Despite having the worst sleep of my week hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc so far, I felt strong this morning and charged ahead for two hours through the Swiss section of the mont blanc hike.
I was surprised because often I feel quite awful for the first hour or so of a hiking day before getting into my stride. The Lac du Champex was just as beautiful in the morning light as it had been the previous evening.
I had to carefully find my way out of Champex and through the woods down into the valley. The guidebook instructions were adequate but I did meet a group of British hikers who were going around in circles in the woods relying on GPS navigation (insisted upon by a man needless to say). I was nearly at the first village of Arpeche when I saw them emerging from the woods far behind me.
This green valley has some lovely old villages, although very quiet. Praz de Fort has old wooden barns alongside new chalets. The pristine water fountains are hospitably decorated and there were a few garden gnomes in evidence.
The next few hours of walking are a bit dull to be honest and, once again, the weather was baking hot. The intense heat and dry air added a challenge to what would probably have been an easy day. It was even difficult to find decent places to stop and rest in the heat.
Finally the track meets up with the Dranc de Ferret River again and the landscape becomes slowly more interesting. The pale stream tumbles loudly down its rocky bed. There are a number of waterfalls feeding it from on high.
At last I found the perfect lunch spot. Just before the turn off to Prayon someone has helpfully dammed a stream with some logs to form a shallow pool. I took off my dusty boots and dipped my feet in the icy water. Only for a few seconds at a time otherwise it hurt!
I stayed here for a long time and felt rested and restored. There was grass under foot, dappled light through the trees, the sound of the river, and the glacier du Dolent peeking through the trees. Bliss.
It was really far too hot to accidentally add an hour to my day by missing my way through La Fouly (I think things have changed since the guidebook was written) and climbing up a hot and dusty farm track to the Alpage La Fouly.
The TMB signs seemed to point up the hill – there were yellow diamonds (the Swiss marking) and even the old fashioned red and white striped waymark. I have to say today was the first day I felt less than confident about my way finding and kept getting my book out to check I was on the right path.
There is significantly less modern signage here in Switzerland compared to the French sections of the Tour du Mont Blanc. I even crossed out a few sentences in the guidebook today. You definitely need the guidebook, a map and common sense to route find in Switzerland.
Anyway, as a result of my hiking diversion, I can share with you the spectacular views from up on the alpage, both of Mont Dolent and the glacier and le Tete Noir that dominate the landscape and also support the Franco/Swiss border. I did it for you, dear reader.
Once the alpage has been gained (there are only a few dilapidated buildings here) the farm track ends and a tiny path begins to traverse the hillside, where more TMB waymarks are in evidence, around to the picturesque village of Ferret.
My destination was the Hotel Col de Fenetre, with its cool garden and Walliser Valaisanne beer. It costs three Swiss francs for a shower when you’re staying in the dormitory but I would have paid much more I was so hot and sweaty by the time I arrived!
After a solo hiking day it was strange to find myself the only guest at the hotel. This was unique in my whole Tour du Mont Blanc – everywhere else was full. I think most people had stopped at La Fouly. Ah well, at least I didn’t have to try and converse with Italian mountain bikers like last night.
In fact I felt completely special when the hotel staff prepared and served me an exquisite meal (included in the demi pension price)! A local beef dish with organic polenta, following a wonderful vegetable soup and followed by a fresh raspberry panacotta. All washed down with a local fendant wine.
And I had the whole dormitory to myself so I had the best sleep of the whole trip!
By Natasha von Geldern
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