La Flégère is where Stage 10 normally ends. When we arrived, however, it was Sept. 27 and everything was closed. We knew this in advance and so had planned to continue and camp at Plan Praz, about two hours into Stage 11. The hike to Plan Plaz was lovely, a fairly flat contour along the side of the valley, sometimes in the open and sometimes in the trees, but regularly providing spectacular views of Mont Blanc across the valley.
|Sunset from our campsite at|
|Sunrise from Col du Brévent|
From here, we wound behind the rocks and into a protected gully. The guidebook mentioned that ibex (a species of wild goat) were often sighted here and, true to its word, we soon spotted a family of four ibex silhouetted perfectly against the dawn sky. I managed to grab a decent video of these lovely and majestic creatures. Then we continued on a steep climb up the backside of Le Brévent, eventually joining a road that took us to the cable car station that’s attached improbably to this high point. The cable car wasn’t running yet so we had the place to ourselves and were able to walk out on the metal grid platform for a somewhat vertigo-inducing view of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix Valley.
Unfortunately, because we arrived at the summit so early, nothing was open so we couldn’t get water. We could have waited but given our timetable, we decided to continue. I’d spotted several small ponds on the map and could see one from the summit. They turned out to be a little muddy so we kept going and eventually found a nice stream in a rocky notch where we filtered water.
From Le Brévent down to Les Houches was a very steep drop of almost 1600m. It made for a fast, if foot-pounding, knee-aching descent. Most of it was in the open so we continued to have great views. Along the way, we passed Refuge de Bellechat, one of the most spectacularly situated huts on the whole trek. It was closed but we enjoyed a quick snack on its front deck, which hangs right over the valley. As we got closer to the bottom, the path took more frequent turns and we even went through another brief section of metal handrails and steps. Then we hit the edge of Les Houches, passing by the edge of a zoo and behind a huge statue of Christ. It seemed we’d never get to the bottom, continuously coming to new turns as we wound through the town, but eventually we came up over a bridge and saw train tracks and in the distance the train station. We were finished!