Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tour Mont Blanc Stage 3: Les Chapieux, France, to Rifugio Elisabetta Soldini



Previous stage report. You can also watch a short video report on Stage 3 on YouTube.

After two days of terrible weather, day three brought a welcome change. We awoke to clear skies over delightfully snow-capped peaks, the fresh snow looking remarkably like icing sugar on the ridges.

We needed this sign
the day before!
We started right after breakfast, walking up a road in the shadows of VallĂ©e des Glaciers, and enjoying the rare site of actual views! After an hour’s hike up the road, we turned right at tiny Ville des Glaciers and starting up a dirt road on the side of the valley, accompanied by the usual sounds of cowbells, not to mention the usual piles of manure, much worse at one point where we passed a portable milking station. Impossible to keep one’s boots clean!

Fortunately we left the road and started up a steep switchbacked section toward Col de la Seigne, the high point for the day at 2516 meters, and also the border with Italy. The temperature rose rapidly as the sun cut over the ridges and after starting in pants, jackets, gloves and hats, we were soon hiking in shorts and shirts.

The col was absolutely spectacular, by far the highlight of the trip up to this point. (See the video for a better look!) While the views back into France were nice, they were even more spectacular looking into Italy, where we could see virtually all of two valleys. We were joined by hordes of people, perhaps 20 in total, between several different groups.

We quickly dropped to the floor of the first valley, where we enjoyed the sight of marmots lounging on the rocks, before reaching Rifugio Elisabetta Soldini, the normal stop for Stage 3. The refuge was closed so Laurie and Mari, two women who had hiked with us from Les Chapieux, were going to have to continue all the way to Rifugio Maison Vieille, another four hours of hiking.

Tom and I considered camping right by the refuge – there was a perfect flat and somewhat wind protected spot right by some old refuge buildings – but decided to descend to the next valley and look for a spot.


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