September 14, 2007

Dispatch from Champex, Switzerland

Breakfast was the start, with mueslix and milk, bread and jam, and, of course, coffee.

A little more organized, I got an earlier start today, heading up before the sun had come over the steep walls of the valley. I walked up through town, past the cat staked out in it's little patch of grass and weed, in the same place it was last night when I walked past it. The trail starts up the hill just past the center of town and gains what must have been the original road up to Col De La Forclaz, just above town. The current road takes a longer and gentler route, but the old road makes a nice path, less steep than yesterday's.

After a while, it gains a level path, the width of a single lane road, that contours along the valley-side, with a pretty trough of water running on it's inside. This is a bisse, which moves water from one valley to another. It made a wonderful path, smooth and level, with evidence of frequent maintenance everywhere, with benches and chairs and even a fanciful waterwheel that makes a knock sound. This pleasant path took me to the Chalet du Glacier, from where the real climbing begins.

Now, well into the valley, the Trient Glacier comes into view. It's a remarkable sight, with a big ice fall at the horizon, which hides a huge icefield behind it. The trail climbs and twists its way up the valley, inching up the east wall, still in shade, for the first couple of hours. This is a tough climb, 1082m above the Chalet below and it took me more than the three hours mentioned in the guide.

There are compensations. The most substantial are the growing views to the north and south, especially the Trient Glacier, sparkling in the sun. And at the pass, the Fenêtre d'Arpette (2665m), the window opens to the east, where Grand Combin shows its snowy mantle and even the Matterhorn made a brief appearance.

A chough was working the pass as numbers of people clambered up from each side and headed down the other. This is a main route of the Tour Mont Blanc, so there was quite a bit of traffic. Along the way up, I caught and was left behind by Rob, the Dutch fellow with whom I'd shared dinner and breakfast in Trient. I also met an American couple, who are doing the Haute Route, though a non-Kev (the guidebook author) variation. Beautiful, wild country, reminiscent of home, but bigger.

The trip down was tricky at first, but soon resolved itself into a nice walk down an alpine valley, which ended in a farmer's field (cows, bells), then the village of Arpette (whose window I'd just descended from), and another stroll along a bisse, this one larger and steeper, with quite a number of strolling weekend vacationers, into the lake resort town of Champex.

The Pension en Plein Air, where I'm staying, is quite nice and is located at the end of town that I entered (tired, I was glad of that). The room I'm in is bigger than last night, but with only six beds. Partial walls and curtains offer more privacy, too. I was able to post three dispatches (the first two of which had bad map references, so I'll have to fix those and add them later). Another fellow, an Englishman named Malcolm, who was also at Trient last night, joined Rob and me here.

Dinner was for only seven of us (there are other options in town), so it was less a production than last night. It was good, starting with a Caprese-style salad and bread, continuing with a nice plate of ham with a mustard dressing, sauted vegetables, and scalloped potatoes. Dessert was a plain, panna cotta-type slice with blueberry sauce. Malcolm and I had a nice conversation with a Dutch couple, who are also doing the Tour Mont Blanc, but in the opposite direction from Malcolm.

Sept. 9 from Pension en Plein Air, Champex, Switzerland: map, 1466m; accum. 35 km, 2553m gain, 2124m loss (4810'; accum. 22 mi, 8376', 6969')

Updated for spelling, links, and photos: 10/29.

Link to photo album

<Previous | Contents | Next>

No comments: