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Pub: by
David-Guenot: Track/5108 in area near Unid, Unid ()
Torre de la Massana
Ascent: 582m, Length: 8.5km, Creator time taken: 3h51m
Descent: 589m, Time predicted from Naismith's rule: 2h 40m + breaks
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Places Start at Lon 3.00527, Lat 42.5075, end at Start
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[RWD version 1 ] The Massif des Albères is situated in Catalunya and marks the border between France and Spain. After a few visits in the area in the past years, I had been looking forward to venturing across these relatively low yet steep mountains, which are mainly covered with forestry, except the most easterly part which gradually drops into the Mediterranean Sea.
The cloud cover had been coming and going over the high ground over the first few days of our stay, with thunderstorm risk at times, and I was relieved to see the forecast get sunnier on what actually was a Bank Holiday week-end here in France.
This first outing happened to be a warming for the next day's big hike on the final part of the GR10 (see track number 5109) and would take me to one of the local watchtowers, erected in the 13th century, which proudly stands on a narrow, prominent rocky outcrop.
A common starting point is the car park at the château de Valmy near Argelès-sur-Mer, but I thought I'd start from the hamlet of La Vall (or Lavail in French), which would obviously offer a wilder and less busy approach while cutting some amount of ascent too. Note that the narrow road to La Vall is a dead end and is closed to traffic between in high season (July-August-September), except if you arrive early -before 9am as far as I can recall, which would be a good idea anyway as to avoid the usual summer heat. Also be aware of two other factors which must be taken into consideration while hill-walking in the area : the fire risk (which can be present any time of the year) and the gusty tramontane, which can be fierce at times, which add to the potential heat and thunderstorm risk.
Parking is available about 400m after the hamlet, although the car park is not extensive and means venturing off tarmac with the car ; alternative parking is available just before the road bridge over the Massane river, adding an extra 3km out and back with some extra 90m ascent. picture 1 for track/5108
A hint of the local wilderness at the beginning of the walk.

The gentle start along a gravel road offers the first views over the mountains around and the river below and is soon followed by a steep +300m ascent to the Roc del Grill. This first third of the route is made under the cover of beautiful cork and holm oaks, mainly relatively low trees which allow you to be safe when the tramontane is blowing. A couple of very short out-and-backs from the yellow marked trail provide superb views over the Massana valley and its mountain slopes covered with deep forestry, the only trace of human presence being the tower visible to the left and the masts on the top of Puig Neulos (highpoint of the Massif des Albères at 1256m) in the distance to the right.
The second third of the route starts with a gentle stroll from the Roc del Grill (a col at 532m) followed by a gradual climb, still in the forest shade, with glimpses of the panoramic views that await from the top, first over the Mediterranean coast, then over the Massif du Canigou in the far distance to the W, still topped with snow at the time.
The last pull-up is not as steep as it looked on the IGN 1:25000 map, but is busier. Around the 750m contour, you emerge out of the forest at last and can enjoy the final, gentle part of the ascent across a grassy meadow surrounded with rocks, taking in the views progressively as you get closer to the tower. A few steps allow you to reach the very top of the rocky outcrop and stand proudly at the foot of the tower, although you may surely need some help from the metal handrails to keep your balance against the gusty tramontane, which was obviously blowing over 90/100km/h at its worst !! Trying to move past the tower to the northern end of the outcrop was the trickiest part and somehow dangerous as you couldn't stand without holding the handrail firmly. The southern part was a mere safer as you could stand against the viewpoint indicator with the wind at your back to admire the views over the sea and the nearby Madaloc tower. picture 2 for track/5108
The final approach to the Massana tower.

To the S and SW, the views are barred by the main ridge which marks the border between France and Spain, more precisely by the Puig de Sallfort (993m) and Puig de Pradets (1174m), and further SE by the Puig d'en Jorda (753m); to the W, Puig de Neulos stands proudly, with the mighty, snow-topped Pic du Canigou (2784m) and Madres (2468m) in the distance; to the NW, the wide expanse of the Plaine du Roussillon extends towards the rocky Massif des Corbières, while the most captivating part of the panoramic views definitely is the perspective of the Mediterannean coast stretching to the N, its sand beaches marking a clear frontier between land and sea. picture 3 for track/5108
A close-up of the Massif du Canigou shrouded in clouds. picture 4 for track/5108
The breathtaking views to the NE over the Mediterranean, well worth the effort !!

Last but not least, the tower overlooks the towns of Collioure and Port-Vendres to the E, the sunny conditions enhancing the contrast between the deep marine blue of what we sometimes call in French "la Grande Bleue" and the mix of vineyards and forest gently rolling down to the coastline, the rocky ridge of the Torre de Madaloc (656m) being the only significant obstacle barring the views in this direction. picture 5 for track/5108
More mighty views to the E, facing the Madaloc Tower with the towns of Collioure and Port-Vendres to the left.

I lingered there for quite a while despite the crazy wind, exchanging smiles with other walkers who were expressing their surprise as they almost got blown away while reaching the top, taking in the mighty views and adding tens of photos to my collection, before going down the eastern side of the ridge to contour it. This adds a mere 50m ascent as you grop down to ca. 610m before heading up again shortly to the junction to the northern side but allows a bit of variation to the route. From there, it's a lovely walk back via the same way, with the usual bit of caution required while going down the steepest part. A wonderful route, with a total ascent of ca. 650m.
Editing Details for track/5108
NOTE: ALL information such as Ascent, Length and Creator time taken etc should be regarded as approximate. The creator's comments are opinions and may not be accurate or still correct.
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Uploaded on: Sun, 2 Jun 2024 (06:55:48), Linkback:
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