Saturday, 30 July 2011

ALPS TRIP 2011 -July 27th to August 18th

Sat out in the sunshine of the campsite in Termignon in the Vanoise Alps in France.  The sun is shining and it’s good to be here.  But Christ it’s been an epic and a half!  D has been having some pretty full on dental surgery and I’ve been kicking myself for not suggesting that he cancel the appointment to have 6 teeth removed a week and a half before our trip.  Yes, he’s had a lot of bother with them and yes, being a man, has buried his head in the sand that there was the slight possibility that there could be an infection and that’s why there is pain.  So, after much nagging from myself and a dentist appointment and course of antibiotics later he was on the road to recovery.  Problem one solved.
Problem 2, the van insurance…………….4 days before our departure date we get a letter saying that the insurance company want an extra £200 as they have no proof of D’s full no claim’s bonus as he’d forgotten to send the proof to his previous company.  So, many phone calls later and we were still no further forward with Direct Line threatening to cancel our policy if we didn’t get it sorted.  It’s a long and protracted, agonising and stressful story but I finally got it fixed.  

Problem 3, D has some sort of reaction to the antibiotics he is on, nausea, digestive discomfort etc and yes, being a man, sits and procrastinates and is full of ‘woe is me’-ness and is undecided whether he will go on holiday or not.  I feel utterly torn.  Do I bugger off to France on my own and just play on some lesser mountains or do I do the supportive wife bit and stay at home with him and make sure he’s alright, knowing fine well that if he *is* okay within a few days and we’ve missed our holiday that I’m going to be a right grumpy and miserable cow for the foreseeable future.  On the other hand, if D is at home, ill and I’ve buggered off to France, then what sort of unfeeling and selfish person does that make me?  Anyway, problem 3 was solved when D decided that he would come along anyway, as we’re convinced that when his treatment is finished he will start feeling much better and regret not coming.
Problem 4, problem with the van engine…………..we got as far as part way down the road to Lille from Dunkerque when the Engine Management warning light came on.  We pulled over as soon as we could and D went to investigate.  Oil, check, water,check, brake fluid check, um other fluid, check.  No manual in the van, so not a Scooby what the light means.  A quick phone call to Bekah’s Dad back in Dundee who although not a mechanic, is more clued up about cars that either D or I, and we find out that it could be something or it could be nothing!  Basically, there is a problem with the engine and it will need a garage with a hook up to an electrical/computer diagnostic doodah.  Plan…………..close all the blinds on the windows and get some shut eye for a couple of hours before we deal with the situation.  D has had 2hrs sleep in the past 24hrs and I have had 1hrs sleep.  We did try to sleep before Dover but it was too hot for me and I was getting restless legs and was too achy to sleep.

So a couple of hours later and we’re driving to the nearest town where we find a Citreon garage only to be told that we need a VW garage.  Thankfully there is one in the nearby town of Hazebrouck and it doesn’t take us long to find.  A wait of a couple of hours and one hundred euros down and the van is fit for the road again.  Don’t have a clue what the problem was as the bill is in French (google translator might come in handy later on)  The man did come out and point to the bit that needed replacing and it looks electrical but I don’t know what it is.

I had been dreading problem number 5 being the campsite full, sorry no spaces but thankfully here we are.  D is still feeling under the weather and now I’m not so convinced that it’s a side effect of the antibiotics as I’ve had to rush off to the toilet twice now and I’m feeling dizzy everytime I stand up.  Feel like I’m coming down with something.  Rats!  Two ill and grumpy feckers on holiday, joy!   I WILL NOT BE ILL ON HOLIDAY! 
Plan is to walk into town for some maps tomorrow then perhaps take a walk up to Lac Blanc and a nearby refuge.  It’s a short walk of 6km with nothing strenuous so I’m sure we’ll manage in our present state.  Although toilet stops could get interesting!

Sat 30th July -  Well, I’ve gone back to thinking that the problem with D is related to the antibiotics and my grumbly tummy is just to do with eating crap like Beanfeasts and tinned beans and sausages on the way down.  A wee grumble this morning and fine after that.  But D is still not feeling 100% so I was on my own today on the walk up to the Lac Blanc.  We went into town first to buy some maps, mission successful and we now own maps of Les Trois Vallees, Val Cenis and Tignes, Val-D’Isere Haute maurienne.

Termignon is a lovely wee place!  With old French looking buildings and plenty of wee tourist shops.  There are 2 cheeseries which I’m sure Bekah would love and a chocolate shop which of course had to be visited!  Also found an outdoory type shop which has a sale on and has a softshell jacket similar to the one I own (over £200) which is on sale for 35 euros, very tempted to go back and buy it!  I’ve also discovered that they do tandem paragliding rides nearby for 70 euros and I’m really tempted to give it a go one day.
So after our trip into town, D decides that he’ll just stay at the campsite and maybe go for a wee stroll later, so I get my stuff sorted and head off for a local bus that takes you from Termignon up to Bellacombe for free.  The bus ride is scary!  Horrible, narrow, windy alpine tracks, sharp bends above hair raising drops, sickening!  I had to clutch my seat on several occasions!  Half an hour later and I’m there and happy to jump off the bus.  I spot my path pretty much straight away and head off.

I can see tantalising wee glimpses of spikey and snowy peaks poking out through the cloud on occasion and they look gorgeous, definitely got to get up there soon!  Signs say half an hour to the lower carpark of Coetet but I’m there in much quicker time, even after a short stop off at the Saint Marguerite Chapel.  Cross the road at the carpark then slog up to the Lac Blanc.  Crikey, I’m not feeling that fit and this is an easy walk!  There’s just one little steep section at 2187 metres and it’s got me huffing and puffing a bit, but I’m determined to keep the same pace and not slow down, my calf muscles don’t thank me for it!
The lake is really pretty, but even better is the view up to the Vanoise Glacier and peaks above and then West across to the Dent Parachee.  That looks an impressive mountain and I’m looking forward to climbing it, hopefully this week some time!  There’s a lot more snow about than I’d expected though.  I know that Chamonix has had a hell of a lot of snow but I thought with this area being lower that it wouldn’t have gotten as much, but anything over around 2500-3000m has snow on it, albeit patchy lower down.  I hung around the lake for around half an hour then made my way up to the Refuge lacBlanc, declining a visit as I wanted to press on.

Arrived back at Bellacombe an hour before the next bus was due back to Termignon and recalling that I’d seen signs on the way to Coetet that said Termignon was 2hrs away, I decided to walk back rather than take the bus.  Quite glad I did as it was a nice walk through the Forest Domaniale des Sallanches passing buy some funky limestone towers on the way and an equestrian centre which had the cutest little foal ever wandering about who came over to say hello and have his neck scratched.  I made it back the campsite from Bellacombe in 1.5hrs, beating the bus anyway!

Not sure what we’ll do tomorrow yet.  D is looking through the guide book and hopefully he will be fit enough to do something.  Hopefully a longer walk (todays was 4.5hrs, in the baking sunshine I should add) than today and maybe a wee scramble if he feels up to it.


D finally made it out , woop woop!  So much nicer to have his company rather than beon my own.  He just fancied a fairly short day though to see how weak or strong he felt, but in the end he was going totally fine and fitter than me as usual!  We took a walk up to the Pointe de Lanserlia at just under 3000 metres.  We took the bus up to Bellacombe again, with me on the seat away from the window.  I’ve discovered that if I close my eyes and don’t look at the bends and drops then I don’t feel so sick.  We caught the 9.30 bus and were walking by 10.20.  I’d bought Andy Hodges guide book called Mountain Adventures in the Maurienne but his description of where to go was at odds with what I was reading on the map.  I could see the ridge up to point 2879m on the map and I could see the same ridge poking it’s head out from the mist, but I was confused by descriptions of passing Le Plou where you can buy cheese and eggs.  The path doesn’t go past this farm at all!  So if anyone is reading this, then simply follow the GR 5 path until you pass the first ravine and this is where you start going uphill, there is a faint path.  The rest of the description is correct enough though.

Soon we were dragging our asses up the steep and grassy hill (well, I was dragging my ass, D seemed to be going fine, and the ridge isn’t that steep but it felt steep to me.)  I seem to feel the effects of altitude really easily and starting at anything above 2000m then I can feel it alright!  We reached the first top in just under 2hrs after much fannying about with D having to find a source of water to fill his bladder and then getting confused by the guide description.  We ended up walking along the GR 5 for far too long and having to back track and contour up towards the ridge.

The views from the top are amazing though!  Across to Grande Casse, her South Face looking like a Torridian mountain and covered in snow with the huge fracture line of a cornice at one point.  Made me wonder how much snow is on this hill on the North side!  In front of the Grand Casse we could see the funky looking Pointes de Pierre Brune looking like something from some deserty region in America.  In fact, it’s an amazing place altogether.  Walking down from our peak it seemed funny to me that we were walking down this green valley, with rocky, tottering towers above, and snowy peaks higher still.  Like 3 separate places all in one.  

Over to the East we could see the Impressive looking Point du Grand Vallon (which I’d like to climb on this trip) and the even more impressive Grand Roc Noir at 3582 metres, it’s towers covered with snow and looking very intimidating indeed.  Be curious to see what this peak goes at and if there is any serious climbing on it’s eastern cliffs which look really impressive!  Back to the SW we could see tantalising glimpses of the Dent Parachee peeking out of the cloud, another peak we plan to do on this trip.
It doesn’t take long at all to reach the summit of Point de Lanserlia from point 2879 and we hung around for a while on the summit, just relaxing and taking photos.  Just to the North of this peak, lie the Rochers de Lanserlia though I don’t imagine there is much climbing on them as they look pretty tottering and chossy, but impressive to look at all the same!

The way down into the Grand Vallon is really pretty and at one point there is a really curious hole in the ground surrounded by chalky limestone walls which looks almost like the remnants of an old glacier.  I’m really curious to find out if it is.  Once down into the valley, it’s a bit of a slog back along a level track which reminded me of the Pony Track on Ben Nevis back home, simply due to the fact that there was so many people!

We were pretty early for the bus back to Termignon so we stopped off at the touristy refuge du Plan du Lac and I had 2 cokes (the woman though D wanted one too so I drank his as well as he didn’t want it.)  I also had the most delicious apple crumble I have ever tasted in my entire life!  Mmmmmmmm, nice crumbly pastry, with an apple filling, topped with a crumble with pieces of almonds and raisins and sprinklings of cinnamon, topped off with a side serving of a little cream and a drizzle of some sort of liquer.

I’d been getting a crappy headache and stopping off and eating and having a big drink, necking some painkillers in the process, seemed to shift it into the background.   I’m still none the wiser as to what causes these headaches when I go on holiday as I seem to get one every time!  Although I didn’t get one when I went to costa Blanca.  I’m still sure it’s to do with exerting myself in the heat rather than anything to do with altitude.  I was up at 3000 metres today and my head was fine, it only got sore once we were lower (at 2400) and I didn’t get a headache yesterday.  They seem to come on really quickly as well.  One minute I’m fine and then within seconds I’ve got a horrible headache.  Luckily this one wasn’t too bad, there was just one moment where it was thumping when there was an uphill section.  I made sure I was wearing hat all day today though I didn’t put on my sunglasses until later in the day.  And I’m sure I was drinking plenty as when the headache came on and I made an effort to drink, I started needing the toilet every bloody 5 minutes!
The bus ride back to Termignon wasn’t too bad with just a few intakes of breath as the driver kept on braking too suddenly for my liking!  We made a quick visit to the outdoor shop which was still open and I bought a red softshell jacket made from exactly the same materials as my Mountain Equipment one but around £200 cheaper!  And D bought himself a pair of approach shoes.  We’re going to do a traverse of the Lessiers tomorrow which goes at PD and is supposed to be similar to the Aonach Eagach.  Another day of sun forecast for tomorrow, should be good!

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