FRANCE-ITALY-SWITZ Tour du Mont Blanc 2006

FRANCE-ITALY-SWITZ Tour du Mont Blanc 2006
My husband’s Parkinson’s disease was worsening, and rapidly. Perhaps this would be our last adventure of this kind. There was a special poignancy to this trip. I am pleased a few years down the track to report that we have been doing “last adventures” ever since :-).
Tour du Mont Blanc 8-14 July 2006.

Day 2 Above Chalet la Balme 

After it was all over, and as our train pulled out of Chamonix and I gazed at our final view of Mont Blanc with its vast white bulk set in a perfect sky, tears laden with raw emotion rolled slowly, unwiped, down my face. Tears for the grandeur of its beauty and possibly tears because the world’s wonderful places are being stolen and corroded by our carelessness and lack of responsibility in looking after our wonderful planet. Mont Blanc had been awesome in the original meaning of the word and I was still mesmerised by having had such close contact with it as we sadly withdrew, craning my neck for one last glimpse. Funnily, the girl opposite knew exactly what I was going through. She saw the TIS T-shirt I was wearing, so knew English was appropriate, and said: “I cried when I first saw it. The lady next to me asked if I was OK, and I said, ‘Yes. I’ve just never seen anything so beautiful.’ “

Day 3. Early morning light at the Col de Seigne 

Our first day we stopped short of our goal, les Contamines, a town in the valley. We arrived at a kind of farm hut still up high, and there were these guys chopping veggies at a furious rate, just like in the movies, and maman directing matters and lots of happy walkers sitting around, having finished for the day. We only stopped for hot chocolate to fuel the next hour, but I smelled dinner, reasoned that an early start in the morning could have us at our today’s goal by breakfast time, and asked ‘maman’ if she still had room for us.  Affirmative. We were in.

Day 3. Col de  Seigne 

We’d never eaten in a French hut before – only in Swiss ones – so were only expecting Swiss kind of treatment (minimal). We knew the soup would be fresh; we’d watched its preparation, and it matched our hopes. It was so delicious we couldn’t refuse the seconds we were offered. Then came a delicious main, seconds, salad, seconds, and then a wonderful home made creme fraiche with wild blueberries and sugar. Delicious. We were full indeed. But then came mousse au chocolate. We were fuller. We sat there kind of wondering what would come next. Was this show ever going to stop? Luckily it did. We had difficulty moving after such a feast.

Day 3. Col de  Seigne (when I climbed up higher)
 Afterwards, we sat out on a bench with our new-found French friends watching the concert of the sun fading behind layers of mountains and listening to the last calls of the birds from the forest below. No one else was doing our walk. The only people we’d met doing our walk we\’d  met earlier, and they were going in the opposite direction. I was walking along singing “Edelweis, Edelweis …..” when a voice from nowhere sang back “Every morning you greet me”. Then the voice said gruffly in a British accent: “You won’t be singing like that in a few days” and vanished. Well, we did have hundreds of kilometres to walk, and would end up in total climbing up and down 16,000 metres, but we certainly did not get grumpy, and neither did we get particularly tired. We remained filled with wonder at the beauty around us. 

Day 4. Above Refugio Bonati

On day 3, early in the morning, and after another memorable meal, this time at Refuge les motets, we crossed the first of the national borders on the route: that between France and Italy, at Col de Seigne. The scenery was glorious with the long slanting rays just caressing the snow and angular tips of the Aiguilles off to my left as I climbed (singing as usual). Most of what one sees from the pass remains hidden until one actually crests the rise. I looked up, no knowing I had arrived and was greeted with one of the best views of my life. “WOW” I yelled at the majesty of it all. White snow all around, the Aiguilles du midi dominating the view to the left, all white with snow except where the angles were too sharp to sustain it. The early air of the valleys was laden with moisture, waiting for the sun to gain more strength to take away the veil. It was breathtaking. Part of me wanted to just sit and gaze in wonder, but I chose to climb a little something off to the side for an even better view while waiting for my husband to join me. At such moments one completely loses the sense of self and merges with the grand sublimity of the whole.

Day 4. Ridgeline before dropping into the ‘Val des Fleurs’
Day 4. Along the ridge before dropping to Rifugio Bonati

Day 4. Above Rifugio Bonati


Day 4. ‘Val des Fleurs’
Day 5. la linaire alpine, Col Ferret (ITA / SWI border)

Day 6. Setting out from Champez du lac


Day 6. Peucedanum ostruthium (impératoire), en route to Fenêtre d’Arpette
 And on we went, each day bringing more wonders, and more friends with whom to share it. It was on that day that we met a couple of French guys who were to be companions on and off for the rest of the trip. I liked them as they laughed at my pathetic jokes in French and were patient with my slowly formed sentences. Like us, they were walking two days in one, and yet, also like us, took out time to stare at a single beautiful flower (and the valleys were filled with a wondrous variety of dainty alpine flowers), or gaze at a chamois drinking from a stream.

Day 6 Climbing Fenêtre d’Arpette

Day 6. Fenêtre d’Arpette

Having spent seven of the best days imaginable circling this beautiful wonder, as we sat in our hotel room with its balcony looking out at her so we could imprint her on our memories, we felt that this mountain would always be part of us, not just something ‘out there’.

Day 6. Col de Balme sunset
Day 7.  Col de Balme sunrise
Day 7.  Col de Balme sunrise

Day 7. On Aiguilles des Posettes


Day 7. On Aiguilles des Posettes
Day 7. climbing the famous ladders en route to Tête au vent

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *