Day 5. Trient to Argentiere.

We start early as breakfast is on offer from 6.30 although queuing for loos consumes some time we are walking at 7.15. Straight off we are ascending, up through woods it is cool and consequently much easier. A thousand metres up later at 10.15 we are on Col de baume with its cafe/refuge where coffee is had with some fantastic views. Tony then inveigles everyone including Ann, much against her will up Aiguillette de posets where we sit in a cool breeze for packed lunches from the Auberge de Mont Blanc.
The descent into the valley in which Chamonix lies and where we will walk tomorrow is lengthy 1200 m of descent to the first bar at Auberge De Boerne were even the ladies are on large ones!
Resuscitated we wander down a path by the torrent of glacier melt and arrive in Argentier proper and Hotel La Couronne. With our own ensuite facilities today

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Fenetre d’Arpette

Before relating the tale of this adventurous route I should fill in the gaps and relate the tale of Tim’s talking knees. Yesterday Ray and I, keen to swim in the welcoming waters of Champex Lake persuaded Tim to join us. We had a great swim but Tim only ventured a far as his knees, which he claimed, told him it was too cold. Just goes to show you should never listen to your knees when they don’t know what they’re talking about.

As the only vegetarian in the party our meal was a starter of cold meats followed by raclette, basically melted cheese while I had a salad with boiled potatoes while I had a salad. So far so good, until the others were getting their 2nd and 3rd helpings of raclette. In sure that without reconstructions and protestations to the waiter I would have sat there hungry. Anyway, turned out all right in the end.

Enough about me. The fenetre d’arpette is the highest point on the TMB at 2665m and is described as a variant and not what we were “supposed” to do being to hard for us oldies. Tony and Andy were keen and I’d fancied it from first reading about the TMB so was a willing recruit in spite of the promised high temperature and lack of shade. We soon left the others and slogged up a hill under the ski lift beat our way through trackless pine forest before regaining the TMB route.

Uncomplicated in itself it became unrelenting in its steepness (or should that be relentless?) climbing through a boulder field before we reached the fenetre at about 12.30. The heat wasn’t the problem, it was the gradient and the altitude which had a significant effect on me. Tony, who’s not at all competitive, was keen to point out we’d overtaken 8 people on the way up and we’d not been passed by anyone. He added to his personal tally by overtaking a further 4 on the way down.

Accompanied by flocks of choughs and the usual plethora of wild flowers the descent on the far side was cooler than expected, possibly because air was being cooled by the breeze coming off the Trient glacier, retreating but still nevertheless imposing and its meltwater filling the torrent, the sound of which accompanied our descent after the silence of the climb up.

A long and tiring descent was compensated by a cafe at the bottom providing beer at Swiss prices after which an easy gentle descent following a stream that Andy maintained was used for floating ice down to the villages to keep food fresh. I’m not sure I believe him. But it did remind us of the lavadas in Madeira.

We finally arrived at Auberge de Mont Blanc in Trient only minutes after the others after another cracking day on the TMB.

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Day 4 supplemental.

We descend rapidly and relatively painlessly down to Trient. Crossing the main road is made easy by an architecturally pleasant footbridge and we’ll maintained grassy footpaths. The auberge Dr Mont Blanc is a bit chaotic but when showers are identified all becomes easier and the washing lines outside are very useful.

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Day4 Champex Lac to Trient

The sun rises while we await breakfast a hotter day is forecast. A decision as to route will have to be made at the end of the lac. To go high but potentially cooler though with more effort or stay low , relatively speaking at around 2000m. When we arrive at the split Tony, Andy and Paul head up. The rest head round through woods and soon encounter a cafe stop and do! Even though it is only 9.30.
The low group are heading for Bovine at about 2000m. The high group to Fenetre d’arpette at 2,600m. They will hit the steep part at the top about 12.30, there is no shade up there.
The low group ascend steadily there are steep bits and less steep and shade and sun. By 12.30 we reach the appropriately named Bovine where a large herd with a bull who is hot for his duty surrounds the cafĂ© run by a family who sell beer soft drinks and fondue probably from their own cows. Another half km and we stop for our lunch at the high point of our day where a patch of steep shade provides relief. The descent is reasonably gentle but hafeay down Tim developed nosebleed and discovers it is difficult to use a pair of poles while pressing on his nose. Eventually his platelets are called to their duty and it stops. Don’t poke it!
We get to the Col de Decathlon oops no Forclaz! and beer is in order. Only about 2km and 300m to our lodging in the valley. No sign of Tony Andy and Paul yet.

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Day3 La Fouly to Champex Lac

Day 3 La Fouly to Champex
We are well fed and watered in the Hotel Edelweiss in La Fouly. The River Drance burbling away all the time in the background is quite pleasant. The weather continues dry and hot and the cool mornings are appreciated. We read of the problems of the farmers in the Po valley with the markedly decreased flow down the Po and consequent saline irrigation. Up here there is water but rivers are low and the glaciers are not so much retreating as being routed by the heat and lack of late snow or rain.
After a brief stop in Praz de Fort (a delightfully well groomed place, one could be tarred and feathered for failing to keep one’s garden immaculate) for coffee or beer as needed we meander on down the Dranse valley until we slope up the side for the day’s climb. Fortunately we enter trees and are over halfway up before demands for lunch overcome wish for beer and a conveniently placed log provides plentiful sitting space.
Climbing up steeply through intermittent trees we suddenly exit on to road up to Champex Lac and a short
walk, continuing up the sentir didactique de champions (we had noted the signs of different fungi) along the route, and we are suddenly confronted by the Hotel Splendide. And it is and biere on draft is immediately available. This blog now posted sitting over the view on hotel WiFi. Little else is needed.

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Day2 Arouva to La Foule. Via the grand ferret.

A second very comfortable night in the Hotel Croix. We all, except maybe the indefatigable Paul are glad to turn in especially as the virtues of the early bus are now appreciated by all (maximize the ascent in the cooler early day). The hotel staff are excellent helpful but unobtrusive and breakfast is on time or early in the morning.
At breakfast this morning Ray related his dream of the night (he tends toward meaningful remembered dreams) this involved him holding an old 2CV from rolling down hill so it could be turned into an oven! Interpretation welcome.
We now feel we are old hands re bus transport and are lined up masked and clutching pre purchased tickets when it arrives at 3mins to 8.
A rapid transport to Arouva and we are on the ascent of the Col de Grand Ferret and the border with Switzerland. There are no customs as Switzerland is in Schengen even though sadly we are not. Up here there is a flock of sheep and their shepherd with his dogs the view down the ferret valley and Mont Dolont are great.
It is how ever a long way down to La Fouly, the flora changes, Paul and good few others are spotting all sorts of interest. Including a fragrant orchid and probably Bulbocodium vernum a not quite autumn crocus but smaller, and lots of different gentians including the great yellow (mostly gone over), the purple gentian and one of the small blue ones of so many types even Paul was confused.
We were not the only ones interested in flowers. These hives were humming!
This post from the first pub down in La Fouly. It’s still hot!

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Day 1 Coeurmayeur to Arouva

Or as it happens backwards it being easier both walking and catching the bus. Andy spent part of the day studying maps and identifying mountains and climbs he should have done in his youth. Paul was botanising furiously with photos and only just caught up for coffee at the Bonatti refuge.
The rest walked from patch of shade to patch of shade trying to avoid overheating and trying to drink enough water. The beer in Coeurmayeur was very well received.

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The search for cool.

We spend a second night in Geneva. Some in air conditioned luxury, some not. The bus to Coeurmayeur is not till three. So some wandering in the steadily increasing heat is indicated. Much of this is spent looking for wetness. One can see why the Genevans (if that’s what they call themselves) are keen on fountains but several awnings in the streets have button operated mist sprays that have a welcome effect. Temperature up to 34deg C by time we leave.
We also view Geneva’s football team…… Who seem limited to college level Golden Tornadoes. But a great view from the pitch.
This blog being made in air conditioned splendor on the Flixbus WiFi.

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It ain’t ‘alf hot mum!

It was hot when we arrived in Geneva yesterday. It was still pretty warm at 11.15pm when we walk out to the lake to see the fountain which stopped as we got there (switching off time) It’s still hot today. We walked over the bridge to the old quarter and found out more than we needed in the museum under the cathedral about just how old it all is. Very. Bits of pre Roman stuff excavated down there and everything else up to 16th C.
The cathedral is relatively austere inside as befits the home church of Calvin but with a load of misericords under the choir stalls to tempt Betsy into photographic overdrive.
We meet up with the rest of the gang outside where a proto riot is gradually dispersing. And wander down to Jardin Anglais and have a nice but ridiculously expensive lunch. And a ride back across the lake to our room in the Geneva City Hostel no Aircon (no pool no bar no pets, ain’t got no cigarettes).
Off on the bus to Coeurmayeur tomorrow to start walking on Friday.

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