Posted by: Richard | July 1, 2009

Day 17: To Briancon

June 30: Well, another long day.  30km, 1250m up and 1800m down as we approached our next rest break in the famous garrison city of Briancon.  We started a bit late as we enjoyed a nice big breakfast and some Frosted Flakes!!!!  We were completely out of food for today, so asked the owner of the hotel we were in to make us lunch.  While it cost 20 euros, we got some amazing couscous, a giant 4 egg omelet (filled with veggies and peppers), two apples, some cheese, half a loaf of bread and some potato chips.  Also, I decided to put water worries behind and filled every device we had, lugging 4.5L of water in our packs (and two full bladders in our midsections) up the path out of the valley.

It was a hot day, but thankfully a lot of the route was in the shade.  We passed the others we had passed the day before and Lynn and I were again kicking ass on the uphill.  Then we got to a river, where half the bridge had collapsed.  Now I hate little bridges, stemming back to falling off of one while doing the Torres de Paine circuit in 2002 and dunking my gear and my boots in fetid water.  My lack of balance that day saw me blistering my feet walking around mountains in flip flops.  Since then, I’ve looked for other solutions to rickety bridges.  Today, I decided to try and build a little bridge of rocks through the rapids.  I strained with giant boulders, drenching myself in the process and i tossed the boulders in the stream.  15 minutes in and I wasn’t making good progress.  A friendly dutch couple arrived, and with the deliberate instincts of people who have never fallen from a rickety bridge into a fetid swamp, carefully crossed the river.  Well, if they can do it then so can we.  Lynn crossed and then I did, both of us getting to the other side without incident.

We continued our ascent, taking a nice water break to enjoy an apple and the fresh air.  We continued upwards to our first col (mountain pass) which was exsquisite.  We stretched out on the grass and ate our amazing lunch, making omelette sandwiches and enjoying the day.  We were feeling great, on schedule and happy filling our faces with great food.

After a nice break, we continued on our journey, climbing to another col.  At the top of this col, I suggested we get a boogie on and we put on our iPod’s.  Much like several days before, we felt euphoric as we quickly descended from the pass.  I listened to the new Phoenix album and was very, very happy with the day.

A couple hours of descent got us into Montgenevere, another closed mountain town.  We filled our bladders and one canteen at a fountain and ate our apple. Yumm!  We then continued down a forest path and quickly noticed the high mountain forts.  We quickly realized that this was an important valley, with two high forts guarding the valley and two lower forts guarding where the valley narrowed to 200m wide or so.  Very impressive, especially as we crossed into one of the forts on a 300 year old bridge that was a couple hundred feet above the river below.

We were tired by now, having walked for 9 hours, my feet being very weary the last 30 minutes.  We passed a very old village beside the fort, and while we dismissed it at first, we were curious, it looked like it was out of a movie set.  We wandered in and got one of the last rooms at the only hotel in the old cite (officially Vaubaun).  It is a great little town, built on the hill and undulating.  Not 25m from our hotel is a great candy store.  I like candy, but Lynn was possessed, racking up over 12 euros of candy.  I ate a lot of it as we had a mediocre dinner at a restaurant run by a couple of english guys.  We needed something that wasn’t creamy or cheesy and this was the only option.  I am still unsure if it was the right decision, though the candy saved us.

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