continue up to the summit.

View Mount Chaberton in a larger map

A tip to sleep: 

Numerous accommodations at Claviére and Montgenèvre.
If you do not like the atmosphere of ski resorts at the summer time, drive a few kilometres further to sleep in the valley of Névache.

Useful information: 
Open hours: 

Access is free.
By feet : from July to October.

Visit duration: 

By feet. About 5h to go up. And 3h to go down. 1-2h to visit the fort, have a picnic and a little nap :-)

Access security: 

Attention : the mountain north side is covered with snow in the beginning of season.
The visit of galleries is dangerous because grounds are covered with snow ice.
The route 3 by the Chamois battery is only for walkers having a robust alpine practice.