After the night in Les C., our route took us past Nant Borrant refuge, which I stayed in 4 years ago and from where I slept through the passing of the 2000 or so idiots who run round Mont Blanc in the Ultratrail and whom we will perhaps see this year. The long climb from Les C. eventually led to the Col du Bonhomme and the later Col du Croix du Bonhomme. The weather was good and the views excellent.
It’s funny what you see on a trek. We met a young man with rucksack and strapped to the back a double bass case. Brian took his photo and we later met other members of the “orchestra” (his word) some of whom handed out leaflets for a tour of refuges they were playing at. Later we saw a lad with guitar strapped to his back and a woman apparently attempting the TMB in flip flops.
I think the Japanese group, due to its size, deserves a paragraph to itself. There are about 25 of them, photographing, blocking paths, waiting for each other and so on. At least they’re fairly slow, but it means we start the day by passing them all – and all the other groups – in order to find an empty space to walk in.
In due course, after some unjustified concerns about having taken a wrong turning, we arrived at Les Mottets refuge, one of only two we are staying at on this trip. We had a booked room for two, rather than the dormitory accommodation. It turned out we were sharing a double bed, rather than the expected twin and Brian quickly took the unnecessarily aggressive stance that if I put my arm round him during the night then he’d punch me. The ensuite toilet in the room was simply behind a curtain, which left little to the imagination.
Meals in refuges are communal and we were allocated a table full of other English speakers: two Russians who emigrated to Australia, some young scientists taking a break from counting Higgs Bosons in Cern, some compulsory Americans etc. Refuge food is generally hearty and filling, making up for a lack of sophistication with quantity and sustaining qualities. We got bean soup, followed by raw cabbage, then stew with rice and then creme caramel. We washed this down with a carafe of wine. There was entertainment during the meal: one of the refuge staff appeared with a hurdygurdy / barrel organ sort of a thing and wound long lines of punched cards through it. The French folk seemed to know most of the tunes, chanting and swaying to the music. I spotted “Una Paloma Blanca”. Needless to say, the Japs were in their element, photographing each other beside the music machine.
The next day was day3 and started with a long slog up to the Col de la Seigne, one of the most spectacular viewpoints on the trip. Unfortunately, the weather had closed in overnight and, in the rain and cloud, we saw nothing. I suppose we were able to project our own ideas onto the blank page of cloud that greeted us. The rain got steadily heavier and the cloud steadily lower so we opted for the foul weather option: a low level deviation to a bus stop on a rural road. The bus stop was outside a small cafe and we were reminded that we had recently entered Italy by the superb – though miniscule – cup of coffee we had while waiting for the bus.
The bus took us into Courmayeur and we rapidly located the Bouton d’Or hotel, named after a locally common member of the Ranunculacae family, where we are spending two nights. It is comfortable, we have had laundry done (pants ironed – wives take notice!) etc. The only meal the hotel serves is breakfast, but what a range of pastries, cheeses, cold meats etc. We hit the mean streets looking for an evening meal, but weren’t particularly impressed by what we chose.
Today is day4, a rest day. It’s just as well, as the weather is pretty foul and, limiting as Courmayeur is, it’s better than being up a mountain in this rain and low cloud. We’re told that the weather will be good tomorrow. There may also be jam! We have visited a relatively interesting Mountain Guides’ Museum, wandered round the wee town, inspected the Sports Centre and feel we have exhausted the delights of Courmayeur in the rain.
Tomorrow we head out again, towards the Walter Bonatti refuge, the only place our luggage can’t reach as it’s very remote. After that, it’s back towards civilisation in Switzerland. With any luck I’ll be online in a couple of days.
Ciao for niao!