Today was the first full day of hiking, 12 km and about a thousand meters of climb and descent. I had a nice breakfast in La Couronna (bread and jam, mueslix, cheese, orange juice, yogurt, and caffe noir).
The trail starts at the railroad tracks (the train in this valley is called the Mont Blanc Express and runs about a dozen times a day), at an underpass. From there, it climbs into the woods above town and begins to traverse up the valley. The trail is wide and well-graded, but steeper on the climbs than is the standard where I usually hike, unless it's a crazy climbers trail, like most of those that I trained on in August. These aren't that steep. After about an hour, the trail drops down into Le Tour, the last town in the valley.
Le Tour is small, but busy, as a lot of people use the trails above town for hiking and mountain biking. An added feature is the availability of a lift, to Charamillon, which is halfway, and another, which takes you almost to the pass. No reason to climb to get stunning views of the peaks that line this valley, including, of course, the white-crowned glory of Mont Blanc.
Of course, no lift for me, so I started up the trail, which switchbacks up a giant alpine meadow, in full late-summer lushness. I took a breather at the lift station halfway and prepared for wind at the pass. Another push and I was at the pass, the Col de Balme, (map, 2204 m), which was basically teeming and not as windy as I'd expected. There were large groups of distance hikers, small groups of day hikers, and lots of mountain bikers.
Now, I could see my way down, which zig-zags alongside a chasm running down from the pass to the east, again, through lush meadows, at first, and then into the trees, where it really started to drop. On, into Switzerland!
My left knee had felt a little loose coming up and even earlier, before I started walking, but a couple of hundred meters of downhill snubbed it right up, and I had no trouble with it. In about an hour and a half, I entered the small town of Trient, where I have a dormitory space for the night.
I got there pretty early, I guess, as I had pick of the bunks in my room of ten. But by evening, there was a crowd, though my room had only seven people with twelve bunks. Must have been forty at dinner. I've entered the core of the Tour Mont Blanc. There's even another guy doing the first week of the trip I'm on -- and there may be others, for all I know.
Dinner was good: bread, cheese, soup; salad; "meat" and rice with peas; ice cream. The meat's in quotes not because it was bad, but because I didn’t know what it was – some finely-ground meat rolled in bacon and cooked in a dark sauce. It was good.
Oh, yeah, and another day of perfectly clear skies.
Sept. 8, from Relais du Mont Blanc, Trient, Switzerland: map, 1279 m; 21 km, 1167 m gain, 925 m loss (4196'; 13 mi, 3829', 3035')
Updated for spelling and links: 10/29.
Link to photo album
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