It had been a wonderful night in Cabane du Mont Fort. I’d enjoyed meeting some of the other hikers. We’d also had the pleasant surprise of having a dorm room to ourselves and the five Swiss francs (just over $5) we paid for the two minute shower seemed plenty to get us feeling fresh again.
We were once again faced with needing to make a decision – the shorter rocky col of Col de las Chaux or the Col Termin, which would take an extra hour and give us cliff edge path across rockslides BUT better views. Our notes suggested taking advice from the warden of the Cabane. On questioning he said that there had been no rain the last two days so the Col Termin was less risky than usual unless it rained overnight – great help – we went to bed sleeping on it.
The weather forecast was for a storm to hit at 4pm so we hit the sack early for an early start.
By the morning I had decided that a twisted ankle this early in would really ruin my holiday so voiced my preference for Col Termin. Thankfully Karyn was of the same mind so off we ventured.
The first part of the hike was across a lot of large rocks with an accompanying smell that signalled animals were about. We started to search the hillsides as we hiked, which was indeed risking a twisted ankle, and we spotted a few chamois. They obviously had no trouble darting over the rocks.
We encountered a sign in French only. No idea what it was telling us but the universal danger symbols indicated it was some sort of warning – another bit of helpful advice! In another 30 minutes we encountered another sign with similar symbols this time the English instructions letting us know that there was the potential for rockslide for the next 300m so don’t stop walking. That doesn’t sound much of a distance but I can say it is when it requires you to hop and climb over boulders.
This post is testament that we reached the Col without being taken out by a landslide! The views of the valleys either way were terrific and we were perched above an emerald body of water. A brief stop and then on to make the pass at Col de Louvie. We bypassed the author’s suggestion to take the hike up the hill to see views of the lake – we were doing enough ascents to reach our destination without building more in! We arrived at the main track the same time as the NZ/English group who’d chosen the Col de la Chaux route. There experience confirmed we’d made the right decision. It had taken the the same time as us and one of their party had come a cropper on the icy rocky paths. My mind again turned to Keith.
At the base of the path up to the Col de Louvie we were instructed we would need equipment – I was hoping they meant lip balm! Another mammoth climb. Gerry and I heard a rockfall above as we were approaching the Col giving us a little hurry on!
On reaching the Col we were greeted with our first icy path; it was quite a novelty and it was quite a contrast to what was to follow.
Karyn and I headed in the direction of the Grand Desert to take reprieve from the icy wind to enjoy our lunch. The view was like something out of a Mad Max or sci-fi movie because what did it have…..more boulders!
As we crossed the basin adjoining the glacier we marvelled at the pretty little flowers growing in contrast to the rocky, almost desolate terrain. I was also impressed by the mother of all waymarks when it was finally reached; we’d been told about it and it sure had been a useful marker from the basin below.
We continued passing a number of lakes and patches of snow. We rounded one corner to find the Americans we’d met the night before (Kit and his brother Mike) down by a lake. Mike was in his swim shorts making his way into the lake while his brother took on photographer duties. We were shocked when he actually dived in. It’s warm ice Kit advised and his adventurous brother emerged saying “actually, it’s not too bad”. There was no doubt it was cold by our standards after all the lake was fed by a glacier – these guys were mad!
A few more hairy corners up and around a boulder patch and we were on Col de Prafleuri.
As we commenced the final section into the quarry where our Cabane was perched Karyn suggested it was starting to spot with rain. I stayed stoic – it doesn’t rain when I hike and I was right!
Our accommodation was quite a contrast from the last Cabane. This one had us sharing toilet and shower facilities – it was rather disconcerting coming out of the shower to a guy at the urinal. We also couldn’t drink the water (we think because of the heavy industry that had come before it during the quarrying for Lake Dix (the dam)) and our beds were lined up like the ‘five bears’. Thankfully I went to sleep in the dark and woke in the dark so had no idea who I actually slept next to!
We enjoyed dinner sharing conversation with a Montana couple, Gail and Tom, and a paraglider who was part way through a 10 day competition. I was fascinated by the paraglider’s tales of how the competitions were run notably that there was no prize for the winner as it would encourage dangerous acts so they had a lottery for all of the competitors. Turned out our new Belgium friend spent part of his year in paragliding competitions and the other part working to pay to go in paragliding competitions – the lure of a passion!
I was glad to see Keith had arrived in, albeit later than dinner. He said he’d had a rough time over the ice but that his ice tags had really helped.
It had been another big day, we had reached 2964m with a 990m gain and 820m loss. I was feeling quite sore from all of the up and down, particularly over the boulders.
Over dinner, the Cabane owner provided an announcement of the weather report for the next day – rain in the morning and then patches of rain and sun through the day. Needless to say I said….