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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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’.
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
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