Monday, July 23, 2018
Start: Champex, Gite Bon Abri
End: Col de la Forclaz, Hotel du Col de la Forclaz
Mileage: standard: 10.0; variente: 8.7
Elevation: standard: 3191′ gain, 3032′ descent; variante: 5322′ gain, 5169′ descent
Stage: 8; Toby took the standard way, and I took the variente
Last night was less pleasant than it might otherwise have been. There were 6 of us who were quiet and respectful of each other in the dormitory room. However, there was a group of Irish hikers who took over the remaining 14 beds. They stayed up late into the night drinking, and did not return to the hostel room until 10:45pm, well after any hostel’s quiet time and with 6 of us sleeping. They turned on all of their cellphone lights, banging things and crinkling bags, talking at the top of their lungs, making jokes that only drunks think are funny and then laughing uproariously. They woke everyone up, including those with earplugs in. They didn’t even try. The man sleeping next to me smelled like he hadn’t showered in 3-4 days, and there is no excuse for that on this trip, especially as the group had additional bags shuttled location to location.
In the morning, they were all up at 6am, banging around and talking loudly to each other. Despite the windows and skylights, which provided plenty of light, at 6:15am, they turned the dorm lights on, with 6 of us still in bed trying to sleep. Toby and I couldn’t stand it anymore and spoke up, telling them to turn the f-ing lights off. Someone did, making muttering comments under their breath while doing so.
And to add further insult to injury, they acted like breakfast was only meant to feed them. They took all 3 containers of milk to their table, when it was clearly meant to be shared between them and the other 40 people staying at this hostel. Toby went to get coffee and lost patience when he saw they had horded the milk. He sarcastically asked if any of the rest of us were intended to have milk, and demanded they share it. Some of the milk was handed over, with more muttered comments being made.
The whole experience made everyone in that room more than a little grouchy this morning. Toby and I decided the night before that I would hike the variente and he would hike the standard TMB, so we separated right from the start at 7:30am, with Toby and I going completely different directions.
On Toby’s hike, he started from Gite Bon Abri and went to Plan de L’Au (1330m/4362′). From there, he hiked up to Alp Bovine (1987m/6517′) and had a snack, and then hiked up to the peak of Collet Portalo (2040m/6691′). After some slow and steady downhill, he arrived at the Col de la Forclaz (1526m/5005′) around 2:45pm.
On my hike, I retraced our steps for 15 minutes to get back to where the TMB variente split from the main route near the chairlift (1450m/4756′). I took the right and headed up the path. The route followed an irrigation canal for quite a while on a woods walk on the way up to Relais d’Arpette (1627m/5336′). I stopped there for a quick bathroom break and to get more water. I decided to bring an extra half liter with me, as the next opportunity to get potable water wasn’t to be for another ~5 hours.
From there, the trail continued to climb up a gravel single track until it ended, and the trail went to the right. After this, the trail began to climb into the rocks and gravel of the Val d’Arpette. After a few hours of brutal climbing, I made it to the Fenêtre d’Arpette (2665m/8741′) by 11am.
On my climb, I’d found myself nauseous. I wasn’t sure if it was the elevation change, hunger, or if it was my hiker hunger setting in (there hasn’t been that much food available; I’m really frugal and so much of the food is prohibitively expensive, breakfast is generally very light, and vegetarian meals almost always lack any protein). I had a solid snack at the peak, hiding behind a rock to stay out of the bitterly cold wind. Some black mountain birds tried to forcibly share my snack crackers, but I fended them off.
From there, the long descent started. There were a lot of switch backs in the middle, with fabulous views of the Glacier du Trient. In the bottom third, the trail had been washed out in many places, so I had to maneuver around and across large swaths of mud and gravel at sharp, 60° angles, with a long way to fall underneath.
I arrived at the Chalet du Glacier Buvette (1583m/5192′) around 12:30pm. I was surprised to find that they did not offer potable water to passersby, and the bathrooms were for customers only. I set up water treatment drops, and while I waited for them to develope, I bought a Sprite and drank it. I then got glacier melt water from the roaring creek next to the Chalet, and headed down the trail towards Col de la Forclaz. I arrived at the hotel there around 1:45pm.
I checked in, reserved our bunks, showered, and found the laundry line to dry my day’s sweaty clothes. I also went across the street to the little tourist trap shop, and got an Oreo ice cream bar. Toby arrived shortly after, and we got him settled in. After hanging his laundry, we went across the street to an open field with a tree, and sat in its shade, to get some peace and quiet.
It appears that many people decide to find lodging in Trient and La Peuty (30 minutes and 45 minutes away, respectively). However, our Irish friends from last night are staying the night here. It seems that they’ll be staying in a different dormitory, which is good, because otherwise, we’d need to have some words. As of right now, there’s only 5 people in the 12 person bunk room we’re in. I’m hopeful that we won’t get many more people tonight. I know that at least two people who were going to stay in this room decided to upgrade to an available private room. We shall see! I’m excited for dinner!