Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Start: Montroc, Gite le Moulin
End: Refuge La Flágère
Elevation: 4000′ gain, 2291′ descent
After an amazing dinner and dessert at a quiet table with just us and Michael last night, we had showers and a lovely, cool night sleep. Breakfast this morning was very nice, and then we packed up and headed out by 7:30 or so. From the refuge (~1300m/4264′), we walked with Michael for 15 minutes uphill to get back to the TMB. Michael then hiked ahead at his own pace, and Toby and I set out shortly after.
We climbed over perpetual switchbacks up to the metal ladders, right past the Aiguillette d’Argentière (1893m/6210′). Around here, we saw a number of climbers setting up gear to climb the nearby crags. There were maybe a dozen and a half solid metal ladders of varying sizes we had to climb. There was a variente to go around the ladders, but it looked extremely steep and we decided to go the main route. Overall, the ladders were pretty easy and straightforward. After some more switchbacks, we finally made it to Tête aux Vents (2132m/6993′).
From that peak, we followed the trail straight towards Lac Blanc, not taking the left-hand turn-off for the TMB. We were soon engulfed in crowds of day hikers and their hordes of children who all ride the cablecar up from Chamonix to take short hikes around the mountains with minimal effort. We climbed and passed by the Lacs de Chéserys. From here, the trail up to Lac Blanc was very steep and very crowded; it involved many wood-braced steps and another metal ladder section. Once we climbed up to the Lac (2352m/7715′), we found a quiet corner and had a snack. We had already been informed the night before at Le Moulin that Refuge du Lac Blanc was closed. We decided to vacate the area quite quickly, as the hundreds of people were loud and overwhelming.
The downward descent to La Flágère was long, technical, and frustrating. There were hundreds of people above us, below us, and around us. Few of them knew anything about trail etiquette, and they often would be less than one full step behind you, just about breathing down your neck. There were also a number of adolescent boys that would sprint down the path, shoving people out of the way as they ran past.
Once we arrived at the cablecar station, we descended another 1-2 minutes to get to the refuge (1875m/6150′). We arrived around 3pm; we checked in, got our bunks, and then went back to the cablecar station area to find lunch. The restaurant was astronomically expensive – they wanted 9 euro for a cup of coffee and 15,50 for a kid’s meal. That was a quick no. So we went with the snack stand instead; unfortunately, they clearly don’t cater to vegetarians. The only non-meat sandwich they sold was a butter and cheese baguette. So baguette (and chips and beer) it was! But food is sweeter when shared with friends; Michael and Gee ate with us and we had fun chats for an hour or so before Gee needed to leave. Michael is staying here at La Flágère as well, and then will be heading into Chamonix to catch a bus tomorrow.
After a late lunch, we settled into our room, showered, and set out clothes to dry. Then we had a very nice time relaxing out on the front lawn of the refuge with Michael, basking in the amazing view of Mont Blanc.