412 KM | Canigó, Pyrenees – Barre des Écrins, Alps

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Close up on Barre des Ecrins and surrounding peaks
Overall view of Mont Ventoux and Golfe du Lion
Distance412 Kilometers
By / Marc Bret
CameraNikon D5100 @ ISO200 – 2.5 s
LensED80 APO Refractor Telescope (900 mm. equiv.)
DateAugust 12th 2017 – 06:00

If there is a picture that we always wanted to get is the view from Canigó of the Alpes Maritimes.

Left of Mount Ventoux, an small line of mountains shows up: Barre des Écrins, one of the greatest lines in Europe at 412 km.

No one could ever imagine that such a picture can be achieved in mid Summer, but August 12 is a day that we will remember forever.

Long before sunrise the brilliant horizon cutted the silhouettes above Golfe du Lion and the challenge was achieved.

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Comparison between observation and simulation. Simulation from www.udeuschle.selfhost.pro

Weather forecasts were coherent in presenting a very clear Saturday morning, after a cold period over much of western Europe followed by a continuously rise of temperatures.

Wednesday, August 9th The forecasted low pressure system is now over Western Europe. A mass of cold air is placed over Spain and France at a height of 3.000 m.

Thursday, August 10th This summer “cold wave” reaches Golfe du Lion, producing very low temperatures and some snow fall in both Alps and Pyrenees. Cold and clean air from the highest layers of the atmosphere starts to reach the ground.

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Views from our vivac mid-route with Perpignan lights on the horizon

Friday, August 11th The pressure starts to rise again. The clean air begins to settle down and the clouds are removed. Mistral wind starts to flow around SE France bringing transparent and clear air from inland over the Mediterranean.

Saturday, August 12th The moon rises shortly after midnight. The view is clear and without distortion. This is a good sign. The air is now crystal clear and we are heading to Pic du Canigó.

Sunrise After all this sequence, the show begins. The air is renewed and the sun is illuminating the background. The farthest peaks are outlined above the horizons.

There we are. 06:00 am. Top of Canigo. Looking NE.

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Golfe du Lion as seen from the summit of Canigó

The plan is to capture them 45 minutes before sunrise: The background sky is bright enough to outline the silhouettes while the air in between has not yet been affected by the incident light, creating the perfect atmosphere for ultra long distance pictures.

The time is running fast and we are almost on the summit. We need to go to the ridge now or we will miss the show.

Out of breath, we push our legs to the limit and finally reach the viewing point. We can see Mont Ventoux clearly. It is 300 km. away and looks perfectly defined.

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Mont Ventoux and the lights of the villages around river Rhône

Looking carefully at the left of it we can see the horizon and a clear layer of red sky just above it. Everything is free of clouds. The Alps are there.

Moments of greatness and inspiration come shortly after. While setting the telescope the thoughts are in all the moments we had to come across, all the learning, forecasting and investigation we had to do to come to this very moment.

It was the dreamed day we always looked for. The Alps, at 412 kilometers away were perfectly seen with the naked eye and magnificaly captured in our cameras.

And we had them just there, in front of our eyes.

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The distant alps with the unmistakeable silhouette of Mont Ventoux

The color and brightness of the horizon was the best sign of an historic morning. We were able to see the lights from the cities around Golf du Lyon: Marseille, Agde, Sète, Montpellier…

The air was so transparent that even the tower on the summit of Mont Ventoux could be seen perfectly at almost 300 km. of distance.

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The “Line of Sight” of this pictures

This magnificient view lasted until the very few minutes before the sun touched the horizon line.

Now the air is filled with light and the Alps dissapear against the bright sky.

The show is finished.

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Seconds to Sunrise: The summits are projecting their shadows into the Mediterranean Sea

We come back home completely amazed at the views we have captured. Canigó is definetly the best place to have a complete overview of how the Mediterranean divides the highest mountains of Western Europe.

11 thoughts on “412 KM | Canigó, Pyrenees – Barre des Écrins, Alps

  1. Congratulations on this milestone. The images are fantastic. You are creating school for clear sky predictions for distant visions, with the application of meteorological information

    Like

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