Posted by: Richard | June 25, 2009

Day 9: To Plan de la Lai

June 21: This day was to be the longest so far, over 8 hours of walking not including breaks.  Lynn and I were up early to get out of Les Contamines, however we ended up talking to the guest house owners over breakfast for a bit too long and we didn’t get walking until about 8.30.

The first part of today’s walk was a popular day walk as well as a continuation of part of the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB).  As such, there were lots of people (we have seen very few people outside of the TMB days.  We quickly walked to a lovely little church in a gorge and then started climbing up our 1,500m of ascent to the Col de Bonhomme.  It was nice walking for my feet.  I haven’t mentioned it, but my new orthodics from Talisman Centre are rubbish (The last ones I got from there were completely replaced when they realized they were poorly done).  These orthodics still cause blisters and pain in the inside of my feet and don’t seem to hold up my arches.  In an act of desperation, I have removed the right foot as I simply can’t walk with them.   When I return to Calgary I’m going to go the place in Kensington that is so highly recommended, as sore feet over 750km’s really sucks.

Back to the walk, we climbed really well today, with Lynn powering uphill many of the times. We arrived at the Col du Bonhomme in a cold wind storm with a bit of hail.  There is a tiny hut at the col, which is absolutely covered in mouse poop.  There is also a complete range of outdoor gear scattered in the 8×8 room.  My only guess is that people on the TMB (this would be their first big ascent) realize they don’t want to carry any more gear and leave it at the hut.

Well, it was cold at the col, so we quickly descended to a lovely refuge (very new, very big, very posh) where we had a break.  Lynn ordered the soup, and though I didn’t want any, when it came I realized what a mistake I made, so Lynn gave me hers and went and ordered another for herself (what a great wife).  We had our soup and soda’s and then got ready to do a ridge walk.

My book makes it clear that the 2.5 hour ridge walk should not be attempted in snowy, icy or windy conditions as it was too dangerous.  As we started up the ridge, it was very cold and the clouds coming over the peak were black.  Lynn and I were apprehensive, and then a gust of wind almost knocked us over. I looked at Lynn and said “shall we find a safer route?”  We walked down an hour or so to a beautiful old country road that was 8km from the refuge where we wanted to stay that night.  We walked along this great old (and very high) road as dinner time rolled along and rain and hail came pelting down at us.  We were quite content to be alone and walking, though also desperately tired.

We came to another col on the road and saw lunatics throwing themselves off of a nearby hill, trying to paraglide (parachute glide?).  One fellow didn’t get enough lift and ran into a  road sign, while another without sufficient lift landed against a car.  They were lucky in my opinion, as beyond the sign and car were some high power electricity lines.

Seeing such idiocy distracted us from our long,tiring day as we strained looking around every curve and rise for our nights lodgings.  Our safety detour had added an extra hour or so to our walk as we contoured round the base of the mountain, and not over the crest.  Safety is worth an hour though.

Finally, at 6.45 we spotted the refuge, and meandered in while a couple of shepherds were finishing their wine.  We sat down and found out we were the only ones in the refuge that night.

We ate a quick dinner and then went to bed, tired after a 10+ hour day.  Of course, we still got a little Poirot to help us go to sleep….

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