…this must be Switzerland.
TMB2 ended with us in the rain at Courmayeur. On Tuesday, we woke up to clear skies, sun and higher spirits. Breakfast at the Bouton d’ Or was again excellent: all tastes catered for, from quiche, hard-boiled eggs or a wide selection of cold meats to brooches, cakes, fruit salad and muesli. Lest this all sound too hedonistic, we were on our way by 9am and started out day’s walk with a Munro’s worth of steep ascent out of the town. It was a steep climb through a wooded landscape, with occasional views back down to the town. But the views ahead as left the woods became increasingly dramatic: snow capped rocky peaks against a cerulean sky, glaciers glinting in the sun. We stopped at a refuge to get our breath back and watched a helicopter appear from nowhere, deposit a handful of people, then whisk away only to come back minutes later with building materials for extending the refuge. After this, our walk was basically pretty level – a gently undulating path round the flank of a mountain with Mont Blanc unfolding glacier by glacier as we contoured along.
Walter Bonatti refuge is superbly placed, with a panoramic view of Mont Blanc, and we arrived there earlier than expected (we’re clearly getting fitter) so we had a couple of beers and I introduced Brian to genepi, a local herb flavoured spirit. I don’t think either of us will become hooked on it, but when in Rome…
Our communal meal in the refuge was again excellent nutritious fare – a variant on Waldorf salad, soup, a quichey thing and cheese, washed down with a pichet de rouge and accompanied by chatting in Franglais to some mountain bikers and a pair of dentists. The room we had was perfectly adequate with a loo along the corridor and jeton (token) operated showers downstairs.
After a reasonable breakfast, we were off again by 7:30 and continued for a while with the brilliant views and helicopter activity. Eventually there was a long, though easy, descent to the valley floor, a couple hundred metres flat, then a long climb back up to yet another refuge where we had a fortifying (not fortified) coffee. A long and hard ascent followed, heart pounding, lungs struggling and legs rebelling until we reached Le Grand Col de Ferret and crossed over into Switzerland. The only obvious difference was the need to say Bonjour again instead of Buongiorno.
There followed about 3 hours of mostly easy descent into the picturesque village of La Fouly, all chalets, geraniums and mountain views. Currently Brian and I are sitting on our first floor balcony, sweet smelling again, with me blogging and B scanning the mountain side for marmottes. What a life.