The main route from Tré le Champ to La Flégère would lead over a ladder section that was meant to be steep and probably not the best choice for someone like me who was afraid of the heights. Knowing my limits I opted to take a longer detour that would reunite with the TMB at La tete aux Vents.
But before I could start my hike I was on a mission. At breakfast I grabbed a couple of apples and a banana, the only things I could smuggle out for my camping friends. Ready to hit the trail I sneaked over to the campground and dropped my prey in front of Cliffs tent. I was tempted to say good morning but then decided to let him sleep. As quiet as I came I went away hoping that some vitamins would help my friends over today’s mountains!
A beautiful detour
From Tré le Champ (1417m) it was more than 600 meters of climbing no matter if I took the ladder section or not. I walked up the road to find the trailhead of the alternate route I had chosen on the map. While I saw a lot of hikers taking off for the main route, there was just a couple on the alternate.
It was still nice and cool when I started hiking on the alternate route. Coming down the mountain the day before I had already seen the countless switchbacks the trail made up the mountain – now I could feel them! And again around the corner, a few steps between rocks, another corner, left, right and left again…. I looked up. Would it ever end?
After what felt like eternity I reached the 2000m marker according to the altimeter of my watch. And also the trail changed. It levelled off abit and led through a very beautiful high-altitude valley with a small river, lush green meadows, pretty pink flowers – and there in the distance… What’s that?
The alpine ibex
Between a pile of stones I could spot an alpine ibex. He was probably more than 50 meters away when I first saw him. I stood still and watched the animal come closer. I stood still for probably more than 30 minutes and watched the ibex walk around and look for food. Every now and then he looked at me but as I didn’t move fast and didn’t make loud noises he seemed to accept me. He came as close as three meters!
When he got close I could see that he was still young. The hair on his back still looked fluffy and he was small. After a while another ibex showed up between the stone pile and came to join the little one. Maybe his mom?
Hiking towards Tete aux Vents (2130m)
After watching these beautiful animals for quite a while I hiked on. The trail crested along the mountainside and crossed some stonefields before it finally led me to La Tete aux Vents where the alternate meets the TMB. I could already see lots of hikers sitting next to the stone pile that marked this special spot on trail. Sitting down in the green grass I put on more sunscreen and looked around for some familiar faces.
I met one of the Israelian guys again and he told me I should definitely hike up to see Lac Blanc. He even showed me some photos on his phone. Should I go?
The Scottish family was there as well and Caroline told me that they all took the detour up to Lac Blanc as well. I hadn’t planned on taking that route before but it was still before lunch and seeing every other hiker heading that way I just joined in. I was only here once, right?!
Lacs des Chèserys
Climbing up towards Lac Blanc I arrived at some other lakes very soon. A quick look on my map revealed that these were the Lacs des Chèserys. They were already really beautiful and I was wondering how much better Lac Blanc could be.
A strenuous climb up to Lac Blanc (2352m)
Climbing up it got steeper and all of a sudden I could see them: metal ladders build into the rock! Well, now I was on this section and I had to go. It was busy with lots of people and a couple was climbing the ladders before me taking videos of their accomplishment. In this moment when I just wanted to pass that section quickly it was getting on my nerves a lot! Slowly I made my way up the ladders holding my poles in one hand additional to the handrail. It wasn’t too bad at all.
The ladders itself are not really my problem. It’s more the drop-off and the steep landscape around. But climbing up to Lac Blanc the drop-off wasn’t too bad. It was just challenging. The ladders were followed by some wooden steps. I often stepped on the grown rocks instead, trusting nature more than the man-made and often rotten steps. It got more and more busy and additional to the harsh climb I had to let people pass who came down the mountain.
Lac Blanc – still a beautiful alpine lake?!
After climbing up one last snowfield I reached the building of Refuge Lac Blanc. The refuge was closed. The amount of people I saw up there sitting around the lake and on the terrace of the refuge surprised me. Wasn’t it difficult to get up? (Not so much from the other side as I would find out later)
I tried to see the beauty in the icy and cristal blue lake surrounded by snowcovered mountains but I couldn’t. I searched for ahalfway quiet spot and sat down. Staring at the water surface and all the people around I basically witnessed how mass tourism destroys a vulnerable eco system. The snow around the lake wasn’t untouched anymore, there were footsteps everywhere! A lot of people had to jump into the lake for a quick swim or just to be a cool person?!
Lac Blanc is supposed to be a beautiful place to visit, an alpine paradise…. for me it wasn’t a paradise at all!
Finish at La Flégère
I descended down towards La Flégère (1877m) passing by another small lake that looked much more inviting. It wasn’t as crowded as Lac Blanc.
When I booked my accommodations along the trail I couldn’t get a bed at Refuge La Flégère and therefore booked a hotel room in Les Praz which is a part of Chamonix. From La Flégère I could take the cable car down and up again the next morning.
The descend down was rather unspectacular and I didn’t take any photos. Not even from the cable car station La Flégère which was a touristy place with an over-priced kiosk for snacks and drinks. Arriving at La Flégère I bumped into Jade and Dillon who were waiting for their dad. Devon arrived as well and we all decided to meet up in Chamonix for a beer. When Cliff arrived the three South Africans decided to skip the last day and end their hike right here. After a long hiking day and with tired legs it was tempting and I thought about it too.
When we bought our cable car ticket I bought a return ticket. No excuses, I will hike the whole circuit!
My hotel was close to the cable car station Les Praz and I had to take a bus to Chamonix center. Walking through the touristy shopping street I tried to connect with Devon and Jade to meet them somewhere. The most-time-not-working-French-internet-connection was a big hindrance! But somehow we managed and Devon and I enjoyed a traditional cheese fondue for dinner before we met Dillon and Jade for a beer in a local pub.
When it was time to get back to the hotel no bus was running anymore (the buses of Chamonix only run till around 8 pm) and I had to walk back the 3 km to my hotel in Les Praz. Apart from doing some extra kilometers I enjoyed the walk through the cool air of the evening.
But I was tired when I finally arrived and sank into my comfortable hotel bed. Time to recharge my batteries for the last day of the tour!
–> next post: Day 11 – La Flégère to Les Houches
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