Today I crossed from Italy into Switzerland!
The day begin with my usual early breakfast and I left the refuge before 8 am. The trail led across the hill and down into a valley, with gorgeous views of Mont Blanc.
I made a brief stop for a coffee and a snack at the Rifugio Elena. Here I caught up with a group of hiking buddies, and we commenced the long steep climb to the Col de Grande Ferret, where we arrived around noon. The pristine weather gave us the chance to take some photos and enjoy the sun.
The contrast between the rocky and rugged landscape of Italy was dramatic. On the Swiss side, the valleys were smooth, green and rolling. Even the cows looked different in Switzerland.
Our small group stopped to eat a meal at Le Peule, not far over the border. I appreciated the packed lunch I purchased from Bonatti as the high prices in Switzerland provided another stark contrast to Italy.
After lunch, I was ready for a return to solitude, and lagged because the group. While I loved meeting and chatting with so many interesting and friendly people, I also love hiking alone in silence, and the valley was so peaceful.
Over the 10 days on the trail, I often encountered runners training for the TMB Ultra Marathon (held 2 weeks later). This had never been a problem, but between Le Peule and La Fouly, a runner clipped me as he whizzed by. I lost my balance, falling hard and jarring my shoulder. I took ibuprofen and for the remainder of the day I rested my arm as much as possible.
This episode reminded me how even a minor injury is dangerous on the TMB. A sprained ankle could require a helicopter rescue on many parts of the trek. With minimal cellular signal, I would have to rely on fellow hikers to carry a message to the next hut. For me, this small mishap underscored the importance of being prepared with a good first aid kit and emergency supplies.
My day ended about 30 minutes before the town of la Fouly where my trail friends lodged for the night. I had reserved a bed at an out-of-the-way refuge called the Gîte de la Léchère, where I arrived at 4 pm.
This was a quiet and peaceful spot where I journaled and read and enjoyed the sun and symphony of cowbells echoing through the valley.
This refuge has 2 rooms with long double-decker bunk beds with 5 sleeping places on each level. The 2/3 vacancy meant I didn’t have to sleep shoulder-to-shoulder, thank goodness.
The food here was phenomenal. I had 2 servings of everything: huge bowls of delicious soup, fresh salad, and a chicken in Dijon cream sauce with potatoes. Caramel ice cream was the finishing touch to one of my favourite meals on the trip.
One note about the Gîte de la Léchère- the proprietors don’t speak much English at ALL. I believe the reviews that report the hosts aren’t terribly polite to English-only speakers. But my shaky French had a cheerful reception, and it was a nice chance to practice it.
Also- locals like to hang out at the gîte in both the afternoon and evening. I appreciated the local flavour for the most part. But non-hiking guests were drinking and chatting loudly, right outside our door, until quite late. Earplugs came in handy once again!