Category Archives: Adventure

Winter Cross-Training & Vacation 2014- Stowe, VT

We decided to change things up a bit this Winter. We have been spending our Winter vacations in Lake Placid, NY for the past several years. This year we decided to give Stowe, VT a try mostly because they had much more kilometers of skate skiing trails than what LP has and I was starting to feel like I could ski the Mt. Van Hoevenberg trails with my eyes closed. This is surely not to say that Van Ho is not challenging me anymore…it surely does kick my butt every Winter! I just needed a change of scenery.

The surprising thing is we actually ended up Alpine(downhill) skiing this week much more than we usually do. That basically means more than once or none really. We ended up finding some more reasonably priced mountains to ski. We also got some nice snow midweek, which helped too. We found a nice little apartment for two to rent right in the heart of downtown Stowe. It was the perfect base of operations for the week. I have to say I was a little disappointed with the layout of the town of Stowe. I thought it was going to be much more consolidated so that you could walk everywhere. It was not. There were many places located up Mountain Road which heads north towards the Stowe Resort. We were in the most consolidated part, but we ended up having to drive most of the time to get to restaurants. Regardless, I did grow accustomed to this by end of the week.

Saturday(2/1)

We were packed up and on the road by around 9:30AM. We wanted to hit a place called The Hungry Fish in Troy, New York for some slow-food and also try to beat the snow forecast for NY & Vermont later that afternoon. Denise drove the whole way up, so I had time to play around on my phone surfing the web and stuff. Lunch was pretty good and they had several plant-based options and some locally sourced, grass-fed meats for Denise. We were also entertained by some live guitar entertainment.

We got into Stowe around 5pm or so. It was getting dark and snowing pretty good at that point. We stopped at a little health food store just before Stowe and got some snacks and things. People were real nice and the guy grew up near Collegeville.

One way to kill some time on the long drive up to Stowe…

 

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Stowe apartment pano

We eventually arrived at the little apartment in Stowe and were pretty impressed from the beginning. The place was nicely furnished and very clean. Perfect place for the 2 of us to relax a bit for the week. We then headed out to the Crop Bistro & Brewery for some dinner. The place was pretty nice and fairly busy. They told us we may have to wait a bit, but everything came very quickly. They had a couple vegetarian/vegan dishes on the menu and great homemade microbrews. I was a happy camper. Our waitress, Kathrine, also hooked us up with some good local skiing info. Namely, Burke Mountain, which was $25 lift tickets on Sundays and it was about an hour east of Stowe. We were all over that tomorrow.

Sunday(2/2)

Sunday morning we got up and made some breakfast and were on our way to Burke Mountain near East Burke, VT. We didn’t realize this until later, but this is the same town that is base to the Kingdom Trails mountain biking network that we had looked at going to some years ago. The drive over was long and the roads were still kind of snowy. We got there around lunch time and had lunch in their Tamarack Bar & Grill. We had a nice table overlooking the mountain. Mountain was really nice and we found some pretty decent runs with ample snow on them. It was a pretty good deal!

We made the long drive back to Stowe, showered up and headed over to the Bangkok Bistro Thai restaurant on the hill in Stowe. Food was good and pretty spicy(I did ask for that). It was Super Bowl Sunday, so no one was in the place except for us. Go Seahawks!!

Monday(2/3)

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Trapp Family Lodge

On Monday morning we headed up the road to the Trapp Family Lodge to do a little skate-skiing. Denise wasn’t feeling quite up-to-snuff, so she decided to rent some classic cross-country ski’s for a more relaxed day in the snow. On my first run, I headed out on the Telemark trail which was a little tough for the first run of the day and year for that matter. It went uphill right away around the back of the lodge, but eventually mellowed out a bit. I then headed down to some of the lower Deer Pond Trail section ending with about 6.5 miles for the morning jaunt.

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We then drove down the street to the Deli at Trapp Lodge for some lunch. We quickly realized we could have just skiied there. Lunch was pretty good and the Beer was equally good. I had a pistachio hummus wrap and a mug of Dunkel Lager, which was good fuel for the afternoon ski session. For the afternoon ski, I headed out the Luce Trail and then hooked up with the Haul Road trail which skirted the border of the property. I bumped into Denise out there but then we parted ways at the Oslo trail intersection.

“Cherish the cabin!”

– Mr. Ross(Susans’ father on Seinfeld)

The Oslo trail sucked to say the least. It was steep uphill the whole way and I was dying. It did have nice scenery with the sun going down. I was planning on meeting Denise at the Slayton Pasture Cabin outpost. I eventually got there but Denise was still making her way around the mountain behind the cabin. Stopping at the cabin was a mistake as I got pretty cold as my sweat had chilled. I decided to ski out and meet Denise since the cabin was closing anyway.

For dinner we walked down the street to the The Whip Bar & Grill at the Green Mountain Inn for dinner. Food was very good and they had a nice selection of options. I had the Butternut Squash Ravioli, which was to die for! There bread was also incredible and I ate the whole loaf. What the hey…I burned a ton of calories today!!

Tuesday(2/4)

We enjoyed a nice, relaxing, and lazy morning on Tuesday. I enjoyed an extra cup of coffee while catching up on the latest the Internet had to offer. I eventually got a bit antsy and we headed out for a walk up through town to find the bike trail. It is located behind the Church in town and is well groomed for x-country and skate-skiing. It parallels Mountain Rd. and is far enough away so you feel a little bit out and about.

 

For lunch, we hit the Cafe on Main just down the street for a quick lunch. We enjoyed some soup and sandwiches. Denise dropped her glove over the counter and down into the store front window display. One of the skinny kids working there had to climb in and fish it out for her.

Later, I had Denise drop me off at the Stowe Cross-Country Ski Center which is located just before you reach the Stowe ski resort up Moutain Road. It was a bit more low-key than the Trapp Lodge, but was a little bit more expensive too. I heard it was more popular with the locals. I actually enjoyed the trails here much more than Trapp. They were a little more narrow(which isn’t always great), but they were well-groomed and I had the place all to myself. It was a hard climb all the way out to the farthest outskirts of the area and then fast downhill all the way back. Some school kids had come out later on and came flying by me in the other direction.

We headed up the street to Harrison’s for dinner. It was a little place tucked in the basement of one of the stores in town. We didn’t make reservations and it was busier than we expected, so we ended up eating at the bar. I had the Vegetable Stir-Fry which was REALLY good! Denise enjoyed her meal as well, but I had forgot what she had. Their menu seemed very similar to the Whips’ menu. They may be connected which isn’t that surprising since they are across the street from one another. Worth a trip here, but make a reservation just to be sure.

Wednesday

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We awoke to a fresh coating of Snow on Wednesday and it continued all day. I think we ended up with a foot overall. We decided to head up Mountain Road to the Matterhorn Bar for some lunch. The place was pretty empty and freezing cold, but the food was really good. I had the Pizza which was excellent and Denise had a salad that she also enjoyed. The snow continued to fall as we overlooked the frozen stream behind the restaurant. This is probably a really killer atmosphere in Summer time too.

After lunch we headed over to the Sterling Forest to do some snowshoeing. We found our way via some unplowed roads to the trailhead at the start of the Sterling Upper Gorge trail. The plow actually came threw right behind us. We enjoyed a beautiful hike through the woods while the snow continued to pile up. We passed a few backbountry skiiers coming out as we headed in, but other than that we had the place to ourselves. The following Stowe area map provides a nice overview of the trails in the area.

For dinner we headed to The Bistro at 10 Acres Lodge just outside of town as you head towards the Trapp Family Lodge. It was a nice, cozy little place with good food. I had the Indian Vegetable Curry dish which was killer. The Stowe or Vermont Tourist board was also filming a video while we were there, so we may even make the Fox News on Channel 44 up there. Stay tuned for that. Anyway, this was a really good meal and I highly recommend it. It was also rated as one of the best restaurants in Stowe.

 

Thursday

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We ventured about 45 minutes South on Thursday to do some skiing at Mad River Glen. MRG is a cooperative ski-area so it is owned by the public skiing shareholders. They pride themselves on preserving the traditional ski-area style complete with a single-person chair lift and NO SNOWBOARDERS!! (A beautiful thing!). They also have no snowmaking so they are dependent on the weather and getting good snow. Since we just got blanketed with a fresh foot of the white stuff, we figured this would be a good day to hit it. It did not let us down.

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We found some really nice runs with ample snow for some fine skiing. There were a couple bad ones and some barespots here and there, but nothing bad. The barespots were also grassy and not rocks, so it was not a big deal. It was also a beautiful day too. The lift tickets were only around $47 each if you purchased them online, which we did, so that was a nice little bonus as well. I will let the pictures say the rest…

Denise shreddin’ some turns on our favorite run of the day. It was the worst run to get to though.

 For dinner we headed back to The Crop Bar & Grill again. It was much less crowded this time, but the service was twice as slow. Hmmm. We sat in the bar(the nicer one) area this time. There were a handful of very loud drunkards at the bar when we first got there, but they soon left and things got back to normal decibel levels. For dinner I had asked if they could prepare the Chicken Green Curry dish without the chicken and put some of the veggies from the Winter “Spaghetti” Primavera in the dish instead. The waitress said no problem. While it was a little more tasty than the Winter “Spaghetti” Primavera dish, it didn’t really taste at all like Green Curry. Not sure what it was. I did eat it and didn’t complain since I was pretty hungry. I wasn’t totally impressed with this place this time.

Friday

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Jay Peak-It felt colder than this!

For our last full day in Vermont, we headed north towards the Canadian border to ski at Jay Peak. My wife always has horror stories about when she was young and here with family. It was apparently excruciatingly cold then and she has not forgotten it. Well, Jay Peak did not change too much…It was COLD!! Them temperature was actually much higher than yesterday at Mad River Glen, but the wind was brutal and it it was snowing most of the morning.

We payed for our most expensive lift tickets so far(~$70) and stood in the long, slow line for the tram to the top of the mountain. Fortunately, there was an entertaining gentleman ahead of us to listen to the whole time. We eventually got to the top and it was so brutal! Really high wind, snow and freakin’ cold. I could not even see my way down the trail.  We ventured around the mountain to find some more protected runs and eventually found some on the western side of the mountain.

 

Finally lunchtime arrived and we headed to Alice’s Table restaurant for some lunch. I had a extra beer because I really was in no hurry to get back out again to ski. Denise decided she was done, but I was venturing out for a few more runs. I headed up the eastern side of the mountain. It wasn’t too bad at first but then I came up over a ridge on the chairlift and the wind was brutal again. Ugh! The chair was swinging side-to-side it was blowing so hard. I made two runs that pretty much sucked and then I had enough.

We headed back to The Bistro at 10 Acres again for dinner. It was another good dinner there. Pretty consistent. A bit more crowded this time. We had made reservations on OpenTable which I would recommend, especially on a weekend. OpenTable is great for easily making reservations via the web and we use it a lot, especially when traveling. Also, here is a listing of all the Stowe Restaurants on OpenTable.

Saturday

Saturday morning we packed up and started on the long drive home. We stopped over in Burlington, VT to do some shopping at the Eastern Mountain Sports store which had a huge sale and we had some gift cards to use from Christmas time. Next we stopped for lunch at Magnolia Bistro in downtown Burlington. It is hidden away in a basement of a back alley building, so it is a little hard to find. It was very busy though and the food was delicious. They had all local, organic foods and plenty of veg-options.

One thing with Vermont is that almost every place is local and organic. It seems to be a given there. It is great! Most every place had some veg-only options too. I wish PA would get with the program with that stuff. VT almost felt like Europe in this respect. It was a great week with plenty of Winter activities. I took my running and swimming gear with me, but I never really needed it. There were so many other activities to do to take their place. There will be plenty of time for that stuff during the rest of the season.

The drive home was not too bad. Of course I wasn’t driving either…ha! We stopped in Clinton, NJ for dinner at one of our favorite Thai restaurants, Pru Thai. A good ending to a great week.

Thanks for reading!

 

Haute Route 2013-Day 9-Cabane de Moiry to Zinal

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Glacier de Moiry

Haute Route Hiking Stats-Day 9

Cabane du Moiry to Zinal
Day
Hiking Time:5:44
Hiking Distance(mi):)10.8
Elevation Gain(ft):2198
Cumulative Totals
Days Hiking:9
HR Hiking Time:50:30
HR Distance Hiked(mi):87.2
Elevation Gained(ft):28,251

We had a nice typical breakfast at the cabane. One notable thing was the large loaf of homemade bread that was exquisite. We then packed up and headed on our way down towards Lac Moiry, which was the same way we had come up the night before. I had had dreams about going down the steep, rocky section during the night, so I was a little apprehensive given the heavy rain that had fallen during the night. It was also quite cold out this morning so hats, gloves and jackets where in order.

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Looking down the Moiry Valley from the Cabane

We got out behind most everyone and eventually had to pass most people as Denise was going exceptionally fast this morning. I was seeing so many photo opportunities which were hard to pass up at times. We had to pass the large British group right on the steep, rocky section which made it extra unnerving for me. We eventually headed down and up to the Morraine and saw some Ibex feeding on the hillside. We eventually caught Nate and Ann and passed them. We then picked up a trail that traversed the hillside for several hours to the end of the lake right before the climb up to Col Sorebois, our only climb of the day. Denise decided to pick up some extra speed at this point and ended up walking quite a distance ahead with another guy from our group. I kept a decent pace but never caught up to them. I pretty much hiked alone this day. I passed by many photo opportunities which was a bit disappointing. I am not really liking that part of this trek since we are always rushing ahead to get to the next destination before everyone it seems. I would like to do this taking a little more time.

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Turquise Blue Lac de Moiry and Moisy Barrage

I needed to decide whether I was taking the bus today or not. My knee was feeling really good today and I wanted to hike the whole thing, but I didn’t feel right leaving Denise taking the bus alone. I eventually caught up with her right before the decision point and decided to go with her on the bus. Part way down we saw that Leeza, an Israeli girl in our group, was heading down to the bus also so I changed my mind and decided to hike out the day. I gave Denise her bus pass, some money and the info on the hotel to go to. We said goodbye and I headed back up the hill. I figured I had hiked alone all morning anyway, so I might as well hike out the day alone. It was a good decision.

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Martijn, Rich, Kathy and I taking a break at Col de Sorebois

As I started on the ascent up to the col, I ran into to Rich, Marteen, and Kathy from the group who had given me some cheers for changing my mind. We made our way up the col along a good series of switchbacks leading to the top. It was difficult, but not as much as most of the others we had down. When I reached the top the four of us hung out for a while taking some pictures and having some food. Eventually Bob and Matthew showed up and took a rest as well. The views from here were awesome. I was so glad I came.

We eventually packed up and made our way down the 3 hour descent to Zinal. The guide book made this sound as if it was going to be brutal on the knees. The first half led down a utility road through the ski area following the ski lifts. It was not bad at all. We came upon some really cool sheep that were grazing and took some close up photos of them. Every so often the clouds would open up reavealing a spectacular moutain and glacier on the other side of the valley. It was like a little window with the mountain in it. We continued down and came upon a huge herd of cattle that was relaxing all along the trail. We all took and posed for pictures with them. It was pretty cool. I actually missed on of the trail signs as a couple cows were standing next to it and hiding it from my view. I eventually realized that things didn’t look right and looked back and saw it.

The trail meandered gradually down the hillside until reaching a wooded forest area. It then became very steep, wet and rooty. I was no alone again since I was taking my time through the steeper section. It got pretty hairy in places and I fell twice landing on my bad knee both times. The second time I had just passed a young couple who were standing letting me pass. I am sure they were quite amused by the display and I never looked back to see their response. It actually hurt my shin pretty good and I had a small abrasion from it.

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Little Bridges on the descent into Zinal

I had my iPhone in my camera bag with some tunes playing most of the time alone and it was a very peaceful, although treacherous, walk down into Zinal. The village below looked pretty cool with a bunch of large chalets. I eventually bottomed out to a more flat, wide path and came to a bridge that crossed a turquoise colored stream coming from the glacier above the valley. I stopped at the bridge to take a few pictures and then got out my iPhone to look up where our hotel was. Just as I was a few yards past the bridge I heard Denise yelling my name from the hotel just above me. Nice! Guess I don’t need to find that now.

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Stream through Zinal

I headed up to the room and settled in. I was really hungry since I had only eaten a Cliff bar and some cookies at the col. We headed down to the hotel restaurant, but the kitchen was closed now being 3pm. We walked over to the nearby grocery store and I grabbed some bread and Gruyere cheese. We also got a couple single beers and Denise got a Guinness. I then enjoyed a nice lunch on our little deck in the afternoon sun. Next I did some much needed laundry in the tub and then showered up myself. Being in the valley the sunlight is limited so not sure if it will all dry tonight.

We then headed out to stroll around the town about and scout out a place to eat. Most places seemed to be closed on Monday and Tuesdays, so are choices were limited. We ran into Rich on the one street and chatted about. He and the others were all staying in the hotel nearby where we were standing and heads started popping out of windows. We all decided to eat at our hotel since they had pizza. We strolled around some more and headed back to our hotel and waited for the others.

We had a good time all chatting about and a good dinner as well. I had tried to order a regular pizza with pepperoni, but somehow got anchovies and black olives too. I had to send it back because there was no way I was eating anchovies. Even taking them off left that nasty fishy taste.

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Enjoying a group meal with the trail gang!

Some of the trail gang where possibly going a different direction after today so we said our goodbyes and headed off to sleep. It was after 10pm and we were both tired.

Haute Route 2013-Day 8-La Sage to Cabane de Moiry

 

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Misty Morning in La Sage

Haute Route Hiking Stats-Day 8

La Sage to Cabane du Moiry
Day
Hiking Time:5:48
Hiking Distance(mi):)9.68
Elevation Gain(ft):5,538
Cumulative Totals
Days Hiking:8
HR Hiking Time:44:45
HR Distance Hiked(mi):76.4
Elevation Gained(ft):26,053

Leaving the Hotel de La Sage was tough. We had a fabulous room and fabulous dinner & breakfast. I will dream of those warm, freshly made croissants for years to come. We made our way up the steep road to the little store to stock up with some rations for the day. Our Alpine Exploratory route card instructions had indicated the store as a waypoint, so we thought it put us in the right direction. We met up with Bob and Matthew from Ohio and their directions seemed to jive with ours. One sign that things were not right, was that the large British group passed us going down the opposite way on the street. We found the signpost where we thought we should turn, but it never really mentioned any of the next waypoints that we needed. We were looking for Tsate,  which was our next destination, but the sign didn’t say anything close to that. Regardless the path seemed to follow with our instructions for the most part.

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Bob, Matthew and Denise heading out of La Sage on our way to getting lost.

We met up with a dirt road and were zigzagging our way up the hill. We came upon a hiker sign which seemed to point back down the hill. Denise had already blew past this marker not even slowing her pace to make sure that going up the road was correct. I waited up for Bob and Matthew and the three of us started to question whether we were going the right way now. I decided to continue up the road and try to catch up with Denise and I told Bob I would yell if I ever saw any more yellow markers. I never did. I caught up with Denise after about 2-3 more zigzags up the road and asked her if she knew where she was going. A look of panic came over her face. We decided to continue up the road, hoping it would intersect the correct trail and/or wind up in Tsate eventually. All along we never saw Bob or Matthew below us on the road. Our instructions mentioned that we should come up on a mound with a cross on it. I spotted three of crosses across the hillside! And a small group of barns, which I saw two. We could see a yellow hiker signpost near the one to the right, so we headed over that way.

 

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Heading towards Col de Tsate

By the time we reached barns we had logged about 5 miles already and we should only be doing 7 for the entire day. The sign indicated that this was in fact Tsate, so we were finally back on course. We never saw Bob and Matt which had me a little concerned. We could see a pretty large expanse of the treeless mountainside and didn’t see anyone else hiking. As we wound around the hillside and up, we could just barely see some silhouettes of hikers up the hillside in the fog. It was a very foggy morning as well, so it was much more difficult to identify cols and trails up high. We eventually made it up to a lake where we could now see pretty much everyone who had left after us that morning. So much for starting early!

We passed by most of the others while taking a break at a nice little alpine lake and continued up the col. Our directions indicated that we should be able to see our destination, Cabane du Moiry, after cresting the col. Today was so foggy we saw nothing except for the lake and a large parking lot below. Cabane du Moiry is situated high on a far hillside left of the Moiry Glacier. They say it is quite a view when not socked in with fog.

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Moiry parking lot and glacier runout

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Lac de Moiry

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The path looking up towards the socked in Moiry Glacier

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Morraine path heading to Cabane du Moiry

Even though you can usually see the Cabane, it is still very far away. We then continued descending down the hillside to the car park area right near the turquoise blue water of the stream coming from the glacier. Our route card said there can be a snack cabin below, but it was closed today. We bottomed out at the car park and started our long grunt up the morraine on the other side of the glacier towards our Cabane. The ridge became narrower and narrower as we went almost filing in as a knife edge before we descended down and back up the trail on the actual mountainside. We had to cross some leftover snow that was almost pink in color from aging. Half way through it was a hole which we had to cross. It was a little unnerving since it felt like it could fall through. We continued up to a very steep and difficult section that was almost like scaling a cliff. Then it was steep switchbacks all the way to the top. Still no Cabane to see and I just put my head down and grunted my way up. Eventually I could just barely see the roof of the cabane popping above the rocks when we were only about 150 yards away. Finally!

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Denise and I happy to finally have made it to Cabane du Moiry

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Val, Kathy, Karen and Don discuss the days hike at Cabane du Moiry

The Cabane du Moiry has recently added a new “wing” that is quite large. The downstairs is all big pine tables and large windows that look down on the glacier that runs right below it. At the end of the room is a small sitting area with some Ikea-like chairs, but much less comfortable, sitting around a small table with a large glass window and the end. Today there was no glacier to be seen.

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Cabane de Moiry Dining Hall

We got our room, which was situated above the large dining hall. It had 2 sets of bunks and a large storage area and bench that ran the length of the room. It also had a tall narrow window that looked down on what would be the glacier as well. We unpacked, got some showers(5CHF for 5 minutes), and headed down to the sitting area by the large window where most of the early arrivers where sitting and chatting. We had a few beers and chatted about the day. Eventually the fog relaxed a bit and we could see the glacier just below. Very cool. I ran out to get some pictures but it fogged up again before I could get anything decent. It had started raining pretty hard out and getting very cold. I was glad that it had held off until we had gotten to the cabane. It was supposed to by 100% chance today, but we lucked out during the hike.

Someone had mentioned that there was a cable car(gondola) down from the next days col at Sorebois and the cabance gave out free vouchers. We definitely considered this since it would give our aching knees a much needed break from the over 5500 feet of descent we had to make into Zinal tomorrow. We later found out that the gondola did not run on Mondays, so that was out. There was a bus that ran from the end of the valley to Zinal later in the morning. This did not sound quite as appealing to me. Denise was pretty sure she was going to take it. I would decide the next day after seeing how my knees faired on the downhill from the Cabane.

Bob and Matthew eventually showed up around 5pm, which was a relief. We were starting to get a bit concerned about them. They had actually returned back to La Sage after we questioned our route and restarted again on the correct trail which was down the street instead of up. They seemed a little frantic when they arrived, but were relieved to have finally made it. They also had issues at the cabane who said they didn’t have their reservation. Fortunately a credit card statement proved their purchase. We were also sharing the room with them.

Dinner was carrot, coconut, ginger soup, pork curry with couscous and chickpeas and yogurt with apple for desert. Really good meal and I was totally stuffed by the end. We sat with Herman from Holland during dinner and enjoyed some good conversation with him. He was traveling alone while trying to use up some vacation time from work. We had just caught up with him today as he was taking a couple extra days in Arolla.

As the rain got heavier out, the fog lifted so I decided to make another attempt at some pictures. I got a few a few but the best was a distant mountain to the north that had just got dusted with some fresh snow. I headed back in and rejoined the conversation with Denise and Herman. We eventually headed up to bed around 9pm or so. We did some reading and then fell off to sleep.

Haute Route 2013-Day 7-Arolla to La Sage

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The valley towards Arolla

Haute Route Hiking Stats-Day 7

Arolla to La Sage(via the bus)
Day
Hiking Time:00:18
Hiking Distance(mi):)1.03
Elevation Gain(ft):13
Cumulative Totals
Days Hiking:6
HR Hiking Time:38:57
HR Distance Hiked(mi):66.7
Elevation Gained(ft):20,515

We enjoyed a nice quiet breakfast on the second floor of the Hotel du Pigne after a good nights sleep. We watched out the windows as they were setting up the finish line for a local ultra trail run on the main street, just outside the hotel. It was a misty rain out and looked as though it had rained most of the night. Paul and Clare eventually came down to the dining room and joined us for breakfast. Today was supposed to be an easier day on the route and not very remote. The plan was to hike down the valley, paralleling the road, and then head up from the other side of the valley floor to the town of La Sage. Paul and Clare were planning on staying in Arolla another day and camping at a campground just below the hotel. We said our goodbyes after breakfast with hopes of seeing them again, which I am sure we will. If not, were now Facebook friends so we would at least be able to stay in touch with them.

We had not planned any rest days on our entire trip except for one day on each of the trip in Chamonix and Zermatt. Others we had spoken to had planned to take a rest day along the way, which started us thinking we should have done the same. With the rainy weather, the less-than exciting route and weary hiking legs, we decided that we would take the local bus from Arolla up to La Sage and make today a rest day. I checked with the front desk and found that the bus would arrive at a parking lot just below town around 12:15pm. This would allow us to take our time this morning and finish up our laundry and repack our bags.

We enjoyed our room for every possible second until checkout, which was 12pm, and then made our way down the road to the parking lot where the bus arrived. There were less buses today due to it being a Sunday and the ultra trail race also forced the bus stop to be farther away than normal. The runners from the race had began to funnel into the finish line at this point and a crowd had gathered cheering them on. It was mostly younger kids finishing, which were probably the faster competitors of the race. We cheered them on as we walked down the very steep road finally reaching the bus stop.

The bus had arrived immediately as we reached the parking lot and we hopped on and paid our fare. The driver indicated that we would need to change buses at the depot in Les Hauderes which was at the bottom of valley floor. From there we would change buses to the one going up to La Sage. The bus filled up pretty quickly and then we started our way down the valley. We had passed a pizza restaurant not too far away which was a bit disappointing since we were really looking forward to a pizza the night before. Right next to the pizza place was a campground which is probably where Paul and Clare would be staying that night. The drive was pretty scenic and we had gone through some cantilever-type tunnels along the way. We had passed the trailhead to Lac Bleu, which was a crystal blue mountain lake along the way. It was the only real scenic thing on the hike for that day, but we would have to forgo that for some much needed rest.

We arrived at the bus station in Les Hauderes and quickly hopped onto the bus to La Sage. Our bus driver gestured to us which bus we were to take since he did not speak much English. The La Sage bus started up the long, steep hill towards La Sage dropping people off along the way. We initially passed our hotel since we were not sure where it was. I told the driver and he stopped right near it on the way back down the mountain. It was dead end road going up the mountain fortunately. We got off the bus and made our way down the narrow alleys to the Hotel de La Sage.

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Hotel La Sage-Excellent Place!!

The Hotel de La Sage was well maintained old stone building with nice little decks outside each room and beautiful flowers landscaping the building. We were met by the owner, a lady of Indian descent who spoke very good English. She indicated that our room was not quite ready yet and that we could relax outside on the nearby covered patio and furniture. The little patio was arranged perfectly on the edge of the hill overlooking the mountains and the valley below from where we had just came from. It was a perfect setting to just chill. It further reinforced our decision to take it easy today.

Before we could get too relaxed, they were calling us to let us know our room was ready. We grabbed our packs and headed up to the room. It was a fabulous room and undoubtedly the best room on the trip so far. It was very clean and still preserved the old-world charm. It was comprised of three separate rooms within the room: a sitting area, a bedroom and a bathroom. The bedroom had the opening that led out to the deck with a table and chairs. It was the perfect place to dry our our clothes that hadn’t finished drying from the night before. The sun had actually popped out a bit to assist as well.

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Denise enjoying a well-deserved rest day in La Sage

Denise headed back out to the little veranda to do some reading and I took a nap after we got situated in the room. I was later awoken by the smell of something tasty emanating from the kitchen below. I sat out on the deck and enjoyed the smells from the kitchen below for a bit while Denise was chatting below with Rich, one of our fellow trekkers who had recently arrived. I eventually headed down to chat and find out how the hike had been. Lac Bleu sounded cool, but not cool enough that I wished I would have hiked today.

Denise and I then headed up the road to find something to eat. We had spotted a little outdoor cafe up the street while on the bus that we decided to check out. It was between meal times so they were only serving crepes and drinks at the time. I ordered a crepe fromage(more cheese!) and a wine and Denise got a crepe with egg(yuk!). The cafe offered the same great view as our hotel and we situated ourselves at a table that took full advantage of it. Another couple had sat down at another table not far from us who looked to also be trekkers. They had a Canon 5D Mark III camera which caught my eye. The husband didn’t seem to be too into the food they had, and the woman ate the stuff he didn’t.

We headed back to the hotel and the other hikers started funneling in. We saw Nate and Ann coming up the hill and they indicated that it wasn’t as easy as what the guide book would lead you to believe. They looked a bit weary coming up the hill. I sat out under the veranda a bit more chatting with some of the others before dinner.

There was not many places to eat in La Sage so our meals were arranged at the hotel. Good thing too…it was truly amazing. We sat at a group table with Bob & Matthew(uncle and nephew from Ohio) and Karen & Don (the couple we had seen at the cafe earlier in the day). Don & Karen had not started the Haute Route yet, which was obvious since they seemed very fresh. This was there starting point and they would be only doing a few legs before heading down to Italy for some R&R. The dinner consisted of Salmon Tartar for appetizer, Duck for main entree and caramel cheesecake for dessert(what I smelled earler). A meal worthy of a five-star restaurant. Bob, not being a “foodie” was not quite as impressed with the meal as we were but he did eat it all. The hotel was a pretty reasonably priced hotel from what the others were saying. So it is definitely worthy of a higher price I think. The dining room was all glass walls so you could look out on the surrounding valleys. A must stop place if you are through here.

We settled in for the night in preparation for another day on the trail tomorrow. It was a much-needed rest day and it will rejuvenate us for the remaining 7 days of hiking yet to come. Hard to believe we are only half-way through this trek. Tomorrow we will be hiking over to the Cabane de Moiry hut which is perched on a hill side overlooking the Moiry Glacier. It will be another long day, but the view from the hut is supposed to be well worth the effort.

Haute Route 2013-Day 6-Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla

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Lac Des Dix Sunrise

Haute Route Hiking Stats-Day 6

Cabane du Prafleuri to Arolla
Day
Hiking Time:7:32
Hiking Distance(mi):)11.4
Elevation Gain(ft):3,038
Cumulative Totals
Days Hiking:6
HR Hiking Time:38:39
HR Distance Hiked(mi):65.6
Elevation Gained(ft):20,502
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View back to Cabane de Prafleuri from Col de Roux

Another early breakfast and back on the trail by 7:43 AM. We followed Martijn for the immediate long climb up to the Col de Roux which starts 50 yards from the Cabane front door. The climb was well rewarded with a sunrise just coming over the mountain and Lac des Dix spread out below us. The lake is the second largest lake in Valais and the largest lake above 2,000 m in the Alps at 4km^2. We took some time to take in the gorgeous view and snap a few photos. It was breathtaking!

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Lac Des Dix Trail

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Glacier des Ecoulaies

We then descended down to the lake in typical zigzag fashion while taking in the magnificent views of the lake and the Glacier des Ecoulaies to the right. Once down to the lake we followed a very flat dirt road for over 3 miles to the inlet to the lake. We chatted with Bob and Matthew, an uncle and nephew from Ohio, while we lazily walked the dirt road: The only flat section of the entire 14 days. Bob was an avid cyclist and had done some pretty long rides across the country, so we instantly had good topic of conversation. There were cattle all along the shoreline grazing and I decided to try to get some pictures of them. I kept trying to slingshot myself up and past the the other hikers on the road in order stay with them, but eventually I fell back. There were a bunch of Scottish hikers behind us and they eventually came past me. The one girl in the bunch had had her hiking boots stolen at the Cabane du Mont Fort and had been hiking in another pair that had been left behind. Perhaps they were the persons’ that took hers. I eventually gave up on the cattle photos and made a push for the end of the lake to catch back up with Denise.

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Lac des Dix Sunrise

Once at the inlet, we began a very steep hike up to the right on our way to Cabane des Dix, our lunch stop. The cimb eventually lessened a bit as we walked a ridge on a morraine heading towards Tete Noir and Mt. Blanc de Cheilon behind it. The climb intensified more and cresting Tete Noir was really steep and loose footing to boot. We could then finally see the cabane below and we began descending down to it. My knee had started to ache a bit now and I started to worry it would get worse as the day went on. We eventually made it to the cabane where Martijn had already arrived. Martijn was a solo traveler from the Netherlands that had became part of the core group that was trekking the same itinerary as we were. He is tall guy and very fast hiker. He was always the first one to reach the days destination, regardless if he started before or after everyone else. We were able to chat with him a lot since we were usually coming in right behind him due to Denise’s rapid pace. I bought some fruity pound cake and a Warsteiner at the cabane for our lunch. Perfect medicine for an aching knee. The Aussie couple was there too and were planning to stay there for the night. They had plans to leave there the next morning at 5:30am and hike to Arolla, then pick up a bus to La Sage and hike to Cabane de Moiry all in one day. Seemed a bit overzealous and dangerous given the difficulty of the remainder of the day.

Eventually, Val, Kathy, and Gareth arrived at the Cabane as Denise and I were getting ready to hit the trail again. We were anxious to get to Arolla for a private room after two nights in huts.  The afternoon looked to be exciting since we had to ascend the infamous “ladders” at Pas des Chevres after crossing the large glacier just below Cabane des Dix. The descent from the cabane was not the easiest descent either. It was very steep and loose and I almost took a header several times.

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View of Cabane de Dix from the glacier below

It was actually a relief to get onto the glacier since it was flat. The glacier itself was not as exciting as I thought it would be, but the surrounding views were cool. We could see the “ladders” come into view as we got closer to the other side of the glacier. There were some ice climbers coming down the ladders that were using ropes to descend them. Hmmm?

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Mount and Glacier de Cheilon

We also heard a voice from our left calling our name. It was Paul and Clare coming up towards us. They had taken a different route than us and wound up here. Paul was not very fond of heights and was debating whether to take the “ladders” or the alternate pass which required ascending the mountain pass at a even higher elevation. I ended up telling Paul and Clare about my dealings with ladders in the past and my former panic attacks. That was probably not a good idea to bring those thoughts fresh into my head right before I did the ladders. Smooth move dude!

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Hikers chatting beneath the view of Mont Blanc de Cheilon

We ran into the climbers who had come down the ladders and asked how they were. They said that they would not have done them without ropes. Huh?! Ok, I hadn’t at all been worrying about climbing these metal rungs up until that statement. It is just a ladder for crying out loud. I didn’t realize it yet, but all this stuff is now building up in my subconscious.

Paul and Clare made the wise decision to do the pass instead of the ladders. Denise and I made our way along the steep mountainside to the ladders. Getting to the ladders was almost as difficult as the ladders themselves. I let Denise go first so I could take some pictures of her going up. The bottom of the first ladder is pretty high and she had to do a chin-up to get started. I shot a couple pictures of her and then started on my way up. She yelled down to me that it was kind of freaky which I thought was odd for her. The first two sections were fairly modern aluminum extension ladder sections, then it turned into very narrow, rusty round and slippery steel rungs that were bolted into the rock wall. Each section had been bent at the top and hung on the section above it.

When I got into the narrow, slippery steel those panic attacks of my past crept into my head now. I could feel my heartbeat begin to race as thoughts of fainting and falling off began to dance through my head. My 40 pound backpack was trying to pull me off this thing and my camera bag, mounted in front of me, kept getting stuck on the rungs as I ascended. I started to recognize what was going on in my head and instantly started to ward it off. I started consciously breathing and taking one step at a time. I immediately regained some measure of calm again and continued on, one step at a time. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Denise was going through the same issues. There were about 5 or 6 sections of ladder going up the side of the cliff wall before it met a small rock that extended out where you had to shimmy over to the right onto another 2 or 3 sections of ladder before reaching the top of Pas de Chevres.

When I reached the top of the ladders Denise and I started high-fiving each other immediately as we were relieved to have had that behind us. It was much more intense than I had ever thought it was going to be. I know most of it was in my mind, but it was rather exciting. It definitely would not have been as exciting had we been roped up and clipped in. I was kind of surprised how much it got to me. I have ice-climbed a few times in the past and that was not quite nerve-racking as this was. It could be that I was roped in then and was more exhausted too. Ladders….check!

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View from top of the ladders

Once over the Pas de Chevres it was a long, downhill slog all the way into Arolla. We saw Paul and Clare making there way over the col and were pretty surprised how quickly they got over that. They told us later that even that was a bit sketchy. There was a pretty cool glacier to our right, but other than that it was a bit boring. We hiked down at a leisurely pace so that eventually Paul and Clare would catch up to us. The time and distance estimates in our route information were a bit off again for this day. Our routecard said 10.5 miles and 4 hours, but it was 11.5 miles in 7.5 hours. Adventure, Europe, France, Haute Route, Hiking, Sports, Switzerland, event

Mont Collon Glacier

The last section before Arolla was pretty long switchbacks down a pretty steep pitch. I found myself cutting through some of them as they kind of ridiculous at some points. Eventually got into Arolla, which is a cute little ski town. We were staying at the Hotel du Pigne which was on the upper side of town. The hotel was really nice and our room was excellent. We immediately showered and did our laundry. We then walked down to the hotel patio and found Paul and Clare out there having a beer. We sat and talked with them a bit and I had one or two myself. They also decided to forgo the camping that night and get a room there too. It was a good call since it ended up raining that night.

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Rolling into Arolla

Eventually we moved inside and had a very nice dinner there. I had my first Rosti Frommage(melted cheese over grated potatoes) and Denise had a really good burger and fries. Paul and Clare also decided to get a room there too and we hung out with them and had dinner together. The others stayed at another hotel down the hill and came up to our hotel for dinner. We had a few drinks and laughs with everyone. Eventually the others left and the four of us talked a bit more before heading to bed. A long day but a good one.

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Rostii Formage

The next day was supposed to be an easy day. It was a relatively short walk down the valley and then back up the other side to the town of La Sage.

Haute Route 2013-Day 5-Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri

Layers-Mountain Views leaving Cabane du Mont Fort

Layers-Mountain Views leaving Cabane du Mont Fort

Haute Route Hiking Stats-Day 4

La Chable(Villette) to Cabane du Mont Fort
Day
Hiking Time:5:19
Hiking Distance(mi):)7.95
Elevation Gain(ft):5,397
Cumulative Totals
Days Hiking:4
HR Hiking Time:24:14
HR Distance Hiked(mi):44.4
Elevation Gained(ft):14,068

 

We woke up around 6:30am in our private little cubby hole room at the Cabane du Mont Fort. We headed down to breakfast early before most of the people except for a large group of older British folks who were heading out the door. Breakfast was the standard fare of bread, butter, jams, and cereal. We then packed up and made our way out for the long days hike to Cabane de Prafleuri. We would be going over 3 large cols today all at just under 10,000 feet elevation.

Our route card from Alpine Exploratory said to take the route that went up a stone road up the mountain where they were doing some road construction with large bulldozers. The alternate route that others were taking seemed a much more pleasing route with better views. We confirmed with our hiking compadres from the UK, Paul and Clare, that they were also taking that route. We started off down to the right of the cabane and traversed the hillside opposite it. We traversed the entire hillside for most of the morning along a very narrow path of about 1-3 feet wide eventually leading to the first col of the day, Col Termin(2648m). Almost the entire way was shaded from the sun and it was a nice cool walk in the morning. The view of the Grand Combin to our left was stunning the entire time.

We stopped at Col Termin for a little while and chatted with Rich from San Luis Obispo who had caught up with us. The rest of the group of single travelers caught up eventually and then we headed on our way still traversing the hillside, but this time in the sun. We now had views of Lake Louvie and the Cabane of the same name far below in the valley. There was also a large dammed lake further beyond in a valley behind it. We passed a group of some other Americans slowly climbing up out of the valley after staying at Cabane Louvie.

Eventually we came to the start of the climb to Col de Louvie(2921m) which turned into more boulders and scree. A path also came in from the left from Col de Chaux, which was were we would probably would have come into if we took the recommended Alpine Exploratory route. Once we crested the col, we stopped and had a lunch of bars we lugged from home. I am kind of wishing I would not have brought so many now. They are heavy for one, but the baguettes and cheese everyone else is eating looks so good. Eventually the rest of the group caught up and had some lunch as well. We chatted a bit with them before making our way through the left over snow right after the col and down across the valley to Col de PraFleuri.

After making our way down the bouldered descent to the dead glacier of Rosanblanche to what is appropriately named the Grand Desert. It is a very rocky and lined with cairns to find your way across to the Col de Prafleuri(2965m). While making our way across we caught up to the older British group who had left when we were heading down to breakfast. They didn’t seem to happy about letting us pass either. We found an alternate route around them while heading up a morraine on the one side. One of the faster guys in that group was up ahead and had spotted an Ibex standing on the top of a nearby cliff. By the time I switched my wide angle lens with my telephoto, the animal had laid down, so I could only get a shot of his head.

Ibex on the Point-Haute Route Switzerland

Ibex on the Point-Haute Route Switzerland

Denise did not seem very amused by the animal and continued on. She seemed to be in a race for the remainder of the afternoon and I never caught up with her until the Cabane we were staying at. Once I crested the col, it was a steady downhill through a cut that had a large metal pipe running up it. The Cabane was located in what looked to me like a old quarry. There were tracks running along that looked like a bulldozer would use them and some strange man-made platforms at the bottom where you could load one of those large dump trucks.

Heading towards Cabane de Perfleuri

Heading towards Cabane de Perfleuri

Cabane de Perfleuri

Cabane de Perfleuri

The cabane was located up a steep hill on the other side of the quarry. I saw Denise arrive at the cabane as I was still coming down. By the time I got there she had already checked in. We were sharing a room with an Australian couple we had seen at the previous hut. They were not very chatty and kind of kept to themselves, but they seemed nice. We got the top bunk in the room which was fine. We got some tokens for the shower, which were 5 Francs for 3 minutes. 1 Franc more and 1 minute longer than last night. There is only one bathroom at the Cabane de Prafleuri which is kind of odd. 2 urinals are right out there for men to take a leak while women can be washing up in the sink or showering. A bit of a weird setup. The showers were warm, but lacked any place to put things. They felt so good though after a long hike.

Cabane de Perfleuri

Cabane de Perfleuri

I then enjoyed a couple of beers and snacks outside on the patio while talking with Martijn from the Netherlands. Eventually Rich showed up and so did the others. The showers began to form a long line of people waiting. I was glad to have gotten there so early. I also heard that the hot water had run out. While going the bathroom that evening, I could hear our friend Clare in the showering shivering out loud. The other thing that stinks at Prafleuri is that you cannot drink the water. You have to buy 1.5l bottles for 8 Francs. A bit steep!

Dinner was served around 6:30pm. It was really good. We had a bean/lentil soup to start and then some pork stew on rice for the main meal. Yes the vegan thing is a bit on hold for this vacation. Everything here is about bread, dairy, and meat. Not sure how they eat this stuff and stay so thin. For desert we had some pear with chocolate sauce on it.

After dinner we turned in early and did some reading and journal writing. Another big day tomorrow to the town of Arolla. Looking forward to having a hotel room and private bathroom.

Haute Route 2013-Day 4-La Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort

Haute Route Hiking Stats-Day 4

La Chable(Villette) to Cabane du Mont Fort
Day
Hiking Time:5:19
Hiking Distance(mi):)7.95
Elevation Gain(ft):5,397
Cumulative Totals
Days Hiking:4
HR Hiking Time:24:14
HR Distance Hiked(mi):44.4
Elevation Gained(ft):14,068

Today is slated as one of the more difficult stages of the Haute Route. This is mostly due to the over 5500 feet of climbing elevation gained. Personally we are looking forward to this stage since both of us prefer going up over going downhill. I am also looking forward to getting more into the heavy alps. Everything up to now just doesn’t seem totally “Alpy” yet.

We started off the day around 7am since the traffic noise outside the Hotel Gietroz was a little too loud to sleep any longer. We had a nice breakfast, although I missed the server yourself manner like the other places had. We had some cereal, croissants and bread with butter, jelly and my new favorite, Nutella.

There was a large group of other hikers mingling outside the hotel as we ran up to the post office to mail a post card and get some money from the ATM. We had asked Alpine Exploratory, our tour company, if we could possibly skip staying at the last hut on the trip, the Europahutte, in lieu of staying at another hut called Cabane des Dix in a few nights. This would could be a pain since they would have to push back our other lodging reservations a night. So, I needed some extra money in case we needed to pay for it ourselves.

We started off down the street on our hike following 3 other male hikers. These were the same guys who we had seen at the pizza shop in Sembrancher. They seemed a bit puzzled with the first couple turns and we did as well. We all figured it out and started the long slog straight up the hillside. We eventually passed them and then caught up to the larger group we had seen congregating at the hotel earlier. We followed them up the hill for a while, and eventually passed half of them at a small church along the way. There were a bunch of younger hikers with their group that we hung behind for awhile until they stopped to rest or wait for the others. They let us past and we didn’t see them again for quite some time.

We just kept steadily pressing our way up the narrow switchbacks that never seemed to end. Miles and miles of winding up a very steep hill. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It was still 10x better than going downhill for sure. We eventually reached a café at about halfway which was about a tenth of a mile down a lane. We bagged it since it didn’t look open anyway and we didn’t feel like going down for nothing if it was closed. The route card also indicated a picnic area further up which sounded good.

After more zigzags on a road now we came upon another couple, Ann and Nate, who we had seen at breakfast. They were sitting in the shade having a snack break. We chatted with them for a few minutes about travel and photography and then headed further up the road to a picnic grove. We enjoyed some bars and coffee and tea from our thermos’. As we munched our goodies,  Ann and Nate passed on through as did the younger bunch of the big group. There was an older couple enjoying a picnic in the picnic grove as well. They had a fire rolling and were cooking up some food on it. Eventually the older bunch from the big group came by and settled into the picnic grove. By then we had started packing up and continued up a cat track from the Verbier/Les Ruinettes ski area.

Eventually we same out of the treeline and could see the top lift of the ski area. A bunch of hangliders had spread out their kites on the ground preparing for flight. They were taking off one after the other and filling the sky. It was pretty cool.

From their we followed a bisse(irrigation water ditch) around the mountain for most of the way. It was all open now with no trees and the views were amazing. Eventually we rounded a bend and Cabane du Mont Fort, our nights accommodations, was revealed. The landscape had also changed from meadowy fields to jagged rock and scree. It reminded me of being on the moon. One aspect that did disappoint me was the chairlift and gondola poles and wires drapped across the landscape. I had expectations of a more remote landscape and this made me feel like I was in the middle of the ski area.

Denise on the final approach to Cabane du Mont Fort

Denise on the final approach to Cabane du Mont Fort

We made one final push up the cat tracks to the Cabane which seemed like the steepest part yet. The Cabane had looked so close initially, but was so much farther away than it seemed. We eventually reached it, racked our boots and poles, grabbed some Crocs off the shelf and found the guardian to get our room. We had a nice private 2 cot room on the second floor. We unpacked and quickly headed for the showers. They were 4 Francs for 2 minutes which didn’t sound like a lot, but if you turn the water off while lathering it is quite a good amount of time.

Our cozy accomodations in Cabane du Mont Fort

Our cozy accomodations in Cabane du Mont Fort

Apres Hike at Cabane du Mont Fort – relaxing on the deck after a long hike with Nate, Clare, Paul, Anne & Martijn

After cleaning up, we headed out on the deck to have a couple beers. The British couple we had met in Sembrancher the day before, Paul and Claire, were on the desk having a couple beers already. We found out they had taken a gondola up to the top. We had a nice afternoon chatting with Paul and Claire, Ann and Nate, and some of the other folks from the large group too. We were getting very hungry and it seemed like forever until 6:30PM came when dinner was served. We enjoyed some vegetable soup, salad and penne pasta with meat sauce dinner. We also had a vanilla pudding for  dessert. It really hit the spot for me.

After dinner I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed out for some sunset pictures. Nate is also a photographer and was out there as well. I think I managed a few good shots, but they will require some blending I think.

Sunset on Mont Blanc from Cabane du Mont Fort

Denise and Ann were chatting when I returned to the cabane. We talked a bit more and then headed in for the night. Tomorrow will be another tough day as we make our way over 3 mountain passes to Cabane de Perfleuri; tomorrow nights accommodations.