Tuesday 13th September
Distance: 13km Time: 5.5hours
We are up early after a peaceful nights sleep as there are no snorers in our dorms. It is not completely quiet though as the silence is broken by someone with bad wind several times! We find ourselves hungry and in need of a food shop, so leaving all are gear in the Gite, we head down the road to the slightly larger settlement of Trient, where after a bit of wondering around we find another poorly stocked, horrendously expensive food shop. With food for the day we head back to the Gite and start our climb up to the French-Swiss border. Our conversation turns to excessive hiking gear which people bring, ‘just in case’. We suggest some things we could have brought with us from the practical wise family members telephone numbers, to the impractical iron, and the ridiculous emergency wrestling arena.
It’s a hot day so Jen quickly decides that she will change into shorts. Just as she has her trousers off, she hears some hikers coming, who suddenly start reading there map with great interest! Jo watches the scene with amusement. Suitably dressed we start the climb up towards the border, first through trees where it is nice and cool, then out onto the grassy hillside, where the heat of the day makes the climb difficult. On one of many short rests, Alan teaches Jo how to make a fire with the magnifying glass of her penknife – possibly a useful skill, but we have no need of keeping warm when the sun is this hot!
We each continue at our own pace up to the border, an impressive col with views of Mont Blanc, and an aerial view of the path down to the valley. The rocky path ahead goes over a small hill with golder and red shrubs. On the border there is also a Refuge which would be an amazing place to spend the night. We stop here for lunch, along with a crowd of other people. It’s a little crowded for our tastes, but the view is so amazing!
Continuing down on the French side, the path follows a ridge over a small hill, giving you a top of the world feeling with continued views as you descend. Jen introduces the rest of the group to Bilberries, a relative of the Blueberry which grows wild over these slopes. Jo is at first wary of being poisoned by trying unfamiliar berries, but at Jen’s reassurance she finds them very tasty.
At the top of the hill we stop for another break so we can enjoy the spectacular views for as long as possible before descending. On the hill opposite we see an adventurous looking zig-zag path scaling the steep mountain, our path for tomorrow, and down in the valley we see the larger town of Argentiere, along with some nearer smaller settlements where we shall be staying the night.
We start our long descent, Jen leading as usual and setting a very quick pace. This proves almost fatal to Alan when falls and ends up having to treat himself until he catches her up. Our path descends quickly and soon enters woods. Calling ahead to our planned accommodation, we find it is now fully booked and we end up booking an alternative gite. Luckily this is only a 10minute walk further on, and one we will have to make anyway, as we plan on shopping for food in Argentiere tomorrow morning.
On the descent Alan tells us all of the book he has been reading which talks of how men are in very primitive way. This leads to a joking challenge from Fish for the alpha male position in the group. Fish usurps but then Alan starts riping his clothes off and wins. This leads to a discussion of roles in our group. Jen is our first-aider and pace-setter, Jo is our navigator, planner and time manager, Alan is our photographer, and poor Fish gets labelled as eye-candy!
We soon come out into civilisation and are directed along back paths behind houses before coming out by a railway line and following the road down to our Gite. Seems this gite is also pretty full, with a large group of special needs adults staying the night. Jo, happy to be in a cheaper country greedily joins the group meal option, while the rest happily cook their own food outside.