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Rifugio Elena to La Fouly: Tour du Mont Blanc

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Saturday 10th September

Distance:  9km Time: 4.25 hours

We wake up to the worst kind of weather for the mountains: fog. It is therefore a rather uneventful long morning climb zig-zagging up the slope to the Italian-Swiss border and there is not much to see despite our height. At one point we do get an opening in the clouds and get an aerial view of our hostel for the night. It’s an interesting perspective as you can see how much of the hostel is below the ground and protected from avalanches. Luckily the weather is not so bad that we have to delay, but as we approach the top it gets pretty cold – not suprising given no sun is getting through the clouds, and we are on the same level as the glaciers!

There is quite a crowd gathered at the border, which is suprising as after a mere two minute stop and quick bite to eat we are frozen and keen to get our gloves back on and start moving. The reason for the delay becomes obvious however when we get up to move on. The path we think we should be taking does not appear to be signposted – maybe the sign got lost in the fog! Despite the lack of a view into Switzerland we are reassured by the guidebook that the view is poor compared to the valley we spent the night in and are therefore not missing much.

We find our good weather quickly as we start descending. It’s not long before we come out of the fog into beautiful Swiss sunshine! As we head down, we decide to take a small detour to a viewpoint and get a good look at the valley we are soon to walk along. So overjoyed are we by the sun that some of us start skipping down the mountain! We soon reach the dairy farm of La Peule, which has cashed in on the tourists and offers refreshments and outdoor seating in a beautiful setting above the valley. We cannot resist the temptation and have some extremely expensive lemonade – and use our Swiss Francs for the first time. We later learn that everything in Switzerland is ridiculously expensive given a poor conversion rate as the Swiss Franc is so strong compared to the Euro and the Pound.

After some time lazing in the sun and some lunch we continue along a narrow path to La Fouly our destination for the night. Without realising it we find we have taken the high route yet again – an adventurous narrow path clinging to the valley side before heading down to rejoin the main route. We’re a little worried about accommodation for the night as we tried to call ahead from Rifugio Elena and book a bed in the gite, but the number in our guide book is out of date. As we near La Fouly we keep our eyes open for available accommodation, thinking at the very least we could ask the tourist office in town.

On passing a local, Jo manages a brief conversation in French, before the local switches to English, obviously realising that our French is terrible. After several minutes talking, we ask about local accommodation, and after some thought, she tells us that she has 4 matresses in her attic and that we are welcome to stay the night with her! Instead of accompanying us to her house, she rather suprisingly gives us the key and directions and promises to see us later after she has done a walk up to a lake for a swim. We’re a bit taken aback by how friendly the locals are, but take her up on the offer glad for a free nights accommodation (and especially grateful when we learn how expensive things are in this country).

With accommodation for the night sorted, we stop by the river just before entering town and soak our feet in the river (or at least attempt to as it is icy cold). We find the appartment and set ourselves up in the attic before doing a shop at the local supermarket. With prices so expensive here we find ourselves rationing food for the next few days until we get back into France.

Later that evening our host, Margarite arrives and we cook dinner for her as a thank you, while relating stories of our travels. We also share a bottle of wine between us.

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