I woke up early in Montgenevre and hit the road by six without breakfast as there was no supermarket and the hotel wouldn’t feed me before 7.30. It was a relaxing 12k walk into the beautiful town of Briancon (alas no pics as it was too early and everything was in shade).
I was ravenous when I arrived so I found a Carrefour and bought some supplies, and then sat cross legged on the footpath outside making a cheese baguette with one hand and simultaneously shoving handfuls of dried muesli into my mouth straight from the box with the other hand. I must have looked like a hobo, and I am pretty sure I smell like one, but alas no one gave me any cash. I found a classy French bar – with the tabac and the pmu racing counter, where you still expect to see people smoking – and downed three coffees. All was right with my world 🙂
I am not sure whether it was the muesli or the coffee or the gradient, but the climb to Col de Ayes was the easiest so far. While it was a 1300m climb it was spread out over 7km so the path was very civilised. My mind wandered, as it always does. I used to think I could use all this hiking time to solve the worlds problems, but it is surprising how little goes on in my brain when I am walking. Though I had got onto the web last night for the first time in days, and it was profoundly depressing, Turkey and brexit. It reminds me why it is good to get offline!
I reached the Col and was somewhat confounded by a big heap of snow – the only snow of the day – but managed to buttslide my way around it (buttslide is the technical hiking term for sitting down before you fall down and inching your way down the cliff).
The walk down to Brunissard was an engineering miracle given the erosion of the cliffs.
And I was highly entertained by the significant numbers of rock climbers doing via ferrata – truly bonkers to see people as tiny dots on the side of sheer cliffs. I am wondering if that would be a good post iron man challenge which might finally cure my fear of heights. If anyone wants to teach me, let me know.
And then it started getting hotter. It’s about 35 degrees with no shade. It’s fine on the Cols as the alpine air conditioning naturally kicks in at around 2000m. But in the valleys it is sweltering. I only had another 10k to go, but it took a long time and included a 400m climb I hadn’t noticed on the map. I reached the lovely chateau queyras around 2.30 where the gr5 continues south, and I was very hot. It is a good six hours to the next refuge so I am staying in a small village 3k away from the chateau (off the gr5 route). The idea of walking along the road for 3k didn’t inspire so I used my newly discovered hitching prowess and got a lift with the second car that passed (he was only going 1k away but took me all the way to the gite). I am loving these French mountain folk, so much friendlier than their Parisian cousins :-).
Had to wait outside the gite stretching and eating some more for an hour as they don’t ‘welcome’ anyone until 4. When I finally was welcomed, Philippe and Anne did a great job! They were very cool and were avid trail runners. I was sharing a dorm with four French Mamils, who had enough gear to equip a full tour. They kindly dragged me to the garden for a kir and some saucisson and we proceeded to talk about why cycling in France is better than England! (The French motorists don’t try to kill you).
In gite style I was seated for dinner with some other lovely folk – a group of 5?retired teachers who loved hiking! Another huge meal of soup, lasagne and clafoutis. Everything is shared and the teachers didn’t eat much, so I was very happily full. And then was unconscious again by 9pm
Distance covered – 41km
Ascent/descent =1700 /1900
Retired French people observed out day hiking = 350 – although they travel in packs, they are impressive as they climb some big hills!
Time on feet = 8.5 hours
ps – I dropped my phone in a stream yesterday and hence my photos are all a bit misty! Apologies