To Chamonix, our final destination this year

The person really in charge of the refuge last night was an elderly matriarch, who appeared towards the end of dinner and gave a little speech, which included some sort of weather forecast, a description of nearby mountains and routes, and the fact that because it was raining we were all let off the group post-dinner visit to a nearby mountain lake (not too disappointing). Dinner was a little meagre compared with, say, the proud hospitality of the Refuge Trebentaz a few days earlier.

It was an early start because if Madame says ‘breakfast is at 6 then away you go’, that is what you do- all no doubt bewildering for our roommate who had wandered up the mountain the previous afternoon without a coat and got trapped by a turn in the weather.

The weather today, at least in the morning, felt quite familiar to people used to British mountain walking- it was damp and cloudy and wet under foot, almost a relief after the relentless sunshine yesterday. And thankfully it wasn’t nearly as cold as in the bad weather we had experienced early in the trip.

The first hour or so was downhill, and then it was uphill again for a little more than two hours, first traversing steep bilberry slopes before zigzagging steeply up and finding an improbable way through mysterious rock buttresses looming out of the mist, and eventually arriving at the Col du Brevant. Here we had a choice: follow the GR5 up the Brevant, or descend directly to Chamonix. As everything was still in cloud, it wasn’t a difficult decision and Chamonix direct it was.

Unfortunately Chamonix was 1300m (3900ft), directly below us, more or less straight down. There was also a temptation to overcome: after going down a little way there was the possibility of catching a gondola down from Plan Praz. I had met a guide at the col and asked him about the path down to Chamonix and his opinion, quite forcefully expressed, was that we would be quite mad to walk down when there was the option of riding down. I might have been persuaded, but Judith wondered where such actions would end- I gather it is, after all, possible to get to the Mediterranean without crossing hundreds of high mountain cols. So walking it was, and by making use of a zillion zigs and the same number (or very nearly the same number) of zags going down wasn’t nearly as bad as it might have been. And the weather was improving, which meant that every now and then the extraordinary glaciers of Mont Blanc would emerge on the other side of the valley.

We changed out of our boots in the main square in Chamonix, and walked a short distance to find the very nice little apartment we have booked for two nights.

One final blog entry for this year tomorrow I imagine.

Down to Chamonix

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