Gite du Plan-Mya, July 8, 2016—
Crete des Gittes
We were up early for breakfast, which could have been considerably better, and set off for the day's destination, the Refuge du Balme — unaware there would be a change of plans.
The first thing on the GR5, leaving Bonhomme, is the amazing Crete des Gittes, which describes a long gentle arc swinging from southerly to westerly (as you walk in the direction we go, always southerly).
That's how it looks on the map. In fact, it's a narrow ridge, mostly level after you climb to it, sometimes right on the ridge, more often a ledge trail a couple of feet wide and ten feet or so below the ridge. The ground always drops away steeply from the trail, rarely at less than a 45=degree angle — the angle of repose, I suppose — and sometimes quite precipitously. I never look down from this trail: I look straight ahead, or at the path, or toward the distance.
The trail is well compacted and safe, but it was covered in a number of places by snow. Curt bravely postholed our path, once stomping into what turrned out to be a void, and we followed along, trying not to think about the glissade that would ensue if we slipped and fell.
It's an exhilharating trail, but it ultimately ends, descending by switchbacks, on stonier thus more difficult terrain, to the col de la Sauce. (I don't know why it's called that.)
From there it's another descent, often on rutted paths only a foot wide, occasionally on a country road, through alpages full of flowers. The rhododendrons were finally in bloom, on low shrubs suggesting thin soil.
I remembered this being the slope Mac had fallen on, eight years ago, breaking one of his hiking sticks: no sooner did I recall it than the path gave way beneath my left foot, sending me into a gentle rolling fall on my right side. No damage done, other than to my amour-propre.
We came out at a cafe-refuge on the departmental road, where I recalled eating a delicious apricot tart. Alas, there was only tartelettes de myrtilles today, those delicious mountain huckleberries that grow so prolifically hereabouts. We sat with tea and tartelettes for too long, considering how far we still had to go.
Only fiffteen miinutes later, thhough, we passed the Gite Plan-Mya, where I remembered buying the best Beaufort I've ever tasted the last time I was by. The place looks different, spruced up, but I recognized the woman who runs it, and noted that she was wearing a Slow Food apron.
So we changed plans, cancelling tonight's reservation at Balme. We will eat well tonight, and sleep in a pleasant dortoir; tomorrow will be an eight-hour walk to the pretty town Valezan, and if they don't have beds for us there we'll call another taxi and go to Landry or Bourg St. Maurice.
Day 9: say nine or ten kilometers (only!), up from 2433 m at the Refuge Bonhomme to 2538 m at the Crete, then down to 2307 m at the col de Saucce and 1822 m at the Plan de Lai, then up to 1860 m at tonight's gite. Up 240 meters; down 700. No more than three hours!