Tour du Mont Blanc
This large green grasshopper greeted me along my way hiking in Switzerland. I’m sure he was congratulating me on completing a very hard ascent and descent of the Fenêtre d’Arpette of the Tour du Mont Blanc. I had to stop and admire his gorgeous green with black accenting. He actually had big expressive eyes for a bug!
One of the things I love about hiking in the alps is the wonderful contrasts of enormity and the diminutive. I am a slow hiker partly because I am overwhelmed by the environment and I cannot rush through it. A hike here is not just a good workout in nice surroundings to me, but rather a chance to really step outside of normal life and lose myself in a place.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
We went back this year to the Tour du Mont Blanc and hiked a piece of it we missed last year. Bill had a sore knee and this variant of the route warned of joint-crushing boulder climbing so we took the easier, though no less scenic, Bovine Route. This year, feeling better, we went up to the Fenetre from the pretty little town of Champex Lac and then back down to the town.
Here is the view of where we were going. The little dip in the skyline right above the road is the Fenetre. Doesn’t look so far, huh?
I think this was probably the hardest way to do this because the route on the other side looks less rocky from the pictures I’ve seen, but we had a great place to stay in Champex which made for a nice thing to look forward to after the hard hike. We also had a car which made it more difficult to do through hiking this time. As you can see this is a very rocky path, and this is after the harder part of nothing but boulders. If it weren’t for my trekking poles I could never have done this!
At the top, though, there is quite a payoff with an amazing view of the Trient glacier, and the world’s tallest dammed lake. I was amazed that it wasn’t very windy. Every other Col I had been to had been brutally windy, but it was calm and sunny this day. Really, we had perfect weather, lucky for September.The gourmet meal at the lovely Hotel Alpina at the end of the day really hit the spot!
It was impressive to walk through a little bit of alpine Switzerland and witness the amazing preparedness of these people. Can you believe this woodpile? After this picture I went around the back to use it for cover and, surprise! There is another pile exactly like this right behind this one! I was impressed with many woodpiles like this one that we walked past.
In addition, the gardens were beautiful! Look at that chard! I wonder if it’s still called Swiss Chard when growing right here in Swiss soil?
It’s beautiful in September, but the people around here must know brutal winter is coming. The mountains have thrown down boulders the size of houses so they know. Many of these boulders are big enough to climb all by themselves. We ran across a climber who told us he was starting with boulder-climbing to get ready for sheer rock wall climbing.
All-in-all I was pretty amazed by Switzerland and these hardy mountain dwellers!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Here we are beginning our hike on the stretch of the Tour du Mont Blanc that is an ancient Roman Road. This climb was strenuous, but the old paving was interesting to think about. I pictured chariots, horses, and Roman soldiers making this arduous trek through the mountains to their conquests. And then I forgot all about that because, as often happens on the TMB, it just kept going up! Don’t kid yourself, the TMB is quite a workout no matter how fast or slow you do it. Every night I was sore, with aching hips and thighs. Self-talk is important, though, so every night I literally told my “boys” (thighs) to heal up because we have another day of hiking tomorrow. And miraculously, they did! I would wake up feeling much better and ready to go.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I was surprised at how few lakes we did see on our hiking adventure of the Tour du Mont Blanc. There seemed to be water everywhere with streams running with lots of water many times requiring us to hike right through them. But lakes, there were not as many as you’d think.
This particular morning, though, the trail went right along this beauty. The air was so still that the surface of the water made for the most perfect reflection of the crystalline clear ultramarine sky. Wow. Here we have mountains, snow, sky and water more perfect in the reflection so I moved the land line up to showcase it.
This is one time the word awesome is an actual good description!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I loved my new Sony NEX-5N camera for its panorama capabilities on the TMB. I had to learn to use it, though, as the camera was new for the trip and I hadn’t had a lot of time to experiment before we left. To operate the feature, you choose it from a menu, then hold the shutter release down while panning to the right.
Any angling, though, will shut off the feature right then and there and the camera reports an error to you. I found that I was prone to angling as I panned because the mountains go up! So I learned to plan the sweep of the camera, starting high enough to capture the peaks that come into view as the pan progresses. Whew.
La Ville Des Glaciers is a sweet hamlet along the TMB that offers gorgeous views of both big scenery and close-up farm life. This is the epicenter of Beaufort cheese, the luscious stuff produced right here.
I’ve heard that some of the residents will take you into the buildings and show you the small scale production here of this local delicacy, but we didn’t see any signs of human life on the day we came through.
It was September, after all, and something like 10,000 people had just traipsed through this region so I wonder if the locals had had enough.
No matter, we found the cheese available almost every day afterward and we enjoyed it to the fullest! It made a fine pack-along for the trail as well as post-day hike/pre-dinner snack.
I know imported Beaufort cheese is available in the states, but really, how can it be the same? I know how I feel after making that trip across the big pond – dang tired! I think having this product here, right where it’s made, without any travel at all has got to be the best!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
An interesting dynamic can happen in the refuge dining rooms along the Tour du Mont Blanc. Here we are in the Refuge Bonhomme after dinner. You can see the terra cotta pichet of wine on the table readying everyone for a great chat! Within a short time we had about 6 people all from different countries exploring world views well into the night. It was like an impromptu united nations meeting! There were some uncomfortable pointed questions at us as Americans, but we found the whole experience very interesting. Keeping a respectful approach while explaining when we disagreed worked to allow conversation to flow and everyone ended with a clap on the back, a handshake and big smiles. If this happens to you take the opportunity to learn about other peoples’ views, just remember to be pleasant. Just think about how incredible the Tour du Mont Blanc is that it brings people from all over the world together for one purpose, if just for a short time.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Clouds in the sky
Wind in the face
Peace in the heart
Yesterday we did our first training hike for our next adventure. Part of the training is getting the shoulders and back to strengthen for the weight of the pack. Mine will be about 20 pounds which figures out at about 14% of my body weight. This is a significant load for my spinal column, it’s associated musculature, my hips, knees, and ankles too. With some training all of these structures can rise to the occasion by becoming strong enough to handle the load without injury. The guys at the outfitting store amaze us when they tell us that often customers are in the store to buy their backpack for the trip they are leaving on tomorrow. The folly of this boggles my mind.
Last year, when training for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we trained for the most part with rice-filled bags in our packs just for the weight. This changes the way the load sits in the pack because each bag is so dense. In reality, the items I carry all have different densities, sizes and shapes. So this year I decided to mostly pack my bag the way I do for the trip and train that way. In the photo you will see most of what I am packing. There is a little bit art to this task. Heavier items in the bottom and up against the back, lighter items fill in around. That’s the general rule, but you also want easy access for items you want to retrieve often so those tend to go more outside or on top. Clothing rolled and secured with a rubber band works well to keep it as small as possible. Already yesterday I weighed two pair of rain pants. The new ones save me 6 oz. so the pants from last year have lost their slot! Every ounce is carefully considered as to necessity and if there is any way to make it lighter by changing the item in some way.
The first training hike went well but today I am a little sore in the low back. This tells me it was a perfect first day. I will continue to increase the time that the pack is on my body eventually wearing it even to walk the dogs around the neighborhood. This will be time and effort very well spent.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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