Gr5 Day 14 – the hairy passes and the boy scouts

The plan today was to cross the hairy passes with my two young hiking buddies and stop at the refuge de merveilles.  But I was having so much fun chasing them down the hills that I kept walking with them until camp d’argent, an extra 15km which took an extra four hours.  Today was one of the most stunning days of the whole two weeks

Pas de Ladres

We started at five am, walking with our headlamps into the black.  Eventually the sun came up and we started up the ascent to Pas de Ladres.  We were lucky and saw lots of chamois and bouquetin.

Les Dents (the teeth) in the Pas de Ladre valley


After that an easy descent down to Madonne la fenestre, followed swiftly by another steep rocky and tortuous uphill climb up the Pas Mont Colomb.

At the top of Pas De Ladres
At the top of Pas De Ladres
Pas de Mont Colomb – described as the gendarme/policeman of the valley

I had checked with the refuge that the path was clear, and it was, but the climb was tough and involved a lot of jumping from rock to rock. I kept pace with the boys pretty well, Manu is a mountain goat and is normally up front setting a brisk pace (Papa Scout) and Benoit is the youngest and normally comes up behind (Junior Scout), and I am in the middle. All well and good. And then we reached and peeked through the narrow gap down the other side.

The Tiny Gap to traverse on the side of Pas de Mont Colomb to head down to the next valley
The 400 m bouldery descent down from the Pas

Holy crap – no path, lots of boulders! The boys bombed down that hill like it was nothing! They were bloody antelopes. It was a great challenge for me as normally I descend like an 80 year old who has had her knees replaced. Today I tried to replicate how they did it! I wasn’t bad, and I was hopping from rock and rock doing my best antelope impression and I made it down the hill the quickest I ever have, albeit with my heart beating like a rocket!  The boys still beat me down the hill by about ten minutes and were specks in the distance when I hit the bottom. Happily they kept walking as they were respectful enough to know that I would catch them on the uphills!

The 500m climb up to Baisse du Basto in the distance passed lots of gorgeous alpine lakes

After that we passed the lovely refuge de Nice, and started the climb (again) to the Baisse du Basto.  The path was steep and rocky and we lost it several times.  There were a few patches of snow and I made it over them fine as they weren’t steep.   We hopped up like goats and overtook lots of hikers.  A stunning view from the top.  And then down again and up again to enter into the valley de merveilles (valley of marvels).  It was gorgeous, lots of lakes and lots of pink rocks.

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Climbing up the Baisse Du Basto

We stopped at the refuge de merveilles for coke for the boys and water and blueberry tart for me, and then headed out for the extra 6 hours they had planned.

Papa Scout and I at the summit of Baisse du Basto
Vallée du Merveilles

The weather packed in about then and it was cloudy for most of the way.   We were all feeling a bit knackered, especially for the last 2km which were entirely in the mist.   They entertained me during the last few hours by pointing out my more amusing mistakes in French – notably that I had been telling passing hikers to ‘have a good shag’ ‘Bon root’, when I thought I had been telling them to have a good hike ie ‘bonne route’.

Benoit in the Mist at Lac du Diable

Happily we arrived at camp d’argent before the storm and they had a room for me.  Luxury as I have my own bathroom and am not sharing a dorm!!!!!  It is amazing how I appreciate the small things in life after a two weeks in the mountains.  And we had done what the guide book said would take at least 16 hours in 11.

I inhaled a few litres of water, quite a bit of chocolate and some ham.  And now we are ready for dinner – sausages, lentilles, and panna cotta!

Tomorrow should be my last day, 44km to the sea.

Big kisses to my two Boy Scouts who let me take a vacation from the map reading and the navigation which made this tough day so much easier, and for entertaining me and teaching me some terrific lessons in bombing down hills.

Distance = 44km

Ascent/descent = 3525/3300

Its not too late to donate – at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Mel-Smith9

 

A common sight for my two days with the Boy Scouts – I am sure you can figure out what they are doing

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