Tour du Mont Blanc with the Liebermans and VanCotts • September 24 - October 4, 2017

Jamie, Andrea, David and Laurie all came to Chamonix for an autumn Tour du Mont Blanc with Kathy. Their timing was excellent for (mostly) great weather, as well as a peaceful and relatively solitary experience. We shared the trail and the huts with a small, friendly group of fellow travelers, far from the great crowds that can make this justifiably popular route feel a bit like a highway at times.

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But wait, who's that extra guy in the middle? Mark joined us for a couple of our days on the trail. From left to right are: Jamie, David, Mark, Kathy, Laurie, and Andrea.


Day 1, not long after starting out, we cross the hanging bridge over the Torrent de Bionnassay.


The sun grew more generous in the early afternoon as we approached the Col du Truc.


On top of Mont Truc, we take a moment to soak it all in.


And to celebrate!


Soon we arrived at our first way station, the Hotel Gai Soleil, with its welcoming gardens in the sunshine.


Our second day began at the chapel of Notre Dame de la Gorge.


The aforementioned gorge lies a couple of kilometers up a steep forest road. The site of an ancient roman route, this bridge spans the dark and cavernous slot canyon.


Breaking back out into both sunshine and the alpine zone, the miles click by.


At the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, we meet some hardy Romanian mountain bikers heading in the opposite direction, and David obligingly snaps their photo at the high point.


Along with some newfound friends from China, we celebrate the last night this hut will be open this season.


The following morning dawned clear and pink, for our climb over the Col des Fours.


David takes in the sunshine just above the col.


We descend endless steep meadows back toward the valley and the Torrent des Glaciers.


And then it's back up the other side! We've come a long way already from the col (near the upper right corner in this photo), and we have a long way yet to go before this day is done. The great weather helps.


Heading into Italy, and the Val Veny, we have crossed the Col de la Seigne and it's all downhill from here.


The warm and friendly Elisabetta hut awaits us, with all the comforts we need, and then some. Including (excellent) wine from the innkeeper David's own family vineyards.


Our next day dawns a bit less auspiciously, with valley fog slow to clear.


We do eventually rise above most of the clouds, as they slowly disperse and give way to patchy sunshine.


Incredible views into the Val Veny, over to Mont Blanc, and the astounding moraines of the Glacier du Miage.


The descent into Courmayeur seems endless, but at last we hit the narrow lanes of the old town.


And ultimately to our hotel. Some of us are psyched to see it!


We took a "rest" day in Courmayeur. Most opted for the spa in Pré Saint Didier (wise choice), while others chose to head up to Pointe Helbronner for a bit of alpine climbing.


Mark kindly joined us for this jaunt, not only bringing over the necessary glacier gear, but leading the climb too!



Things getting exciting on the North Ridge of the Petit Flambeau. Not quite as burly as this photo looks, or at least not continously so. A good challenge, all the same.


Jamie takes a moment mid climb, woo hoo!


After the rock scrambling, a scenic steep snow ridge leads to the top.


Jamie and Mark on the tippy top (it's pretty solid actually).


We all reunited for a great dinner in Courmayeur, feeling refreshed.


And it's a good thing, too, as we have another big day to come. Heading out the following morning above Courmayeur, through the woods and up the Mont de la Saxe.


The autumn colors in full swing.


Climbing above the Rifugio Bertone, Courmayeur is far below already.


It's getting pretty out!


Our trail winds high along the ridge top, nothing now blocks our view of the outrageous southern flanks of Mont Blanc.


We still have a fair bit of climbing to do; luckly the views keep us inspired even though our "dogs" are begining to "bark".


The end of the climbing is in sight now.


The last steps of the climb!


And this photo on top of Testa Bernarda bears repeating just because... damn, we're good!


A few hours later, well ensconced in the beautifully situated Bonatti hut, we dash out to catch the sunset before dinner.


Which is delicious, by the way.


The next morning, we start out above a sea of valley fog.


Which lends drama to an already dramatic vista.


We eventually turn our backs to it and climb over the Grand Col Ferret.


A quick chilly picnic on the top...


Then it's down....


.... down...


... down to the lowlands, and to town!


Where David makes a new friend.


Our next day continues mostly in deep forest.


Dewdrops highlight delicate needles and cobwebs in the places the sunlight breaks through.


Another village, with its oldy-timey barns and beautifully restored chalets.


Places where Switzerland looks a lot like Nepal, or vice versa.


Whimsy in the woods, someone has scattered wood carvings to entertain and educate us about mushrooms as we walk along.


A much needed and well deserved coffee break on the outskirts of Champex Lac.


But we have a bit more climbing through woods to reach our next lodging place in the Val d'Arpette.


The following morning the rain finally catches up to us. Kathy was sparing with the photos to protect her (Mark's) borrowed camera, but it really wasn't that bad, according to Laurie! Of course, as is well known, the camera can't tell the difference between a smile and a grimace. Which is this? You decide.


A long, tough climb through boulders and steep track brings us at last to the Fenêtre d'Arpette, one of the two highest points of our trek.


It's downhill from here to the Col de Forclaz!


Still, it's a long and steep way before we reach the relative comfort of the woods again.


And finally the Col, and our hotel (just around the corner! I promise!).


OK, it had to happen. Real rain for our day of return into France and the Chamonix valley. We can deal!


Laurie and David won't let a little wet goretex dampen their spirits.


The sun even broke through for a few minutes, leading us to false hope...


But, sadly, this is what we were dealing with as we approached the Col de Balme and the border.


Hunkering down in the lee of the (closed) refuge, we briefly escape the lashing rain and steady wind. But it's all downhill from here, to Le Tour, and a bus!


On our last day, as all other lifts were closed and some of us had already explored the trails of the Aiguilles Rouges, we took in the top of the world! i.e. the Aiguille du Midi cable car and top station.


There was a film crew setting up to shoot a scene for a Spanish drama of some sort... Beautiful photogenic weather for it, but cooooold!


The last item on our agenda was to enjoy the sunshine and a picnic under the Chamonix Aiguilles.


The Aiguille du Midi reflected in the still waters of Lac Bleu.


More reflections.


But all things must come to an end. Our odyssey is over, and it's time to return to loved ones and home! Thank you all, Liebermans and VanCotts, for a fantastic trip and the best possible company.

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