My mantra for today ‘the worst that could happen is that I will break a few bones, but I probably won’t die!’.
I was up at 5.30 and scoffed down some nut bread, jam and coffee, and picked up the best picnic so far on the gr5 – ham baguette, fruit, chocolate and homemade tart – that the lovely Ines and Odilan had left for me. I headed out of Fouillouse up to the Col du Vallonet and Col du Mallemort (I am guessing this means badly dead but I don’t understand why being dead would ever be anything but bad). I passed a couple of 80 year olds heading up the mountain at 6.30 (good on them!) and then had the hills to myself until 8.30.
The sign below kept me tickled for at least two hours as it was pointing to a Col (pass) in Italy named ‘Col du Stroppia’. I have no idea what stroppia actually means in French or Italian, but I like to think this was the French doing some name calling :-), and saying ‘go that way to find stroppy people’
I headed down to larche, passing the mornings crop of hikers heading up my way. Sadly larche has no bakery but I did secure a very nice coffee, and then a couple free peaches from the delivery man. People are astoundingly nice here! As one of my dinner companions said last night – ‘on est au bout du monde’ – which literally means we are at the end of the world. Perhaps that is why they are all so friendly
After larche it was a long but gentle and easy climb up to the lovely lac de lauzanier on lovely, easy, well graded tracks.
You can’t see it in the photo below very easily but the path up to the pas is cut (well ‘cut’ is an overstatement) into the side of the grey scree to the left of the photo, climbing to the Col which is the dip under the cloud). Much of the path was quite wide but there were a few sections which were definitely ‘goat width’. Hence my mantra for today. I took a long hard look down and thought ‘well, even if I fall, I probably won’t die, most likely just break some bones, so get on with it’. I fell once, I honestly have no balance, and did cling to the side of a big rock for a few moments until I got my footing. But I made it in the end!
The descent down the other side was a lot less hairy, but the track was still tricky! I sucked it up with good grace, as I passed four 80 years olds who were on the track, and it somewhat puts one in one’s place. (Picture is of the 80 year olds coming down the invisible track/loose scree )
After that, one last Col of 400m to climb. Normally I run out of steam on the last climb of the day, but thankfully there were two twenty year olds about 100m ahead of me at the start of the climb. I like to think I am not competitive, but that is patently untrue. I put on a huge burst of speed and trotted by them with a big friendly bonjour!
I was entertained at the top of the Col du fourches – apparently the highest road pass in Western Europe – and it was crowded with people living their Tour de France dreams and bearded motorcyclists. Very amusing
Am in the bustling (not) hameau of bousieyas, staying at a Gite run by a very fit looking 75 year old retired mountain guide. He has already re-routed my itinerary and banned me from passing a Col further south which he said I couldn’t pass even if I had crampons and an ice axe. Fair enough! He also came up with a good high pass variant for me to do which gets me to the same destination. Honestly, as I keep repeating, the people in the Alps are amazing!
Distance = 36km
Ascent/descent = 2130/2100
Time on feet = 8.45 hours