In the 18th and early 19th century Briançon and its immediate surroundings were the first line of defence against a possible attack from Savoie. In the 19th and 20th century the col de Montgenèvre became the border with Italy. And again it was a border that in time of threat needed to be defended. In the mountains around Briançon several fortifications were build, and in the early days of the second World War some were actually used for fighting, albeit only for a few days.
Most of these fortifications were build on high mountain tops with a great view of the surrounding landscape. In our days the remains of these fortifications are therefore a great goal for a hike. Often, they lie in such a way that you can combine several of them in one hike. For this hike we first visited Ancient Fort du Gondrans and then went on to the highest of the forts surrounding Briançon, Ouvrage de Janus.
First we went to Montgenèvre by car and then took the Telemix des Chalmettes. From there it is a pleasant walk and modest climb of a little over 300 metres to the Sommet des Anges where the the Ancient Fort du Gondrans is situated.
It was build in 1885 because of the tension in those days between Italy and France. The tension never became war, so Fort du Gondrans was never used in actual warfare.
The buildings are in decline ever since and dangerous to enter nowadays. Nevertheless they provide for a fascinating visit and the view from the fort on the surroundings are well worth the trouble of visiting it.
From the Ancient Fort du Gondrans you descend to the endpoint of the Téléski du Querelay. From there it is an easy walk up of 200 metres to the Fort or Ouvrage de Janus. Along the way up you get some beautiful views of the valley and over Briançon.
The path up is not steep nor difficult but it leads along a steep cliff and through a barren rocky landscape.
The Fort Janus was build between 1930 and 1940 and lies no less than 1200 metres above Briançon. What is visible above the ground is only a fraction of the complete fort as large parts were hewn out in the rock and are therefore below ground. The subterranean corridors, galleries and rooms are accessible to the brave, but we did not enter them. As they are not maintained there is always the risk of collapse.
To give an impression of the view from Fort Janus I made an 360° image. You can find it by following the link below.
(All images were made by me)