After a long day before I was happy that one more day of hiking would lead me to the Italian town of Courmayeur where I had planned a rest day. A wise decision as my feet really needed some rest. The pain from my blisters on uphill sections was unbearable and I was hoping that one day off could do a miracle! After an early breakfast I was on my way down the mountain, just stopping for a quick chat with my camping friends at the ruins.
No free camping!
I stood together with Cliff and Jade from South Africa when an armed ranger appeared out of the blue. He seemed to be a bit angry about the free camping and asked for an ID. Luckily there was also a girl camping who could speak French and she started talking to the ranger. I could understand only a little bit but she tried to convince him that it was not obvious that camping is not allowed. And indeed it was not. There were no signs at all. I remembered a no-camping sign I had seen the day before but that was along while ago.
In the end the ranger left mentioning the fine for wild camping would be something like 600 Euros and recommending some official campsites in the valley. The campers started to pack up and I started to regain some body heat by hiking. It was a little coudy this morning and not too warm as I descended down into the valley towards Lago di Combal.
It was also the first time on this hike that I could spot some marmots running over the snow or sitting between some rocks. Where have you been all the time, marmots?
Lago di Combal is actually not a proper lake. Ont he map it shows like a collection of rivers and hiking through it looked like some water here and there.
It was beautiful though. The weather cleared and it was a calm day. In the water every here an there I could see reflections of the surrounding mountains. It reminded me of Lake Matheson in New Zealand – a famous lake and crowded tourist spot because you can see the reflection of New Zealand’s highest mountain Mt. Cook.
But I was in the European Alps right? Short before I took the turn off for the high route a helicopter came picking up some stuff close by. Together with a group of Asian hikers I stood there and watched it for a while. So far I haven’t been flying with a helicopter yet. It’s still on my list of things to do!
Taking the high route
From Lago di Combal the hiker of the TMB has two choices: It’s either directly through the valley (Val Veny) or up the mountain again on a more scenic high route. I opted for the high route and climbed another 300 meters up to reach a truly scenic balcony trail leading along the mountain towards Courmayeur.
The hike offered some challenges with more snowfields to cross and some steep sections but other than that was very enjoyable.
Along the mountainside & lunchbreak at Rifugio Maison Vielle
On one of the high points of the route I bumped into Caroline, Richard and their kids again. It was fun to see familiar faces during the day and leapfrog with some of the hikers I had met before.
I stopped at Rifugio Maison Vielle for lunch and met Cindy and Stewart again – a couple from the US I had met before. We sat together and I was hungry enough to order some Gnocchi with cheese sauce and of course a cool coke. It tastes different in Italy! OR was it just because I was so hungry?
Down into Dolonne
I left after an extended lunchbreak and navigated with my phone down the mountain. I must have been a little wrong when the trail led through some alpine buildings and I took a wrong turn and went down the road instead of taking the small trail through the forest.
And so I hiked on what was maybe the steepest mountain road I have seen so far. After some switchbacks I found the main route again and bumped into the South Africans. We hiked together the last bit of downhill into Dolonne – a suburb of Courmayeur.
There we said goodbye as the boys had to find a hotel somewhere and I was booked in at a hotel in Dolonne. We planned on meeting again in the evening for pizza and beer. It was time to celebrate my rest day!
I turned left and easily found my small family-run hotel. After check-in I enjoyed an extended shower and collapsed on the bed. What a hike! The European Alps can be very demanding – physically and mentally – but they are also very rewarding! For now I was looking forward to my rest day. I would see Devon again and we wanted to take the cable car up to Punta Helbronner.
–> next post: Courmayeur
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