Rifugio Elisabetta to Rifugio Maison Vieille: Tour du Mont Blanc

Wednesday 7th September 2011

Distance: 12km Time: 4hrs

After a terrible night’s sleep we wake up feeling less than refreshed. We therefore decide to have a shorter day today and tomorrow, which will give us time to recover today and explore the Italian resort town of Courmayeur tomorrow. Heading out from Rifugio Elisabetta, we take time to admire the setting and nearby glacier before heading onwards down the valley on a track and past what looks like some hobbit holes. The views of Mont Blanc are incredible.

On reaching a massive scree slope crossing the valley floor, Jo notes from the guidebook that this is actually a wall of lateral morraine, something we can’t figure out until we are higher up and see the path the glacier once took. We soon leave the valley floor and start climbing up until we are high above, before traversing along the valley side. The views across the valley and of the surrounding mountains are phenomenal! We stop for a leisurly lunch while admiring the view before continuing on the adventurous path. Passing past several cows which appear to be female despite the horns, we notice one who’s laboured mooing makes it look and sound constipated. We remark on the bells that several of the cows have hanging round their necks, and how this makes a lovely tune as the herd moves. Directly across the valley we ourselves level with 2 glaciers which are pouring down some tributary valleys.

The path starts to descend slightly, and we pause on a particularly exposed section with a great view and try out some meditation to try and be present in the moment. Continuing down the slight slope, Alan starts to rush us on to our final destination of the day. For once it’s not because we are running out of daylight – we have plenty of day left – but it’s because he is desperate for a toilet! As we near our Refuge the effects of the ski industry become apparent, with chairlifts and ski tows littering the region, not to mention the scars of the pistes running down the hill.

We arrive at the Rifugio Maison Vieille in the mid-afternoon, perched high above the resort town of Courmayeur with stunning views in all directions. The only disappointment is the toilets which are continental style and take some getting used to! A couple of us miss the toilet altogether while one of us tries using them successfully in an unusual fashion. The Refuge itself is littered with lots of amazing decorations including a dinosaur and a life size picture of some gadget guy hiker dude.

We secure ourselves a 4 bed dorm for the night in a separate building, and spend the rest of the day relaxing, eating and playing with the onsite kittens! Those kittens, a brother and sister, sure know how to beg for food and be affectionate, and manage to swindle Alan out of some of his duck pate. Seems a bit unnecessary as one of them turns up with a caught mouse later. Jen finds a deck chair and does some sunbathing in a sheltered spot, while Jo treats herself to some delicious apple juice from the onsite bar and also goes back to enjoy an amazing group dinner and breakfast as well!

That evening we get talking to an Australian couple who are on a 6 month world tour who tell us about a detour they took yesterday with an israeli couple. Seems the route was a bit beyond what they expected, being marked by ladders and chains which were entirely necessary for the steep scree slopes they were on. The guy had a nasty slip down one of the scree slopes with a badly grazed leg to show for it.

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