The weather forecast was good and I was here for a challenge. Therefore I decided to take the high route via Col des Fours (2665m). The breakfast at the refuge was lousy but I tried to excuse it with the amount of people they hosted and the difficulty of helicopter service. I said goodbye to Devon for now as she would take the valley route to Les Chapieux.
I was excited for the new hiking day especially as I would cross into Italy today at the Col de la Seigne (2516m). Would the landscape look different behind the col? I don’t think so but maybe the spaghetti would be much better!
Climbing towards Col des Fours (2665m)
The mountain pass of Col des Fours on this variant was supposed to be the highest point on my route. From the refuge it was a short climb back up to Col de la Croix du Bonhomme from where the trail led another 200 meters up the mountain towards Col des Fours. The climb was fairly easy even if it was on a good amount of snow. Halfway up the mountain I stopped to put on some sunscreen. The sky was blue without clouds and the mountain sun was burning already. Proceeding with the climb all of a sudden I realized that I forgot to pay at the refuge. I had been so busy in the morning that I somehow left without paying. A quick look down the mountain and it was clear that I wouldn’t turn around. Too late. I would give them a call or send an email as soon as I could. Nevertheless I felt bad about that.
Arriving at Col des Fours was rather unspectacular. I didn’t even realize where the col actually was and had to check my mobile to find the trail. It didn’t look like a trail at all. Just a steep and rocky mountainslope. Slowly I started my way down trying not to slide on the rocks and sand.
A snowy downhill
It should be the section with the most snow on the tour! Somewhere along the still rocky section I met an Israelian couple and decided to hike behind them for a while. It was a good decision as the upcoming steep downhill through snow was not free of dangers.
As a group of three we slowly hiked, slided and digged our way down for a long time until the trail eventually levelled off a bit. The views back up were just crazy. Did we just come from up there?
A nice hike down into the valley of La Ville des Glaciers
Very soon after the steep snowy downhill we had to cross our first river. It was easy but still apleasure as I am a big fan of river crossings!
The valle we descended into was beautiful: lush green mountain meadows secluded by last patches of snow, colorful mountain flowers and last but not least some local cows directly on the trail! It was a very pleasant hike down to La Ville de Glaciers a small hamlet where cheese is produced by the locals.
La Ville des Glaciers & lunch-break at Chalet-Refuge des Mottets
Of course I had to take the chance and waited in line – with a couple of Israelian guys I regularly bumped into on the trail – for some local cheese. Only a bit further up the valley the Chalet-Refuge des Mottets provided a nice sitting area with great views. A perfect place for a lunch stop. Looking around at the refuge I thought that it would also be a nice place for the night. Maybe next time!
I enjoyed a coke and my fresh cheese for lunch and offered some to the Israelian couple. They offered me some nice cake from the refuge in return. We sat and enjoyed the mountain scenery for a while. From the Refuge des Mottets (1978m) it would be a climb up to Col de la Seigne (2516m) where we would leave France and hike into Italy.
Short before I left the South Africans arrived. It was nice to see them again. But a climb was waiting and so I took my backpack and my hiking poles and set my feet onto the switchbacks towards Col de la Seigne.
Climbing into Italy – Col de la Seigne (2516m)
Short after lunchtime this climb was a hot one allthough the grade was not too steep. I didn’t know what I expected but arriving at Col de la Seigne I was missing some border signs. Nothing at all told me that I was at the border from France to Italy. It was just a line on my map! The mountain pass itself looked like every other mountain pass so far: A cairn of stones with some signs and some fellow hikers already enjoying the view.
The view from Col de la Seigne was awesome! Climbing up I already had to turn around every now and then to look back into the valley I came from. From Col de la Seigne I could now look into Italy and the whole Val Veny lying ahead. Of course I had to sit down and enjoy all these views for a while!
A night at Rifugio Elisabetta Soldini
From the Col the trail led down into the valley. My destination for today was Rifugio Elisabetta Soldini (2197m) close to the ruins of Alpe de la Lee Blanche.
The Rifugio didn’t only have an Italian name. It also looked very Italian and was a charming place. And so it didn’t matter to me that I was meant to sleep under the roof in a very cozy dormitory.
Sitting outside on the terrace I met the South Africans again. They planned on setting up their tent between the ruins. I was tired after a long day and happy when dinner was served. First course was Bruschetta followed by meat with potatos and beans. Dessert was a very delicious coffee cream! Caroline and Richard – two siblings from Scotland – and their kids were sitting next to me and we got to know each other a little bit. I was fascinated by all these people who came a long way to hike the TMB!
After dinner I sat outside with the boys from South Africa for a while until it got too cold and I too tired. It was time to get comfortable on 40 cm between strangers!
–> next post: Day 4 – Rifugio Elisabetta to Courmayeur
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