Mont Blanc is sighted!
Aside from the fact that yesterday was an 11 hour day, by the end of which we’d covered around 25km, 75% of which was uphill, our refuge had in actual fact placed us an hour & a half ahead of the start point of Stage 3 in the guide. This was great, as Stage 3 was only a 5 hour day at 15km in total & only went up 1004m. So “doddle” we thought. We even toyed around with the idea of having some ‘free time’ (I can’t help but say this in a slightly hysterical voice) to ourselves in the afternoon. Great!
However. Remember yesterday when I mentioned about there being 11 stages to the trek…? And that we were condensing those stages in to 10 days…? Without any rest days…? Well, we hadn’t. Enter ‘huge mistake number two’.
Upon reading further, it turns out that although we have saved an hour and a half off Stage 3, we have had added in 3.5 hours from Stage 4. Add this to the exhaustion we both feel & the fact that again, most of the day was uphill, you can see why in the end today has taken 8.5 hours to complete. We climbed 1400m, reaching a height of 2430m (which is the highest point on the trek so far) & covered 20km in distance. And we crossed over in to Italy!!!
Although another gruelling day, today has got to be the best so far. We got right up close & personal with the main attraction – Mont Blanc itself. Once we reached it – by about 10am – the rest of the day was spent walking parallel to it. It is just MASSIVE! And sooo beautiful.
I reached it ahead of Mike & spent some time setting up my zoom lense on my camera, taking lots of really nice long range pictures. Then a Chinese girl asked me if I’d take some pictures of her with Mont Blanc in the background. “Of course” I said. So I duly took a couple for her, then I asked her to do the same. I must admit, I did think it strange that she was pointing my camera at a completely different angle to the photos I’d taken for her, but I didn’t think anything of it. But a few minutes later she came back over to me & asked me if I could take another photo please, this time with the right mountain in the background…
So I’ve taken loads of lovely long range pictures of the wrong mountain. I’ve no idea which one it is, but it certainly isn’t MB. Now I know which one MB is, I obviously have plenty of pictures of it, but that was a close thing. Sorry random Chinese lady. I told you my brain was mush!
So we set off again, onwards. There seems to be a bit of an unsaid rule that you have to greet everyone you pass on the trail. I have to say it gets a bit irritating after a while – especially when you’re struggling to breathe! But, we’ve embraced it. And to be honest, I think you’d struggle to tell me apart from a real French person now – my ‘bonjour’ is absolutely perfect! I been do the pouty thing on ‘bon’, as well as the traily off bit at the end where you don’t actually pronounce the ‘r’. Just like the proper French do!
So it threw me a little as we walked away from MB when I presented my best ‘bonjou…’ to the next person, only to be dealt a ‘buongiorno’ in return! We had crossed over in to Iatly, but nobody had told me! No passport office, no strip search, nothing!
So now I’m working on my Italian. I’ve been buongiorno’ing all day, but I think there’s still some work to do. I’ll have it nailed by the time we get to Switzerland!
Flaky wifi means that my iCloud photos are struggling to come through, but I’ll keep trying. Today was THE BEST DAY for pictures so far – MB, vast valleys, huge glacial falls… and EPIC panoramic views. Hopefully I can get some up soon.
But the best part of today was the ribbon. At the highest point, with MB’s vast southern side in the background, I was able to photograph the ribbon bearing the 50+ names. The names that, each time I have thought “can I do this”, have given me the strength & motivation to keep putting one foot in from of the other again & again & again. A trip that started life as just another adventure has turned in to one of such poiniancy & meaning. I am honoured to be able to dedicate this to the memory of so many. I’ll get the pictures of that up just as soon as I can.
So we arrived at this evening’s refuge at 5.30pm – again, way behind schedule. Tonight’s establishment is a PROPER refuge. We’re in a room with about 20 other people, male & female, with the only thing not being communal is your allocated bed! I shall be sleeping with my ear plugs jammed in very hard tonight!
I was slightly shocked to step out of the shower to a horse staring at me. But it seems to be commonplace as the owner drove by & shouted at the horse as he went & the horse moved on. Later he was seen with his nose pressed up against the dorm window (the horse, not the owner). Curious.
Tomorrow is looking like another monster day – 18km ascending 860m. The 860m ascent will all be in the first 2 hours, so more prayers please if you see this in time!
And so to bed. I’m up with the last few finishing this off, so I’m anticipating all sorts of braying & whinnying as I enter the dorm… & maybe the odd other noise too no doubt!
I’ll leave you with one of the panoramic views from today. Hopefully more will be on the Cloud by tomorrow.