Monday, 6 September 2010
A cloudless sky welcomed us at about 7.30am when the first needs of tea pierced dreamland.
Tea, shower, toast and home made confiture; followed by the assembly of gear. A favourite pastime. Deuter packs, fleece, boots, socks, legs to zip onto already worn shorts, walking poles, camera, energy bars (not for the energy but they taste nice and I believe they are not fattening - not that I'd care if they were), a banana or two which may well be brought back home bruised from rubbing metaphorical shoulders with a cumbersome camera.
And the inevitable selection of t-shirts. Finally, a Panama hat. Not the ideal head gear for a mountain walk perhaps but it will protect against high altitude sun and the tiny spaces in the weave should allow a little breeze to pass through, so I shall be content as long as I am unaware that everyone else on the mountain is laughing at me.
An hour and a half later and we are walking across the springy grass covered peat above Les Houches and gazing at the Bionnassay glacier not far above us. We cannot help but disturb the many birds eating myrtille berries from the surrounding ground covering bushes and they fly off in that low swooping flight like woodpeckers.
As we near the slope above St Gervais for a view back down the valley towards Pointe Piercé, Geneva and the Jura beyond we are approached by a little old lady walking on her own and as she gets closer to us she asks if the mountain behind us is Mont-Blanc. The massif behind us is indeed the Massif du Mont-Blanc but from where we are standing at that point the summit of Mont-Blanc itself cannot be seen. She asks us the way towards Le Prarion which is at 1967m altitude and as we chat, she by now recognising our English accents and breaking into heavily accented English herself, we learn that she is convalescing on the advice of her daughter, following an eye operation.
Lunch: Croute au fromage et champignons at Chalet Courant d'Air - just delicious
It occurs to us as we talk later having seen her on her way on a more gently path that maybe this is not the best place to be wandering alone if you cannot see too well. She is heading nevertheless in the direction of Col de Voza at 1653m where she can easily get refreshment and rest at the little chalet Courant d'Air and wait for the Tramway du Mont-Blanc to take her back to St Gervais. Elderly people like she certainly have my respect. They just get on with doing what they have always done. I hope I can still do that at the same age...
The weather being glorious we continue up to Mont Lachat at 2115m just to take in the view and the enormity; the beauty of the surrounding mountains.
This is not so much a decent hike this weekend as a decent taking of the view, and I am reminded that if I want to hike higher and further I should do so during the week by managing my time better.
I remind myself of a Zen koan... On the day you were born, you begin to die. Do not waste a single moment more. (Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche).
As we make our way down, the roar of the melting snows and ice from the glacier, as they become a descending torrent comes up to greet us along with the air much cooled by the dangerous mass of ice by the side of us.
Bionnassay Glacier descending Mont-Blanc with rock covered ice section at the bottom, and the melt water pool.
Having seen hikers walking the GR5 crossing the tramway making their way south towards the med, I can see the Col de Tricot leading onwards to the Chalets de Miage and I feel a tinge of envy... I want to be walking away down that path some hundreds of miles and towards the sea.
Do not waste a single moment more...