Apologies for such a late update!!
We spent the last few days in Switzerland, and we were camping so didn’t have access to wifi and mobile Internet was €7.50 per mb! So we have a lot to write about….
At the time of the last post we had just arrived at La Fouly, Switzerland. That night we set off to find a place to pitch our tents, and ended up walking through a giant campsite to get there. We did our best not to look suspicious and it seemed to work! We found a nice spot beside a river and settled down to some pasta arrabiata and sausages- the Italians were not too happy that we couldn’t salt our pasta water! We washed our clothes in the river and then played bullsh*t (the card game) with a few beers.
Alan with our campsite and clothesline
The next day, Tuesday, we set off on our ‘easiest’ day of hiking (according to the guidebook). What this actually meant was that we descended first, all the way to 1055m, and had to climb up a hill at the end of the day. We were not prepared for the climb at all- it was steep and poor terrain, but eventually we made it! We arrived to a lakeside town called Champex, which was a welcome relief after a long sweaty hike! Alan insisted on jumping in straight away but the rest of us chose to eat lunch first.
Napping by the lake
Eventually the threat of thunderstorms moved us along (but not before we had our icecreams) so we headed to the supermarket, which was overpriced and under-stocked yet again! (Beginning to see a pattern here!)
We headed off on part of our stage for the next day, as we planned to take a ‘variante’ route instead of the normal one. We climbed past some incredible waterfalls and weirs and found a patch of land beside a river. We cooked lots of pasta carbonara, and just as the last batch was nearly finished (we cook each meal in 3 batches as we only have one small stove) the first clap of thunder came. This was to be the start of a very very long thunderstorm…
For all of us it was our first time sleeping outside during a thunderstorm, and on top of that we were sleeping on the side of a mountain. The rain was incessant and very heavy, and the lightning would light up the entire tent, after which we would try desperately to calculate how far away the storm was. This led to a sleepless night for many of us.
The next morning we awoke at 6am to begin our ascent to the highest point of the tour- Le Fenêtre d’Arpette (at 2665mm). This meant that we had an ascent of 1199m which was hard! We also were still a bit shaken by the thunderstorms so every little cloud freaked us out. After a strenuous hike through snow and steep scree hills we made it!
We stopped for an awful lunch of ‘American bread’ (sweet brioche- the only one on sale in the shop) with salami and a little nap for some of us. Next came an obscenely steep descent for hours along a horrifically rocky path. You might have noticed that we didn’t enjoy this day too much! The only redeeming factor was the impressive glacier we saw on the way (below).
To add insult to injury, a huge rain/thunderstorm began on the way to our campsite. Due to our overwhelming misery we decided to upgrade to staying in a real campsite- such luxury! This meant that we had access to hot showers and flushing toilets, but due to our indulgence we had to try and save money on dinner. This was a disaster…. We had tinned ravioli….with beans. The ravioli were like little rectangles of spaghetti hoops with playdough inside- vile… We then sat in a nearby bar where a glass of sprite cost 5euro!
Luckily everything improved from there! We slept extremely well (even though there were a few storms) and woke up to an amazing view. We were near enough to a shop so could even buy fresh (well, UHT, but from a fridge) milk.
View from our tent
We set off on a beautifully maintained path, and didn’t even notice the huge ascent we were doing. All of a sudden we arrived at ‘Col de Balme’ (2191m) which was also the border between Switzerland and France! Life was instantly better. We stopped in a little cafe for hot chocolate (with rum for some) and homemade lemon tart. We all breathed a sigh of relief when we realised how much cheaper and better quality things are in France!
The view from the cafe looking back at Col de Balme
Unfortunately some clouds came in so we chose a gentler/safer route down. We arrived at the lovely town of Tré-le-champ, and noticed a nearby auberge. We were so happy with all things ‘France’ that we decided to splash out again- we went for half-board camping. Best. Decision. Ever.
We got hot showers, toilets, a lovely campsite, and an amazing dinner- tuna salad, pasta with mushrooms and turkey (sounds odd but was delicious), a cheese course(!!), and crème fraiche with blackberries.
The two Italians had never been to France before so assumed that we had to eat all the cheese on the cheeseboard…. Other than that it was one of the best meals of our lives!
Very happy in France
We hung our clothes in the dry room(!!) and slept like babies in our tents. We woke up to another great view of the Mont Blanc Massif.
After a breakfast of coffee, toast, muesli and jam we set off. (We also discovered Carl’s ‘missing’ phone in the dry room). We climbed up a very steep path with actual ladders in some places, and finally made it to Lac Blanc! We’re currently enjoying hot chocolate while looking out over the frozen lake with a view of Mont Blanc in the background!
This means that we are OFFICIALLY HALFWAY!
We’ve had some great experiences, seen a huge variety of insects, smelled things no man should ever have to smell, eaten a lot of cheese, listened to far too much of Alan’s singing, and gone 5.5 days with no deodorant, no makeup, no beds, and only washing our clothes in rivers. Luca developed an odd rash on his abdomen, Alan fell sideways into a river, Aisling slashed her hand in a supermarket, we’ve each been sunburnt more than once, we are all far too familiar with each others bodily functions, it looks like noone will be shaving until next Wednesday, but we hope to shower at least once before then! Here’s to the next half of the TMB!!
For ale: ohfeckkkkk
For Gareth: ‘halfway’
For the O’Connor family: enjoy the gathering!! I’m sorry ill be missing it! See you all next weekend (you have a little schmutz)
For Mary: you’re awesome!
[update: we’ve set up camp for the night so that our tent faces the peak of Mont Blanc- this means that we’re quite slanted and covered in thousands of tiny grasshoppers but it’s a price we’re willing to pay! On y va!]