Posted by: Richard | June 25, 2009

Day 11: To Refuge d’Entre le Lac

June 23: Today was another killer day, with a very long route (though mostly at low altitudes).  We had to drop from our refuge down to the Isere river and then back up into the Parc de la Vanoise.  We started before 8am and made great progress down, first to Valezan and then eventually to Landry.

It was hot hot hot today.  This was a nice break from the rain and cold of the previous days.  We stopped in Landry and ate lunch (bread, cheese, olives, snickers) on a bench by the main road up valley.  We were on schedule and pleased as punch with ourselves.  It had been an uneventful walk, and definitely not beautiful.

After lunch, we continued our ascent, heading to the Parc de la Vanoise.  We finally got to the end of the road, where a beautiful refuge was unfortunately closed for summer refurbishment.  I was dead tired and it was 3.30pm.  I got a lift with a phone call from my parents and Lynn got one from her aunt Kathleen.  We had been out of cell phone range for most of the past couple of days (only reception at cols really), that it was nice to hear familiar voices.  We had about a 3 hour walk from the closed refuge.

We started uphill, and were surprised by the number of walkers coming down. There must have been 100 people.  Lynn and I were worried that the refuge we wanted to stay at would be full.  Alas, the refuge only had an answering machine, so we had left our message and we hoped that we would have space for the evening.

We walked uphill, and it soon became the most beautiful garden in the world.  We were on a steep mountain face that was fully in bloom with a variety of mountain flowers.  We walked on a tiny path with flowers blooming up to our waists on both sides.  The scenery was magnificent, with huge mountains looming all around us and lovely waterfalls.  I really wanted to snap some photos, but my feet were aching and I was struggling just to keep going.

We came out of the beautiful alpine flower gardens and into a Canadian Rocky-esque wooded portion of the walk.  We don’t walk through many nice forests (though plenty of hot, damp, muggy alpine forests).  This was a rare exception, and Lynn and I loved it.

We were getting tired as we reached a boulder field.  We had dropped 1,300m in the morning and had climbed 1,400m so far this afternoon.  A little stream meandered by as we picked our way up to our lake and then to the refuge.It was 6.45pm, a very long day and we were exhausted.  The refuge was an old stable (it was an upside down half-pipe) that had been renovated 25 years earlier.

We arrived at the refuge to a less than pleasant greeting.  They hadn’t received our message about the reservation.  One of the guardians was very friendly and said he would make it work.  Unfortunately, he was going down.  I was unsure what the problem was.  Were they full?  Did they not have enough food?  After some discussion, I found out they didn’t have a veggie meal (they were having pork soup and sausages for dinner).  I was happy to cook from our little stash, and after ordering a half litre of wine and some cheese and cooking a lovely meal of soup, mashed potatoes and pasta, we sat and chatted with the guardian.  Thankfully, there was a worse villain than us (we showed up late, the other guy never even showed up, and they had made the porky dinner for him!!!)

Lynn did great today, leading the route and being very positive.  I was sure happy that she was going so well, as it kept me going.  I’m a lucky fella having a wife like her.  Ironically, when we got to the refuge, she crashed and I had a burst of energy and made dinner while she couldn’t move next to the fire.

As we were so cold the night before, today we brought out our sleeping bags to keep us warm.  All night I sneezed and my nose was running.  In the morning, I realized it must be related in some way to the stables, because as soon as I left the refuge, I felt great.  Crazy that after 25 years, the allergens remain.

We stayed up late listening to 1.5 hours of Dickens.  A great story.

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