WHEW! We made it! Today was by far the longest hike of the TMB for us. 16 mfing miles while hiking over 3,500 feet up and over 4,500 feet down (that’s right, nearly a mile down). From the time we booked this trip we knew that today was going to be the hardest. We’d planned to book a different refugio for last night that turned out to be completely booked before it even officially opened. With no other great alternative available we ended up booking the one last night that gave us a wonderful rest day yesterday, and paid for it with a crazy long hike today.
My best estimate before we began was that it would take us 10 to 12 hours. We were also told by tonight’s gite that we needed to arrive by 6. That meant we’d have to be hiking by 5:30 AM to safely make it in time. Our alarm went off at 4:55 and we all got ready efficiently to be on the trail just as the first light was appearing in the sky. We hiked silently for the first hour, still half asleep. We were also helped along in that early hour by mostly flat terrain.
Our first rest stop wasn’t until Refugio Bonatti about 4.5 miles in. We all had a little breakfast, I snuck into their bathroom, and we were back on the trail in short order. The first 8 miles were actually all quite easy with only a few bumps of hills (a couple hundred feet up and down).
Next we had a steep descent for a mile and a half or so. We stopped at Refugio Val Verret and Molly and Zoe went in to use the bathroom, which normally isn’t a problem. However, a woman came out to yell at Ellie and I for being there without buying anything. We told her we’d leave and did. Then Molly and Zoe came out and said the same woman had come into the bathroom to yell and them for using it. Weird vibe there, maybe she was already having a bad day. There wasn’t a single other refuge that didn’t have public bathrooms.
In any case, the next part of the hike was UP. If I remember right, this portion was only 2,500 or so feet. Normally that is a lot, but not an insane amount. Today, it was rough. I know I struggled most of the way up. I think it was the combination of the early wake up and 10+ miles we’d already done. We made it about 1 PM and had a quick lunch near the top.
The rest of the day was DOWN. Which is often harder than up. I’d been dreading it, but it wasn’t too bad today, just endless. I’d keep picking a landmark that seemed like it could possibly be near the end, but they never were. Until finally, we made it to Gite De La Fouly at about 4:45. Well under the cutoff time. We were so warmly welcomed. Shown our room, bathroom, wifi, and then collapsed into chairs on the deck to drink, eat, and recover.