Walks and hikes in Europe and California, posted sporadically as they happen… or as I reflect on them…

Monday, July 1, 2013

Alps, 2013, 9: Back on the Trail

Refuge de Thabor, June 30, 2013—

We were up about 7, well slept, had a nice breakfast, paid our bill, clearing up misunderstandings of keys and rooms — I'd forgotten a key had been hidden for us outside the door — and set out a few minutes after eight. 

The climb is through forest, alongside a swiftly falling stream, ultimately reaching a big ski station, Valfréjus. Just above there, at Les Tavernes, I unaccountably continued on the paved road, and we climbed it about fifteen minutes before recognizing the problem. (Sooner than last time I'd made such a mistake: we're learning. We did, however, see a magnificent red-brown hare, nearly knee- high, crossing the road maybe fifty feet beyond us, and hesitating a while for us to admire him.)

We got back on track, taking the military road up to the fortifications, stopping along the way for "lunch"— bread, a power bar, a couple of cookies.  These defenses are dominated by a very big structure, a garrison I suppose, and invlude as well two or three menacing bunkers and a number of pillboxes. 

From that area we turned southward, always climbing, first on dirt roads to two water-intake installations, then on trails. As we climbed higher we met more patches of snow, often covering (and therefore hiding) the trail, sometimes for thirty or forty feet. We've been having occasional trouble this whole trip with a lack of trail balissage, something I hadn't experienced before, either on the GR5 or elsewhere — perhaps because it's early in the season, and repairs haven't yet been made.

But snow really exacerbates the problem, and of course it's slower walking as well: you don't want to slip; you never really know what's under the snow; sometimes you're not sure the tracks left by others are really leading the right direction — and all this is complicated by the fact you're often sidehilling, because a steep ascent is hard in snow.

In any case we made the Col de la Vallée in good time, by three o'clock or so, and sat resting and admiring the view for a few minutes before traversing and climbing another twenty minutes, in snow, to our refuge. There we took off our shoes, cleaned up a bit, and found and set up our quarters; then sat outside in the sun with a crèpe and a bottle of cider, recharging the electronics efficiently with a very bright sun. 

Dinner at seven: pea soup, slaw, couscous with pork cubes in tomato sauce, a brownie. We were with three interesting Welshmen who take annual mountaineering trips together. And then I finish writing this, and so, nine o'clock, to bed…

The refuge is a little cold but quite comfortable, and not very full — we are in the lowers of two bunk beds, no one in the uppers, and no one in the four beds in the loft of our little room. There's no hot water, but there's running cold water, and flush toilets, and a little electricity.  

It was definitely a tiring day, but the knees and all are holding up well, and it's so nice to feel every cell in your body getting back in tune — I know I'll wake up full of energy and ready to go!