At this point in time I am sat in some service area in France, near (ish) to Djon. It's been a quick but tiring journey so far. 12hrs down to Dover if you include a stop into Tesco for D's shopping and a stop into Halfords for an emergency triangle, followed by a few stops on the way.
We arrived in Dover around midnight, so managed 4hrs fitful kip in a carpark before heading for the ferry at 6am. The ferry trip was a blur of pain and tiredness and now, 8hrs later, everything is still a bit of a blur of motorway after motorway, lorry after lorry, rain and more rain, and a diet of maltesers, peardrops, proplus and codeine! I'm going to be sick of autoroutes, tolls and lorries before this trip is over.
Both D and I are tired (though D would never admit it) and grumpy but we're going to push onto Switzerland this evening and drive down to Zermat. Have a good sleep and a walk up to a decent level tomorrow and then back to the campsite.
Today we drove round lake Geneva on our way to the Matertal valley where we are now camped at a campsite near Ronda. Tomorrow we're going to have an easy day by taking a walk up The Wisshorn at just under 3000m. Weather has been gorgeous today, no more rain or storms.
Wed 14th - had a really crap sleep last night, drank gallons of water and tea before bedtime and then needed to get up several times through the night and had an incident of lost bogroll! Woke up at the 5.30am alarm feeling tired and groggy but keen for our first outing. The bus came at 7am to take us to Zermatt and I had to close my eyes and grip onto my seat several times due to crazy, maniac local driving, it was terrifying! Zermatt itself is a bit of a dump, well it's a dump full stop really! There is so much building work going on and the town is all abustle with trains, cranes, ski tours and tourists. It took us a wee mo to find the start of our path but we were soon off. I really struggled from the word go though. We weren't sure how much snow would be up on top so we packed our crampons and I couldn't be bothered walking in big boots so I put on my trail shoes and shoved my boots in my bag, which made it twice as heavy as need be. In the end there was no snow whatsoever, but all good training eh?! Well I huffed and puffed my way up that hill, having to stop all the time as my back was killing me. I'm sure I started to feel the effects of the altitude much lower than I should have. About 3/4 of the way up D pointed out that if I would just slow down then I probably wouldn't need to stop as much. I didn't think I could slow down, it seemed I was going so slow anyway. But I did slow and he was right, it was much better, though still hard! The sun beat down constantly and we'd only taken D's factor 26 suncream, not enough for my easy burning skin, so i was having to constantly slap it on and I still got a bit burnt on my shoulders.
Nearing the top of the hill I think I was taking around 20-30 steps then having to stop for a breather. I was breathing so heavily on the way up that I needed to drink gallons as my throat and mouth were getting really dry. Made it eventually, up to the top at 2936 metres, my highest hill yet, or atleast until the day after tomorrow!
15th/16th/17th - Well I’ve had my first ever (and hopefully last) Alpine epic! It’s something I never, EVER want to repeat!
As planned, on the 15th we walked up to the Bordier hut from Gasenried. The walk in started off with me losing my camera (a regular holiday occurrence now!) I’d done my usual and stopped for a pee, put my camera down and not picked it back up. D went back down for it for me, what a gent! Big brownie points for that one, and he told me I wasn’t allowed to strop at him as a reward.
The walk in takes you through a spot called Alpya which is an old alpine meadow. We had walked up through woodland, alongside a raging glacier river, which we then crossed (via a bridge) and the walk opened out into a green meadow, complete with alpine flowers, sheep, chamois and an old shepherds hut. The meadow was surrounded by steep granite cliffs, with roofs everywhere which reminded me of a large Pass of Ballater.
So far so good! Passing Alpya, I began labouring more, getting out of breathe very easily no matter how slowly I went and I could feel my head begin to ache a little. The walk in then took us up to a glacier which we had to cross. It was a dry glacier though so very easy to cross and there are poles and markers which show you the path through to take. Only 100 or so metres to the hut now and there is ladder bolted to the rock face to allow access. Outside the hut, the hut guardian has always left food out for the local Ibex and we can see them really close up. The hut is nice but I do inwardly groan when the guardian recommends a 3am start for our chosen peaks of the Gross Bigerhorn and the Balfrin.
Neither of us sleep very well. We head off to bed at around 9.30ish but I have to get up for the loo through the night and it’s too hot to sleep well and someone keeps farting and snoring loudly! I’m wishing that I’d brought some earplugs! Speaking of going to the loo, I should mention the toilets! Every time I go I nearly gag with the stench. The toilet consists of an outdoor hut with a hole in a shelf with a toilet seat on top. Below the hole is a pile of shit, pee and toilet roll with water running through it. The floor of the hut has floorboards with gaps so you can see below and the stench rises upwards! I have to take a deep breath everytime I go in!
So, at 3am we start. It’s pitch black but the rocks have reflectors on them every 50m or so to guide the way. I am quite bemused by this, but it is helpful. We come across a sign which says Kleim and Gross Bigerhorn and head off that way. We are following small cairns upwards but they soon run out and we are now following our noses. We don’t feel like we are quite in the right place but a brief look at the map and guide and we see that we will come out near the col between the Kleim and the Gross Bigerhorns which is fine. A quick descent down to the col and a small ascent and then we are at the start of our chosen route, the WSW ridge of the Bigerhorn at PD. By this point I’m quite fed up of boulders and the ridge seems to be mostly a big pile of boulders heaped on top of each other! No matter though, as the sky begins to lighten and we can see around us and the rising sun causes the mountains to go on fire, I am not caring about the crappy ridge, just enjoying the views. And luckily the ridge is a bit nicer near the top. I stick to the crest as much as I can and the rock here is more stable and enjoyable. Before long we are at the top and it’s fully light. It’s cold on top but if I face southwards the sun warms my back.
Before long the sun is higher and it gets warmer, fleece is off and it’s just my baselayer and vest. I’ve plastered myself in suncream and got a hat on so hoping I won’t suffer too much. The ridge between the Bigerhorn and the Balfrin is supposed to be graded F or easy, but it’s much more like PD with a fair bit of exposure and loose rock and plenty bits where you have to use your hands! Before long we are at below the Balfrin and so far so good. There is one snowy section which is soft enough to cross in our boots, a rocky section and then a steep snow slope. Cramponing up the steep slope is hard work! And the snow/ice at the top if weird! It’s hard like water ice, but very crystalline in nature and it’s very hard to get a bit with your crampons and axe and feels quite precarious! Not sure if I’m going to enjoy coming down that way! As we get onto the crest however, we cross over onto the sunny side and the snow is much softer. Too soft as I sink up to my knees on occasion! We meet up with a couple of French guys from the hut who believe they are on the Bigerhorn and don’t seem to believe me when I tell them they are on the lower top of the Balfrin. After consulting their map they see that I am correct. Shortly after we head up to the summit of the Balfrin at 3795m. We are about half way between the summits when the cloud that has been closing in begins to billow around the Balfrin summit. Slightly SE ish the cloud looked dark and menacing and even though we were close to the summit, I had started to labour quite a bit and we knew it would be an hour minimum before we were back to the lower top. We made the decision to turn back. I wasn’t too disappointed as getting stuck in a thunderstorm wasn’t on my agenda!
However, this is where things started to go a bit pearshaped! All of a sudden, out of the middle of nowhere, my head started to ache. And as I laboured back the way we came, my headache got worse and worse until if felt like the pain of a full blown migraine. I had to keep pushing on though. As we got to the steep snow slope below the Balfrin I was very hesitant about descending this way. Lured by the thought of soft snow we continued, but it wasn’t to be. I ended up traversing the horrible icy stuff, having to make sure that my front points were sticking and my axe holding, ever aware of the perilous slide I would take should they fail! Every 10 steps or the pounding in my head would stop me in my tracks and by the time I got onto the rock, away from the snowy face, my head was a mess of pain. I’ve never experienced a headache like this before, even my worst migraines pale in comparison! And all I could see ahead of me was the loose and exposed ridge between the Balfrin and Bigerhorn and I was scared as to how I would cope in this state. I recall traversing it in a daze of pain. I’d have to stop every so often as the pain floored me! On top of the pain in my head I was starting to feel pretty nauseous and weak. The traverse seemed so easy this time and we got to a point where we had to climb up a small chimney and then upwardly traverse a slab. There were 2 parties ahead of us pitching this bit. I couldn’t believe it! The climbing was a doddle! You’d have to jump to fall off it! I just shouted out, ‘I’m sick, let me past, and barged my way through,’ I couldn’t wait!
The summit of the Bigerhorn at last, but there is still the descent. The pain is literally stopping me in my tracks now! I remember at several points collapsing in pain and howling and crying, I thought my head would explode! But I pick myself up and carry on. The intervals between collapsing in pain and moving again are getting shorter. And with each bout, I feel myself getting weaker and weaker. It feels akin to having a full blown bout of the flu. I feel weak and delirious! At one point I feel like I’m going to have diarrhoea, I feel so sick and I wonder what it would be like to shit in my trousers as I just don’t have the will or energy to go find a spot to go. Thankfully for my dignity that moment passes! At one point as I collapse in pain, my hands around my head, crying in agony, the French team we had overtaken asked if I needed help, but we declined saying we would manage. D took my rucksack and carried it on his front, I took his sunhat and he soaked it in water for me to keep me cool. He said my skin felt all cold and clammy. I don’t know if it was the heat that I was suffering from giving me heat stroke, or if it was altitude sickness or a bit of both. But each time I exert myself in the heat and go high up, I have been getting a headache. I managed a long bout of travel, down to the col between the Kleim and Gross Bigerhorn. After this, I was so weak that I regularly had to stop, and in my delirium I would rock backwards and forwards, muttering to myself. It was utter torture. A part of myself kept telling me to get up and keep moving, I had a daughter at home who needed me, I was a wife, a daughter, a sister and I couldn’t just give up. I was frightened, the pain scared me, and my weak and delirious state scared me. What was wrong with me? Was it the altitude? In which case I had to get down as soon as I could. Or was it heat stroke? In which case, I shouldn’t keep drinking water, I desperately needed salts and I desperately needed to get out of the sun, but was it the right thing to keep going, or should I rest. On several occasions I told D that I needed help, that I couldn’t continue, that I couldn’t cope. But something inside me made me keep getting up off the ground, and carry on. If it wern’t for D carrying my sack and urging me onwards, I don’t know how I would have managed. I remember him telling me that I was doing so well and I cried out in tears, ‘I just keep trying and trying and trying!’
‘I know,’ he said, ‘just one more push and we will be at the reflectors’
I collapsed again, I can’t do it, I can’t carry on! But I have to, I’m so close now. The reflectors are there, I think I stop a few more times, rocking and groaning and there is the hut. There is safety, there is water and there is rest. I get a bed and I lie down, take some painkillers, have some nuts and something to drink and I sleep for a couple of hours. I feel really drained and groggy and my headache lingers on in the background, but I feel like I can hold a conversation now. We stay another night at the hut to allow me to recover. My head still hurts some in the morning, but I take some painkillers and get off the blasted hill. My head hurts less and less on the way down and by the time we hit Alpya I’m back to my normal self of ploughing on full steam ahead.
We are now camped at Saas-Grund, my headache came back and I took some more painkillers. That was around 8hrs ago and I’ve been okay since. I’m hoping a rest day will see me right again and I will be fit enough to go up into the hills again. Our plan is to go up to try and do the Laginhorn. We will go to the Weismeiss hut and see how I get on going up there. If all goes well, we’ll dump our stuff in the hut and walk up higher and see how I cope. I’ve bought a proper sunhat (as opposed to a buff), will keep myself fully covered and drink and rest well. At the slightest and first signs of a headache though I’m going down, I really can’t cope with going through that ordeal again.
19th - nothing much to report. Had a couple of days rest as I came down with a bit of a head cold and been pretty bleurg and snuffly. But feeling much more human now and so we're off to try the SW of the Lagginhorn from the Weissmiess hut tomorrow. Report back on Wed or Thurs.
20th/21st July - At last! I have made it up to 4000m and bagged my first 4000er. Yesterday D and I took the ski uplift as far as Kreuzboden which is around 300m below the Weissmis hut. We figured that if we took the lift up and I didn’t have so far to walk in the heat then it might stop me from getting a headache due to the sun. But hopefully walking up that 300m in the heat would be enough to tell whether a headache would come or not.
By the time we were back at the hut I was famished and it was a long half hour to wait for double helpings of soup, beef stew and mashed tatties with some sort of vinegary cabbage stuff, followed by a delicious chocolatey custard stuff for pudding. We had a short read after tea and then headed up to bed to try and sleep. D nodded off quite quickly but it took me ages to drift off to sleep. The dorm room windows were open and all I could hear were the loud and braying voices of some English folk. They sounded like they were having fun, but it was pissing me off big time! Surely people at huts must realise that there are those who need to be up early and they should try and keep their voices at a level tone, not a loud one! And speaking of discourteous folk, why do some folk feel the need to drag in their rucksacks into the dorm and all their stuff when folk are trying to sleep. There are cubby holes outside the dorms for stuff, so sort yourself there and enter the dorm quietly! Next time I come to the Alps, must try and camp/bivi more or buy a pair of earplugs!
Not long after, the ridge steepens and one is forced to scramble up big blocks. We were catching up on 2 teams ahead of us who were roped up. It makes me nervous seeing folk roped up on this sort of ground and I get convinced that the going must be hard. But it isn’t. In fact, the crux of the route goes up a slab about 15m high. I was nervous about this, hating slabs as I do, but it was a doddle with ledges and holds and cracks everywhere. The next section was quite tricky as it was getting colder and colder and we were reaching the snow line. The rocks were verglassed in places and hoared up in other places, but not enough that we wanted to put our crampons on, just enough to require a bit of caution. After another scrambly step we reached the snowline proper and decided to put our crampons on. Since we’ve arrived in Switzerland we keep bumping into these 2 French guys in different huts and campsites and they had been up the Lagginhorn the day previously, stating that you could stick to the rock and not need crampons. I think that it must have snowed up there through the night (when it rained at the hut) and they day these guys had gone up it had been beautifully sunny. But today was clouded over and much colder. So crampons were donned and we tried to stick the snow as much as possible. The snow was really good in places, but quite crusty and icy in others. Things weren’t properly frozen so the going was really slow and pretty precarious. We were below the roped parties still and one group was sending huge chunks of snow flying down and big rocks too, so we opted to keep out of their direct line of fire!
I didn’t want to hang around for long. Being perched on such a small summit was making me nervous and I wanted to get down. I should have waited though as we ended up being caught up with all the roped parties and sheesh I was utterly bursting to go to the toilet as my guts were playing up a little. We eventually got down to a flattish area and stopped to eat and let the roped parties go past so I could get some privacy. Then we decided to head off the ridge a different way and come down what was left of the old glacier. I was a bit nervous of this as I was worried about crevasses but as it was the glacier was pretty dry and there was a trail through it and we only came across one proper crevasse which was very easy to spot and to avoid, but all the still I felt a little naked without a rope on.
Before long we were back at the hut where it was sheer and utter joy to sit for a while and take my boots off. We hung around for just short while and then went down for the lift. Unfortunately, my old knee problem has flared up and it feels all swollen and very painful. I’ve taken some painkillers and rubbed in some anti-inflammatory gel and we are having a rest day tomorrow so I’m praying it will settle back down again as we want to go up the Allilinhorn next. Forecast for the hills is bad tomorrow anyway and Friday looks pretty dire too! If it’s good on Saturday, then we can get a lift up to the Britania hut on Friday, so it won’t matter if the weather is bad and hopefully that will rest my knee some more.
update - knee is mostly better so we're off to the Britannia hut tomorrow and then to go up the Allalinhorn. Report back later.
We checked the forecasts for Aosta in Italy and it didn’t seem any better than Valais. The forecast for the Chamonix area seemed somewhat better but D wasn’t keen at all to head that way. We decided to head to Italy. I’d always wanted to go to the Val D’Aosta and at least if the weather was crap there it would still be a change of scenery.
So we drove down on Saturday, D drove most of the way and I drove the last little bit as he was too tired. We messed things up however. We arrived in Aosta only to find that the banks wouldn’t accept our card to withdraw money. We had no Euros whatsoever and a Travel Agency we found couldn’t swap our Swiss Francs for Euros regardless of what some random dude serving in a garage told D. I finally texted my Dad back home and got him to google the phone number for customer services for our bank and I was then able to phone our bank and get them to authorise transactions in Italy. All this took a couple of hours of faffing about and we were then able to at least buy a map to find out where the hell to go! I was sure that the Val D’Orco had been recommended as a nice place to go, but it seemed that the Val’Savarenche seemed a better option for an ascent of Italy’s highest mountain, Gran Paradiso. So I set off down that way.
Sunday was a little better thankfully. We walked up to the main village and found a Information point. The bloke who worked there spoke a little English and informed us that Pont up the road would have a guidebook we could buy. This surprised us as according to our map Pont was just a couple of houses at the end of the road. This brings me to the Italian maps we had got. They are rubbish! There are campsites on the map which don’t exist and many paths are marked in the wrong place altogether. But we finally headed down there and to our relief found a much better campsite and the start of the path to the refuge Emmanuelle. This campsite seemed much brighter than the last one. But the showers and toilets are still awful! There is supposedly no hot water after 9pm, but in reality there is no hot water whatsoever! The toilets consist of those awful holes in the floor, that no matter how you try you can’t avoid getting piss onto the floor. Yuck, they are so minging! Again, you have to provide your own toilet roll and the campsite weather forecast hasn’t been renewed since we arrived here. Thankfully we found an information point at the start of the path to the refuge and that has a decent and up to date forecast up on the wall.
As the day went on though, things improved. We’d decided the night before to head out for a walk up to a spiky ridge that sat behind the campsite. The map didn’t show a path going up the ridge, but traversing around it. But I reckoned that we might be able to scramble up it and if not then alteast we’d have good views of the next days objective. We set off around 10.30am and the path ambled up the side of a gorge easily enough and then opened out into a really flat Alp, that was almost reminiscent of Scotland. It then crossed a river and zigzagged up the hillside to traverse under the spiky ridge. Viewing the ridge from here I could see that a traverse of it was a no go, it was too steep. Sometimes though, I do wish that D had an interest in climbing. Often when we are out together I will spot an amazing looking route, or a funky looking rock tower, sculpture or feature and express my appreciation of it. I’ll usually get a ‘hmmm’ or a grunt back in reply if I’m lucky, he just doesn’t get it. Once we’d traversed round to the other side of the ridge, the path opened out into another Alp and it was just gorgeous up there. The ridge looked fine! I’m sure there must be a route that traverses it (can’t remember name of it but Meyes is in there somewhere)
Back at the campsite, we booked a stay in the hut for tomorrow evening, so we can go up Gran Paradiso. We’re just going to take the ‘normal’ way up which seems to be a bit of a snow plod but we have no guide whatsoever and it doesn’t seem to be too snowy low down so should hopefully be free of crevasses or atleast if there is a glacier it should be relatively dry and easy.
The walk up to the hut started pleasantly enough, ambling gently through woodland nice and shaded. But the easy gradient and the zigzagging nature of the path up to the hut soon grew monotonous and I was eager to arrive. The hut itself seems huge in comparison with the Swiss ones we’d been to and the rooms were much nicer, with only 5 sharing. People here seemed much more civilised and the noise was minimal come 10pm. In fact the noise was so minimal that I managed to get a decent nights sleep! Well, other than the noise from the snorer in our room, but that didn’t last long after I rapped aggressively on the side of his bed!
I’d been looking forward to our meal in the hut and wasn’t disappointed, with Spaghetti and parmesan for a starter, some sort of meat chops with green beans and a chocolate mouse for pudding, yum! I did feel sorry for D though, being a vegetarian he suffers somewhat at our stays in the huts.
Breakfast was at 4am and was the usual boring bread and jam! But the huge mug of tea went down well. We set off at around 4.45am and the start was easy in the dark as I’d been for a reccy on my own the afternoon before. I quite enjoyed wandering off on my own and D probably enjoyed the peace too for a wee snooze. The path took me past a small grassy area where I came across a really large herd of Ibex, complete with babies. Needless to say the camera was whipped out! The next section takes you through a moraine and then scrambles up boulders and slabs to the start of the snow line. I’d been moving really fast until this point, overtaking loads of folk. But once we donned crampons and hit the snow, I slowed down. We’d packed harnesses and the rope in case we had to cross a glacier or crevassed section but the beginning was free of crevasses. There were quite a few higher up but the previous trails of those who’d gone before us stayed right away.
Slogging uphill at a gradient of never more than 35 degrees isn’t technical but I find it very tiring on my lower back and I get niggles of sciatica in my thigh. I wasn’t helped along by my boots which kept scraping against my heels causing burning and I was really surprised that I didn’t end up with huge blisters!
The final slog is the steepest bit and I was dreading it, but I just took things real slow and the gradient soon eased again. We passed the top of the glacier and saw some pretty funky looking seracs and crevasses, from a safe enough distance thankfully!
The top of the Paradiso itself is a bit of a circus and I can’t say that I enjoyed it. We took off our crampons as the top is rocky. There is snow, but it’s possible to keep of it and stick to the rock. The thing i didn’t like was all the people! Gran Paradiso is a very popular 4000er and is Italy’s national mountain so the normal route is akin to the Pony Track on Ben Nevis. The summit is quite narrow and there is one very exposed move on it. I didn’t like it one little bit and all the people moving up and down and ropes everywhere just made it too jittery for my liking! I decided not to bother going up to the point where there is a Madonna. I’d heard that point wasn’t even the true summit anyway. I was very close to where everyone was faffing and bumbling about and that was good enough for me! I was quite happy to find a hidden nook and perch myself there and nibble away and wait for D to come back as he’d been keen to go up. Even D ended up snapping at someone and telling them to get out his way when they tried to barge past, which is not like him as he’s usually so laid back! I was grumbling about everyone! Why is it that so many people don’t acknowledge you or thankyou when you’ve stepped aside for them to let them past? Are such courtesies a purely British thing I wonder?
We didn’t hang about for too long. It was cold on top and windy. The snow had softened somewhat since the early hours and the way down for easy and pleasant in most places. We decided to go off the track a bit onto a rocky bluff for our lunch though and I gave myself the heebyjeebies when my pole kept sinking into the snow and not reaching bottom. And I utterly crapped myself when I sank into the snow up to my knees, don’t think I’ve moved so fast in all my life! D pointed out that it was probably just deep, soft snow as we weren’t really near where the glacier or crevasses were, but it gave me a fright nonetheless and it felt totally different to sinking in knee deep in Scotland in that I didn’t have any sense of reaching the bottom of the snow before bolting out squealing!
We were joined for lunch by some Alpine Choughs (or what we thought were Choughs) I love these birds, they are so intelligent looking! I threw some nuts out for them and one of them kept giving me the most cute puppy dog eyes (I’ve never experienced that from a bird before!) But I swear the eyes and the expression on its cocked head seem to say, ‘c’mon get more munchies out, what you waiting for?!’
We were down out of the snow line not long after, crampons off and it seemed to take ages to find our way down out of the slabby section, certainly harder than it was going up in the near dark in the morning! But before long we were trudging back to the hut where I treated myself to some cola and some chocolate and pear cake.
I felt quite sad to come down off the mountain, knowing it was the last big peak we’d do. I’m not sure what we’re doing for the last couple of days of the trip, but possibly driving to Chamonix. I’d love to see what it’s like and D would like to see if his misgivings about the place are justified or not. I suspect they will be! But I’m sort of looking forward to spending a day there. We won’t be able to climb any peaks as we’ll only have a day there but it will be nice to have a nosey nonetheless.
I’m in two minds about heading home. On one hand I’m absolutely dying to see RB again, I’ve missed her so much it’s unbelievable and I’ve had a few moments where I’ve had bad dreams cos I’ve worried too much. I’m looking forward to a proper shower, a comfy bed and good home comforts, space being one of them! But at the same time, despite my grumblings about lack of space, days of not feeling well and days of feeling a bit homesick, I’ve really enjoyed being away. It’s going to be weird being back in Scotland after weeks of dealing with Swiss, French and Italians and as much as I’ve missed climbing, I do wonder if I’ll miss these mountains more when I’m home. But the grass is always greener!
29th-30th - We woke up on Thurs to a dank day and both of us felt pretty smug that we'd managed to sneak in an ascent of Paradiso. Now it was time to drive across to Chamonix. Unfortunately the weather was even worse there! It didn't take us too long to drive there from Aosta valley and nor to find a campsite in Les Plaz de Chamonix. We are camped at the Mere du Glace campsite and it's a so, so campsite. I find it a bit squeezed and hemmed in and the showers are utterly crap! What is it with French and Italian campsites? Why don't they seem to ever have hot water and why are their toilets utterly minging?! Back in Pont we had a meal at the hotel near the campsite and the lady's toilet was so disgusting it's unbelievable! It was one of those ones with a hole in the ground surrounded by a small dip. Of course everyone ends up pishing everywhere, so there is wee all over the floor and all over the door for feck's sake! So in this one toilet, some woman had obviousely been menstruating but had bled all over the floor and not bothered to wipe it up. Yuck! In the corner of the cubicle was a small bin which was overflowing onto the floor. Needless to say I went into the disabled toilets! Thankfully there was a normal toilet there, toilet paper, shame the light didn't work though.
Anyway, back to Chamonix. We arrived early enough for a spot of shopping where I got some nice pressies for folk and then we woke up in the morning to fairer weather, which was lucky as it had rained pretty much all night! We took a lift up to the Aguille Rouges (can't remember name of lift) but it's like a big box that can hold 55 people. And boy do they squeeze you in! I felt like a sardine! Found it really uncomfy standing there, it seems to really hurt my back and legs to stand still for any length of time these days and it all felt a bit clausterphobic, esp when folk kept shoving and pushing to get on. The 2nd lift up to L'index was more pleasant, a proper chair lift and after a wee wibbly moment when it started with a shudder, I relaxed into it (after exclaiming, 'how could I relax, it was sickening!' It's like asking someone who has a hangover and feels sick to enjoy it!
Once we were off there was pretty much no view to speak of which was a damn shame! i could see towers and spires and walls of rock peeking out of the mist and even spotted a few climbers. They all seemed to be climbing the same route!!! Funny that it was an easyish looking route, about 15mins from the top station. Climbers everywhere, no imagination eh?
We took the wrong path and ended up on what must have been an approach to some of the routes. It took us down a steep and loose, dirty gully, very reminiscant of Scotland. After a while of scrambling down this gully and along a loose and narrow path I spotted the path to the Col that we had meant to go on. We scrambled down another loose gully and got onto the path proper. It didn't take long to get to the Col and I was amused by a section of what would have been nice scrambling along a wee ledge, but instead had been bolted with bannisters and even peddles sticking out of the rock that you could use for foot holds.
The Col took you to a seperation of paths and we took up the path up to the Lake Noirs and some summit at 2600m (or thereabouts) Just as we were nearing the lake it started hailstoning and it got heavier and heavier. Not long after it had calmed down, the clouds cleared enough so we had little peeps of views over to Mont Blanc. It was pretty surreal looking and it looked like a whole other world across there to me. Like the Gods in their snowy kingdom towering above us. The Gods would maybe be unsettled today after their raging of yesterday. I wondered if anyone was up there, trying for an ascent. There must of been a heck of a lot of snow fallen yesterday, so I assume that folk would wait for conditions to settle a little first.
We milled around for wee while and I would have quite liked to have headed up to a snowy summit we could see but time was getting on and we had to make the shop back in Les Plaz so we could some stuff for the journey home.
The ride down was uneventful, save for my legs going all wonky again. Makes me worry about the coming winter season, how will they cope, when they suffered so last winter. But I must try not to ponder on that! D and I were discussing how lazy it felt to take lifts up and down (but nice lazy) and I reckoned RB would love the climbing here. She could do big mountain routes and no walk in, superb!
I took loads of photos of the spires and towers and must check the guide to see what routes are there.
We're back down in the campsite now, off to take the bus into Chamonix and have a meal out on our last day of the holiday. I am going to miss these mountains, but I'll go back. And I'm so looking forward to being back home and getting out of the van and into some proper space and comfort.
See everyone soon :o)