The final stage was finally here and we'd had a warm, dry and restful night in Argentiére. Well, it was warm and dry but unfortunately for me not at all restful. After something (I still have no idea what) poisoned me I was vomiting until midnight and then had a very restless and uncomfortable night's sleep. All before the last day of our epic hike. Gutted.
I skipped breakfast in favour of more rest and also because I was not at all hungry and still felt awful. The thought of climbing up to 2000m from the valley at around 1200m was really not appealing. But neither was bailing at getting the bus down to Chamonix. So I manned-up somehow and I decided to go on.
I felt like shit.
As we were packing our rucksacks up for the last time I had to keep having a rest. I was lightheaded and had no energy. My arms felt weak even tying my hair up.
We plodded up into Argentiére centre to buy some food. Breakfast biscuits, Mentos and apple juice for me. I managed some juice and a Mentos before off we went, straight up the ascent towards the Grand Balcon Sud.
I had to have some serious battles in my head at the the beginning of the ascent. We'd already decided our detour via Lac Blanc was out of the question (we can do it next week anyway) since I'd be lucky to make it to Planpraz for the cablecar into Chamonix.
The trail went upwards through yet another beautiful Pine forest but this time we had SUNSHINE! For the first time since Champex we had clear views and we didn't have to wear horrendous waterproof trousers. I think this really helped for the morale because I was really struggling with the weight of my rucksack at this point. I had no energy to carry the weight that I'd got so used to over the last five days. In fact BG ended up offloading stuff from my pack and attaching it to his. Absolute godsend as this really helped my progress.
After the load was lighter the climb became easier and I was able to make very slow and steady progress despite the lack of energy intake. I was focused on getting to Chalet des Chéserys at 1998m as that's were we would meet the Grand Balcon Sud which would take us along to Planpraz.
Now, rather than me moaning about poor old me, here's what today was all about; the views of the Mont Blanc massif all the way back home, to Chamonix. And they were spectacular. They make you feel very small. All the major peaks of the Alps right across from you rising up to 4000+m. Staring across to Mont Blanc du Tacul and trying to understand how climbed it last year. The views were consistently amazing and it made a very difficult day so much easier.
We made it to Chalet des Chéserys and stopped for a break before joining the Grand Balcon Sud. The signs for La Flégère pointed to an hours walk which we couldn't understand because you could see it along the path. It was an hour. Probably over an hour in my pathetic state. We got there and BG asked if I wanted to get the cablecar down to Chamonix from there.
Two reasons I said no. I hate cablecars, the bigger the car the worse the fear (Aiguille du Midi is the worst) and also despite feeling the way I was, the plan was always to finish at Planpraz and get into Chamonix from there.
La Flégère to Planpraz – 2 hours.
Two more hours (and a bit more) is what we did. The path hugged the side of the mountains, went up and down, over some couloirs, the Mer de Glace opposite never seemed to get any closer. There was no other option other than to continue on to Planpraz. So we did. And the worst part was the slog up to the cablecar station there.
So slow, no energy, all determination and some very strong stamina and we arrived.
5301m of ascent
4551m of descent
11,323 calories burned
We had made it all the way from Courmayeur to Chamonix on foot, carrying everything on our backs. We met some great people on the first night at Rifugio Bonatti who we bumped into at various points along the route over the next few days. We met two Irish girls at Col de la Forclaz who had the same camping fate as we did. We left early before they did and wondered if they had made it back ok. And we just bumped into them in a supermarket in Chamonix!
It has been the most fantastic experience. I've found a determination and stamina I never knew I had. I've perfected the 'slow and steady' ascent style. The weather has burnt us, challenged us and the views, apart from two days, have been entirely rewarding. From the south side of the Mont Blanc massif where we began, to the rolling Swiss foothills and all the way back around to the glaciers and mountains in the Chamonix valley.
I wouldn't change a thing.