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.
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.’ “
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.
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.
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. Above Rifugio Bonati
Day 6. Setting out from Champez du lac
Day 6 Climbing 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 7. On Aiguilles des Posettes