I can't say that I had taken much interest in this part of the TMB. All my focus had been on the Italian Val Ferret and the Grand Balcon Sud on the way back to Chamonix. But I was pleasantly surprised.
After a breakfast of baguettes and Swiss cheese in the sunshine we headed off towards Praz de Fort with the route following the river along the valley and then up into the forests. It was hot and humid yet breaks in the trees gave way to stereotypical Swiss views of traditional houses on the sides of Alpine pastures, pine trees, tall mountains and green valleys.
Praz de Fort was the Switzerland I was expecting to see at Zermatt last year. A quiet village with wooden houses surrounded by green meadows covered in Alpine flowers. We stopped for lunch in the sunshine just after Praz de Fort. The views were perfect. Switzerland had redeemed itself once more!
After lunch we started on the path to Champex. Despite looking at the map/reading the guide book several times I had ignorantly thought Champex was in the valley. It wasn't. It was in the mountains. A long climb in the heat of the day ensued. The climb would not have been strenuous had the dreaded rucksack not been attached to my back but it just slowed everything down. Once again the trail zig-zagged up the side of the mountains and rewarded us constantly with the most spectacular views. It made the heat worth it.
Despite what the guidebook and the sign posts say the time it takes on the TMB is longer than they say. Every time. Champex was supposed to be 1hr 30mins from the valley. It might have been had you been a trail runner or a day hiker with just a day pack. Not a hiker with a 60L rucksack. Despite managing a consistent pace during the ascent it seemed to go on for a lot longer than 1hr 30mins. And it was so hot!
We hit Champex and the sun got hotter. Finally we had arrived. But yet we hadn't. The path continued up and up and the sun just seemed to get stronger.
The Lake at Champex finally appeared and yet we knew our campsite was at the far end of the Lake. Everything hurt at this point. The campsite felt like it would never appear and when it did I'd never been so glad to be out of the sun.
After eating everything we had in our rucksacks and having a very welcome shower we walked back into Champex. This was by far the best evening so far on the TMB. The sun was out, the scenery was picture perfect. A turquoise-green Lake surrounded by mountains and pine forests. We sat and enjoyed a well earned drink at a bar by the lakeside and finally relaxed.
This has been, by far, my favourite part of the TMB so far.
And I'm starting to really like Switzerland this year.