As summer draws to a close, the late August mornings are cooler, the breeze a little stiffer, and after the recent rain in the mountains, the air and light clearer. It renews the oft felt delight to be out and hiking up into the mountains near here, the views of distant peaks in nearby valleys and further away in neighbouring countries... Mont Blanc glistening in the distance, and to its left the Dents du Midi rising above the Rhone in Switzerland.
Wanting to get back home in time to see Beijing's Olympic Games hand over to London's Boris, we set out early on Sunday morning and are dismayed on the one hand and surprised on the other to see just how many cars are parked at the side of the small lake near to the refuges at the Chalets de Bise.
There must be hundreds of hikers up here.
Booted and with packs filled with pan y tomate and drink, nuts, binoculars and camera, not forgetting shades and caps and fleece for the higher chilly breezes we set off at steady pace and over the brow of a hill watch as two large groups of people gather around their leaders before the first of them turn our way and start to climb to the ridge near to the Col de Floray.
Damn! We say to each other, wanting selfishly, the mountain, the lake, the views and the beauty to ourselves. We catch up the second of the groups and pass the first and with a Bonjour à tous we get in response a Buonjorno !
Mostly Italian, the group stops to look at and discuss a violet flower and then the clanking of the bells around the cows necks nearby.
As we climb we hear them continually chattering and calling; laughing and encouraging the rest of their group forward.
At Darbon we stop for our picnic and as we sit enjoying the peace, we hear the first of them
before coming into view and soon enough the entire crowd is noisily sitting by us and opening their lunch packs ignoring the pleading of the group leader, in French, to wait for the stragglers and the remaining group before deciding where to picnic...
A whole bunch of young kids are calling and laughing and whistling to hear their echoes around the bowl of lac Darbon and the normal speech of others in this natural amphitheatre is carried upward towards us.
Having rested after a delicious pan y tomate, a banana and fresh ripe plums we continue on to the Col de Pavis... through a huge fock of tagged sheep lazing in the sunshine amongst the dried grass. High above them we see the horns of a lone Ibex on the rocks of the Pointe des Pavis and we descend towards the GR5 junction at about 1830m before turning back up to the Col de Bise at 1915m before finally descending back to our car in an even fuller car park...
These people are at least out and using their mountains, the returning walkers in their muddied boots and the climbers with their multicoloured ropes having climbed the Cornettes des Bise pack the small outdoor area of the two refuges offering a refreshing beer or tarte mytille.
A nice way to spend a Sunday in late August.
Wish you were here !