Gr5 Day 15 (Last Day!) – My knees say enough now!!!!

Today was the last day!  No need for an alarm as I was wide awake by 4.45.  We set off at 5.45 to get as much of the distance done as possible before it got too hot and also to avoid the storms that were meant to come later.  Honestly, it was a brutal day!  A long distance with some rough descents and the sun pounding down on our heads.

Italian Border
The first four hours took us along the Italian border to the pretty town of Sospel, we climbed a few hundred metres and there was a long descent of about 1700m down to 300m.  The boys made an exception to their usual practice and we stopped for lunch and stretching.  A croque Monsieur, eclair and fruit tart for me.   I also like that my two scouts now know me well enough to give me their leftover flan/custard tart that they couldn’t eat

Ben and Manu multi-tasking – stretching and eating
We filled up on water and started up another 800 m climb mostly without shade with the sun pounding relentlessly on our heads. Happily there was a small water trough about half way up and I submerged my head in it! The climb continued after a wee drop with another 400m up.

Ben and I following Papa Scout
This sign aptly captured the pace I needed to go in the sun
And then we finally crested the hill above Menton.  It looked close but my watch was pretty clear it was 1000m of descent over not much distance.  Brutal!  I think the boys took pity on me as they didn’t go as fast as usual.  I had Manu’s voice in my head saying ‘gros cailloux’, literally big rocks, which is the best way to bomb down a hill, by concentrating and planting your feet on the more stable rocks at a fast pace.   Sadly there weren’t quite enough big rocks so I did slide a few times.   It was one of the most challenging paths of the whole hike, steep and rocky, and it was sweltering.  And they both kicked my butt on the descent.

Looking down into Menton
We were all out of water by about half way down and just knackered!  We hit the road about 2/3 of the way down and were depressed to see the autoroute.  After an endless 2km through roads and pavement we finally found a shop and refilled our water – I consumed a litre of water, two cans of Diet Coke (which I haven’t drunk for over a year) and a large icecream in approximately 8 minutes.  I felt like a whole new woman, albeit I didn’t smell like one.  And my knees are feeling like they need a week off!
Inhaling liquid
Feeling replete, we wandered down to the sea front to take a few pics, and then walked the three km to the train station.    We were all feeling somewhat shell shocked by the presence of all the people!

Happily finished after an icecream and some fruit tart
I managed to get on a flight home this evening, though honestly how I am going to stay awake until we leave at 10pm is bewildering me, given my usual bed time of 8.30.   I said goodbye to my two boy scouts on the train, and made them promise to take me hiking again. I was mildly amused when the boys were replaced by two women on the train who complained loudly that it smelled of sweat and then they moved seats. Hopefully it wasn’t just me, but also the lingering odours of the Boy Scouts.

I can’t quite believe I have finished!  What an adventure!  I have met some amazing people and been totally blessed and surprised by the unending generosity of strangers.  I have faced some fears, got used to the boring monologue in my own head from hiking solo for 13 days, and have markedly and unintentionally improved my French.  I have roughed it in the dormitories, endured way too much snoring, hitched rides, peed behind countless bushes and consumed way too many refined carbs.  I have worn the same walking clothes for 15 days (albeit washed most nights and put on still wet in the morning) and haven’t shaved my legs or brushed my hair during that time.   I saw my life flash before my eyes, have about 20 cuts and bruises, and fell on my butt on a daily basis.   I can’t wait to get home and see my lovely husband, but, honestly, I will probably be planning my next mad adventure before the week is out.

Thanks to all of you who have supported me with donations for Beat, and also for the tonnes of messages of encouragement and support that I have received.  It’s been quite overwhelming and I am enormously grateful (tears in my eyes grateful!!!).

Special thanks to Benoit and Emmanuel for picking me up on the side of the trail and helping me smash the last 90km in two days rather than three I had planned, and to Stephane from Tignes guides who got me back on track when the snow threatened to ruin my plans.  And of course biggest thanks to my husband for letting me be bonkers and go and do stuff like this, and being hugely supportive, even though I know he really worries that I am going to fall off a cliff.

Big kisses to you all!  Arohanui!

Day 15

Distance covered =47km

Ascent/descent = 1620/3450

Highest temperature = 39 degrees in the shade

Time on feet = 9 hours

Overall- Total distance covered was 602 km with 33,250m of ascent (the equivalent of going from sea level to the top of Everest 3.75 times) in 15 days!

Its not too late to donate – at

Gr5 – Merci Le Francais

Je dois poster au moins une fois en français pour mes compatriotes adoptés!  J’ai passé un moment extraordinaire sur le gr5 /55/52, non seulement parce que les Alpes sont extraordinaires, mais aussi parce que je suis bénie à chaque tournant par la bonté des inconnus.

Remerciements spéciaux à :

– Manu et Ben qui m’ont « récupérée en train de pleurer sur le chemin » …. Ou du mois c’est ce qu’ils se plaisaient à dire… Ils m’ont divertie, m’ont donné des leçons de descente, et m’ont aidé à abattre les derniers 90km en deux jours plutôt que les trois que j’avais prévu


– Stephane de Guides Tignes qui m’a remis sur la bonne route après ma frayeur sur le Col d’Anterne

– Francoise qui m’a invité à passer un moment avec elle et les deux anglaises à Roya, un jour où j’avais vraiment besoin me remonter le moral


– Regis pour s’occuper de moi au Mont Thabor, me donner quelques conseils formidable ainsi que son dessert

– Ines et Odilan pour me donner le meilleur repas et pique-nique, que j’ai eu sur la route depuis Fouillouse

– Eric et ses voisins pour m’avoir divertie au Refuge Plan de Sec

– Les nombreux gîtes et refuges qui ont organisé le café et le petit déjeuner pour moi à 5h du matin

– Les innombrables personnes qui m’ont invitée dans leurs conversations au dîner dans les gîtes et refuges et d’avoir parlé plus lentement afin que je puisse comprendre

– Les nombreuses personnes qui m’ont pris en stop quand j’en ai eu besoin

Je suis si heureuse d’être française, même si j’ai encore beaucoup à apprendre du savoir-faire français

Merci à tous


merci à mon mari pour son aide avec la traduction!

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.

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


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

Gr5 day 13 – the grand detour de mercantour

I tried to sleep in this morning!  The next town is two hours away and is the last grocery stop for three days so I there was no point arriving before they opened at 8.  But of course my eyes were wide open with the birds at 4.45am.   So I had a delightful slow stroll up to St Dalmas in the blissful cool air.

Tinee Valley at Dawn
I could smell baking as I walked into town so I stopped off to pick up some quiche and blueberry tart for later and a pain au chocolate for now.

I hung out in front of the proxi superette until it opened and then bought as much food as I thought I needed for the next three days and then doubled that!  I am a bit fed up of being hungry so have made sure to stock up with as much protein and fat as I can, albeit not in the ideal form of nuts and chocolate.  I have also discovered this weird French hiking food called chestnut spread.  It’s basically sugar in a tube but it is pretty tasty.   And I bought some saucisson, cheese, Parma ham (it survives OK in the pack)….2 kilos of food!It really is the hikers obsession to think about food all day – I am already planning big meals of vegetables when I get home.  And I am really missing Greek yogurt.  And I can’t wait to eat a steak.   And yes I have already booked a nice restaurant for the first night I get home

French Hiker Fuel – Chestnut spread, totally delicious with bread, cheese or yogurt!
From St Dalmas to Nice is a pretty straight shot day and a half walk through relatively flat terrain.   As I am a bit ahead of schedule I am going to take the longer, harder more mountainous route to Menton through the valley of the Marvels.

So I headed north to climb the Col du Barn, and had a very lazy stroll up the hill.  Given the relatively short distance today I was cruising and taking photos.

Lac du Barn
Two young French guys caught up with me as I was having morning tea and they tried to keep up with me as I went up the hill but they had the worlds largest packs on.

How not to pack
After a gentle descent down the other side, I stopped for lunch.  Yes a very lazy day, as I never stop for anything.


Picnic of Champions – Quiche and blueberry tart
Just as I finished lunch two other ‘young guys’ came wandering past at a ‘bonne rhythme’ (a good pace).

I have never been overtaken by hikers before, and thankfully that didn’t happen today, but Benoit (Ben) and Emmanuel (Manu) walk at a fabulous pace so we walked together to Boreon. My first time ever finding people who walk the perfect rhythm. Manu is a Boy Scout extraordinaire who has all his maps laminated and annotated so I lazily followed him into town. They come from Picardy, so for the non French among you, I would recommend watching bienvenue chez le ch’ti, which is about their region and is my fave French film

Lovely men that they are we have agreed to tackle the big passes together tomorrow so I don’t have to do them by myself, and we are meeting at five to head off.  Again am very grateful for the fabulous French people I keep meeting around every corner.

I had a lovely dinner (quiche and lasagne) followed by a disappointing dessert (fromage Blanc and apple purée) with 11 Flemish hikers who were very entertaining.  In bed by 8.30 🙂

Gite Le Boreon dinner with the Flemish Hiking Club
Distance covered = 32

Ascent/descent = 1750/1265

Time on feet = 7 hours

Its not too late to donate – at

This picture made me laugh….

Gr5 Day 12 – Into the Inferno

A lovely 6am still start after a rough night with snoring bunkmates and loud neighbours!

I climbed the 1000 metres up to Col de Crousette in blissful solitude, interrupted only by five curious sheepdogs who came to check I wasn’t trying to steal a sheep.

After the Col there was a challenging path up the side of a scree slope that got my heart racing, but the views from the top were amazing, I felt like I was on top of the world

And I continued my solitary morning for another couple of hours checking out the limestone cliffs in the Vallons de la Gourgette (photos don’t do it justice) and arrived at the refuge de longon by 11am.

Vallee du Gorgettes

I procured a large piece of brebis, some bread and a coffee and enjoyed a peaceful lunch with some nice French day hikers who fed me up on saucisson

Refuge de Longon

And then it was off into the inferno!  The guidebook had said the 1600m descent into the valley de tinee was like going into a furnace, and that was probably an understatement.  In the shade it was ok, but in the sun it was like being smacked on the head with a hot iron hammer.   And it got hotter the lower I went.

I passed the lovely town of Roure after two hours, hanging precariously off the cliff.  It would have been lovelier if it had an icecream shop

And then down into St Saveur sur Tinee where I resisted my impulse to submerge myself in the town fountain.  Only a solitary restaurant was open, and they weren’t selling food.     I did manage to procure one of their personal supply of magnums to help fuel me for the unshaded 600m climb up to Rimplas.

Looking down into the inferno valley at St Saveur sur Tinee

I made it to Rimplas, hot, sweaty and stinky at 4pm

The hotel doesn’t open reception until 5pm, but another guest let me in and I lay on the floor stretching and generally making the place look untidy.  The hotel is fully booked with a tour of butterfly watchers – who knew?  They think I am weird and vice versa – it takes all sorts!

Dinner was at the ridiculously late hour of 7.30, goats cheese salad, pasta and profiteroles.   Delicious!  And they made me a fabulous picnic and breakfast tray for the next day
Distance = 43km

Ascent/descent = 1900/2300

Time on feet = 10 hours

Times wished it would rain = 15

Gr5 Day 11 – Hiking poles!

Hiking poles are useful in the mountains for a variety of things – today including being my lip sync mike, my drumsticks and my dancing batons, and maybe lightening catchers 

Up and out of the Gite by 6am but I really wasn’t feeling the groove.  My body is holding up ok, although I am having some knee, shin and ankle issues. What I hadn’t realised is that I am a bit mentally done in.   I am sleeping ok, but am definitely not getting decent nutrition – the French seem to think bread and jam is a good enough breakfast.  It’s not!  I need protein and some good fats for fuel in the morning, and the diet of morning sugar is making me a bit exhausted.  I’m tired.  And I didn’t really mentally steel myself for today as it is  the easiest day I am doing on the whole hike (35k and not too much up and down).

I powered grumpily through the first two hours of the trail, including a section where I just wanted to sit down and cry as there was about 100m of ‘goat path’ across a crumbling ravine. I arrived in st Delmas, hoping a coffee would make it all better but all four of the town’s cafes were closed.  Crap!  The next town was two hours away.

St delmas – lovely town, no coffee 

So, for the first time on this whole hike, I resorted to listening to music to pep me up.  It worked.  I danced up the mountain side flipping between singing and lip syncing (depending how steep the gradient was), and grooved out with my poles – drumming, twirling, dancing and lip syncing like a queen.   I was mildly worried some French farmer might see me, but then I decided I really didn’t give a crap.

I got to the top of the hill and looked down to St Etienne where I was hoping for coffee and proper food.  It was a long way down and my knees were not psyched!  But for some reason I broke into a run, and I scampered the 2k down the hill like a puppy dog.  The pain in my ankle at the bottom would suggest it wasn’t the best idea, but it did wonders for my soul.  Thanks to Pink, Adele, Def Leppard, ACDC, Nickelbak and friends for the encouragement.

St Etienne was lovely – and I procured peaches, bananas, Parma ham, cheese and good brown bread, and had two coffees.  I also got a lovely email from justgiving telling me I had a donation of £100 from one of my fave families.  Feeling better!

Up a big hill to the horrid town of auron which was overrun with VTT- ists (mountain bikers) and lots of ugly buildings, and I lost the trail a few times getting out of town and climbing up the ski piste to the pass.Once at the Col de blagnon, it was all downhill to Roya!  And then the thunder and lightening rolled in.  It was a sodden last hour and I spent much of it trying to remember enough science to figure out if my hiking poles were likely to attract lightening.  If anyone knows, send me a message.

Finally made it to the Gite where I am sharing a two bunk room with a 70 year old solo hiker who has given me his excess muesli (yay – I have no pride, I will take free food :-)).  The hot shower restored my spirits, followed by two sandwiches, three pieces of fruit, a pack of Parma ham and some tea.

And then I had a mediocre dinner with spectacular company – some fellow female hikers – two retired groovsters from Hackney and a cool chick from Nice.  It was nice to finally see some women and also to speak english

Distance covered = 36km
Ascent/descent = 1965/2235

Time on feet = 8 hours (for the first time I came in at only 80% of the guidebook time versus my usual 60-70%)

Hiker boots drying in the sun

Gr5 day 10 – the worst that could happen is I will break a few bones

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.

And then I headed up to the gorgeous pas de cavalle at 2671m.

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

Gr5 Day 9 – I am no goat

Dear bosses of French paths, 

I am not a goat.  I admit I may have the stubborn tendencies of a goat, but I don’t have the balance or the small feet.   So why the hell are you expecting me to walk down a path that was clearly designed for damn goats.  Sort this sh!t out!    

Yours, Bricking it, Mel

It was a wonderful start to the morning.  Up at 5.20 with the birds, I no longer need an alarm clock.  I left veille ville just before six and hitched a ride back to the trail  with a French hippy who surfs in California six months every year

My magic hiking hours are between six and nine.  Everything is still and you have the hills entirely to yourself (well except for the cows who are much cuter here as they have bells on).  I hiked up from chateau queyras to see the sun come up along the valley.

And the onward up 1000m to the Col de fromage (cheese pass in English, but it sounds better in French). Stunning views to the south.

A steep descent down to ceillac where the world was finally rousing!  I definitely need more calories these days to keep my legs going so I stocked up with a few chestnut tarts, a chocolate pastry and an aubergine pie, and had a blueberry tart for breakfast.  Two coffees and a water refill and back to the hills as there would be no town for at least 8 hours.

Then it was up to the Col Girardin at 2700m, (another 1000m up).   A beautiful climb with a gorgeous blue lake and a tiny church just before the summit.

Climbing the Col was a bit harrowing as it was quite steep and schisty!  Thankfully it was pissing down by this point so I had my hood up and that made it harder to look down.   I kept up the mantra in my head of ‘one step at a time, don’t look down’ and I eventually made it to the top, when I realised I had to go down the other side, which was a bit of a challenge also.  I would have taken a photo from the top but my fingers were numb and the wind was howling

Then it was a long but ok descent until I reached the aforementioned goat path.  I saw it and I thought ‘hell no, that can’t be the path, they must be kidding!’.   The picture below doesn’t do it justice.   It was steep, schisty, with a crazy drop down to the valley of about 1000 metres and the path was about 10cm wide and sloping.    I got started and was frankly bricking myself.  I gave myself a stern but encouraging talking to as I walked across ‘just one step at a time and keep breathing.’  At one point I contemplated sitting down to try and quell the panic but then I realised if I sat down I would never get up again, and my darling husband would have to come and find me decomposing on the side of the hill.  I made it, but am sorely tempted to send a stern note to the path makers.

After that it was a (thankfully) boring 8k walk along the road down the valley to the rather groovy Pont du Chatelet, which sits 100m above the river and is spanned by an 70 year old stone bridge (my photos don’t do it justice).

Then one final climb of 500m up to Fouillouse, arriving at 4.20 just before the heavens opened

Am sitting in front of the fire, massaging my bare feet and contemplating dinner (yes I am still hungry in spite of eating everything I bought in ceillac, a full picnic  from the gite last night and some snacks – it is amazing how much fuel my body is demanding!)

Update – dinner was extraordinary, leek tart, roast pork, salad, veg, cheese (huge hunks) and plum tart…. Sigh!  And was profoundly asleep by 8.45pm

Distance = 41km

Ascent/descent = 2700/2200

Time on feet = 9.5 hours

Pieces of pie/cake/pastry used as fuel in the absence of any other healthy alternative = 5

Times froze in vertigo panic = 3

Gr5 Day 8 – Hot stuff!

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

GR5 Day 7 – running out of Gas

Today was a beast! I thought I would add in some extra mileage by taking the longer tougher variant called the 5b through Italy to make up for some of the distance I lost by skipping the Col du pallet! So I climbed a mighty 2200 metres over four different steep Cols over 41k!
It was a beautiful crisp morning watching the sun come up! I was up at 5.45 without much sleep as we had another snorer in our dorm – a hazard of refuges! I inhaled three cups of strong coffee as my route wasn’t passing any commerce at all for the whole day and set off. It was a stunning alpine morning at 2500m

I descended 700 metres down to the Vallee etroite and then climbed 500m straight up the Col du Thur, then up another Col to the tete noire, and down to Blockhaus, and then another 700m up and over towards to Col Acles. This part was a wonderful test of my mental endurance as I hate heights and the path was badly eroded and really slippery.   The path also wandered into Italy, and you can see the remains of the border fortifications from when relations weren’t so strong.  Then it was back down to the valley again, with a final climb up to Col de Lauze at 2600m followed by a knee punishing 800 m descent into Montgenevre.   It was a stunning day but my legs properly gave up on the final Col. I was stumbling around like a drunk person as I tried to climb, as while I tried to put on the gas, my legs refused to respond. I slowed down a bit and ate a clif bar, some trail mix and drank a litre of water and eventually made it for some stunning views
I am knackered! Ideally I would eat and go to bed but there is no supermarket and restaurants don’t open until 7.30. Managed to keep my eyes open and stumble to Caesars for salad, steak and icecream!  

Distance = 42km

Ascent/descent = 2200/2700

White chocolate magnums = 2

Time on feet = 10 hours non stop