TMB Phase 3

Things finally started getting interesting on the trail today. Days 1 and 2 were pretty typical hiking days for me. They were beautiful and they were steps toward the much bigger goal. Today was that as well, but it was also more of the adventure I was hoping for.

We all slept poorly last night. Our beds were super squeaky so everytime someone moved we all woke up. A thunderstorm also rolled through about 5 AM, and I’m sure I didn’t fall back asleep again. That didn’t really matter since our alarms were set for 6 anyway.

Breakfast was truly disappointing after last night’s great supper. Just some bread, jam, juice and coffee. It also started raining again. That rain turned out to be foreshadowing of what was to come. For the time being though I was very content in my rain coat and pants. The temp was cool and we were alone on the path to the next refugio.

We arrived at Les Mottets and found it abandoned except for the person who prepared us coffee and crepes. Breakfast 2 more than made up for the lack of breakfast 1. It was also probably the cutest dining room we’ve stopped at. After our brief stop we geared back up and got back on the trail.

Dark clouds were swirling all around us. Rain was lightly falling. There was thunder in the distance. The next part of the hike was a 2,000 ft climb. Before leaving Les Mottets Zoe read the weather report and told us there would be “raining snow” but wasn’t totally confident in her translation. At two different points in the climb we got to experience raining snow, better known as “hail”. BIG hail, big enough that they hurt and even drew blood a few times as they hit us. It was exhilarating!

Or, alternatively, terrifying. We’ve been caught in storms at high elevation a couple time before and the fear of dying by a stray bolt of lightning is very real. When possible we try to set up a tent, but that wasn’t an option today. All we could do was huddle together and take the strikes to the head and legs for 10 minutes or so at two different times.

The weather today.

Eventually we did make the Col Seigne. At our brief break there Ellie came over and showed me a welt on her forehead and I told her I’d get her some whiskey to help with the pain. This turned out to be the most serendipitous comment I’ve made all trip. A guy standing nearby heard me and responded that whiskey was his tradition at the top as well. We joked about it for a minute and then walked away. Meanwhile, Zoe met one of his hiking companions and also struck up a conversation about whiskey. The result was that a couple minutes later we passed them, sheltered behind a rock with a water bottle full of whiskey and a stack of IKEA wine glasses. They quickly poured one for us so we toasted with them and drank it down before continuing on. Thank you whiskey guys!

We picked up these sandwiches for lunch at a grocery next to last night’s hotel. It made me happy to see it every time I opened my pack to take on or off a layer.

From the top of the col the rest of the trek was a pretty easy 2 miles and 1,500 or so feet down. Molly and I split a liter of wine and liter of a beer. We took the world’s fastest showers. I went out to an empty deck to play my uke and sing and quickly built an audience that broke up only when it started hailing again.

So hail, whiskey, wine, beer, ukeing, and a real refugio experience of a day. So far Phase 3 is my favorite and we haven’t even had dinner yet!

Refugio Elisabetta, our home for the night.

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