Waking up at 6am before your alarm goes off is a sure sign you’re looking forward to some sort of height-gaining-hiking.
However picking up your rucksack and estimating it to be around 10kg, even though you have literally packed the bare minimum without having to reuse your knickers makes it feel slightly less exciting and more concerning how you’re about to lug it over 100km…
Having got the first bus through the Mont Blanc tunnel and enjoying the obligatory double espresso Italy we set off from Courmayeur. It was up. Up. All of it was up. It was just under 1000m of height gain until the first rest stop at Rifugio Bertone at 1989m. We don’t even have a mountain that high in the UK. And we live in a city that’s at sea level.
So we headed up and the roads turned into hiking trails and it still went up. And that rucksack felt like I was carrying an extra person up there. It was up but it was up through winding trails through Alpine forests that gave breaks to views back down into Courmayeur and beyond across the Italian Alps. Had I not had three tonnes of compeed blister plasters in my rucksack I’m sure it would have been a lot quicker during the height gain.
By the time we had hit Rifugio Bertone for a beer (for BG) and a Coke Zero (for me) the Suunto was alerting me to the fact I was 1000 calories down. We sat and made lunch about 50m later and it consisted of Boursin smothered all over baguettes. Boursin always tastes miles better in the Alps.
Instantly, because of the huge amounts of Boursin consumed and the fact near 2000m you start feeling the effects of altitude, the up started to feel a little more sluggish and slow. But it didn’t matter because the TMB was about to hit views like you imagined views on the TMB to look like. Trails cut along the sides of mountains covered in Alpine flowers, pine trees and big skies while dwarfed by the south side of the Mont Blanc massif with all its glaciers and vertical rock faces. There may or may not have been a permanent grin on my face at this point.
There’s nothing else to say about these views apart from they went on like this for the rest of the day. Nothing but stunning as I occasionally cursed my sea-level-ability lungs every time there was an ascent of some sort.
At one point, having burnt off the half of Boursin I ate, I started to imagine all the high carb food that might be served at Rifugio Bonatti later that evening. Lasagne? Pastas? Chocolate fudge cake? Lasagne? Cheese? More cheese? I started questing BG on all the food he’d ever been served in every mountain hut he’d ever stayed in. I wanted the food. We stopped and BG gave me some salted cashews to calm my appetite. It stopped the lasagne hallucinations.
The trail continued and the clouds where low over the Mont Blanc summit and any other summits for that matter. The thunder started clapping behind us which spurred the last part of the hike on. Rifugio Bonatti was a welcome sight for weary legs but it was also UPhill. But it felt good to finally reach it.
Rifugio Bonatti has been my first mountain refuge experience and it’s been pretty good. Cheap red wine at €2 a glass, good food, clean and warm dormitories and a shower that had hot water for around 40 seconds. And, a load of like minded people to share your dinner with.
And we had headed up to bed by 8:30am because the Alps have killed us (more me than BG). And because tomorrow to La Fouly is a very long way…