My second day started with an important duty. I had to take care of the upcoming blisters in the back of my heels. The tape I used on day one had made things worse and I was facing seriously big blisters on every foot! With mixed feelings I put on two blisterpads and some tape on top. Hopefully it would prevent further damage. I definitely didn’t pack enough blisterpads for such an issue therefore will need to get some later along the trail.
Breakfast was a little less (no nutella!) than at the last hut in Les Houches but I had great company. After an extended morning chat with my fellow hikers and a not-so-extended chat with the French guys I packed my backpack and was ready to go. My second day on the Tour du Mont Blanc was supposed to be a little shorter due to the fact that I planned on staying at Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme. From there I could decide the next day if I wanted to take the high route via Col de Fours or hike through the valley. But first I had to get there!
Easy going towards Notre Dame de la Gorge
It was quite cold when I left the refuge and I was freezing a little bit underneath my soft shell jacket. I would get warm quickly as soon as the trail started climbing. But for the first part of the hike the trail was flat and followed a small river along the valley to Notre Dame de la Gorge – a small chapel that marked the start of the climb towards Col du Bonhomme (2479m). On a steep and rocky road I slowly started today’s climb of more than 1000 meters up the mountain.
Climbing towards Col du Bonhomme
After the first steep ascent out of the valley of Les Contamines-Montjoie the trail levelled off a bit and the hike turned into a pleasant walk through alpine meadows with some cows and all kinds of alpine flowers. I stopped very often to take some photos of the cows, of flowers and even of some fellow hikers who requested a group photo.
At Refuge de la Balme (1706m) I stopped for a lunch break and ordered a coke. It was good to sit for a while as my blisters were giving me a hard time, especially on the steep uphill sections. There was nothing I could do and I was worried a little bit as I couldn’t let them heal properly right now.
After the Refuge the trail got a little steeper again and very soon some snow appeared on my way to the mountain pass. I wasn’t alone. As soon as I reached the first big snow crossing I could see how many people actually hike on this trail. I was glad, that I was hiking a little bit ahead of the main season which starts mid-July.
Two Cols & sketchy snowcrossings
Arriving at Col du Bonhomme (2329m) I felt relieved as the last stretch had been quite challenging. Especially as I missed the not-so-obvious main trail and had to rock climb along a steep drop-off for a while. Silly me!
But my relief didn’t last very long. As I sat down close to a small hut on the col I followed the trail along the mountain with my eyes. The mountain side was steep and the trail crossed some fairly big snowfields. Normally an ice axe and proper self-arrest skills would be required for that. But people just ran and stumbled over it as if it was nothing. And indeed I witnessed someone slip! A group came down from the other direction and one of them slid down on the big snowfield for about three meters. I was wondering how he managed to stop. It happened too far away to see the details. At least two of his fellow hikers immediately turned around and helped him up again.
I definitely didn’t want to hike this section alone and therefore talked to a girl I had met before. She didn’t feel well, I was concerned and therefore suggested that we should hike the next section together.
When I stepped on the snow I was highly concentrated, digging every foot in. I was staring on the snow and the section ahead, I couldn’t face the drop-off to my right. I was too aware of the risk of sliding down! Somehow we got across. But also the rest of the trail up to Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2443m) was not too easy.
Arriving at Col de la Croix du Bonhomme
Once arriving at the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme I was glad that my home for the night the Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme was already visible and just 50m down the mountain. After enjoying the view of the surrounding snow-capped mountains and dark green valleys I decended the 50 meters towards the refuge.
Making new friends & a night above 2400m
I dropped my hiking boots in the shoe room and switched into my crocs. What a relief for my hurting feet! Damn blisters!! The refuge had a nice sunny terrace and after check-in and a quick look at my bed in a dormroom with about 30 beds I sat down with a cool drink and enjoyed the mountain sun.
That’s where I met Devon from Northern California. We chatted for a while and found out that we have roughly the same hiking schedule for the next days. I could also help her out with my towel as she didn’t bring one. One of the essentials on a mountain hut tour! We sat together the whole evening, enjoyed a rather average dinner served for around a houndred people and a glas of red wine that flew in by helicopter. Some of the high altitude mountain huts in the alps are only serviced by helicopter. The Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme was one of them.
Devon and I also spend some time chatting with three South African guys (Actually the first South Africans I ever met! They introduced themselves to me by offering me a space in their tent as soon as they saw the not-so-charming dorm room I had to sleep in!).
I shouldn’t know by then, that I would meet all these people again and again on my tour!
–> next post: Day 3 – Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme to Rifugio Elisabetta
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