Today is definitely ending differently than we had planned, in fact very little of the day matches the spreadsheet that Zak has worked hours upon hours on for the past year.
Our original plan had been to do a variation of the official trail and hike just 2.8 miles to the rufugio for the night. Since we’d taken the bus to the hotel last night we didn’t think that was “fair” so we took the bus back to the where we got on it yesterday and continued hiking.
We were in no rush today and took in every single second. Tomorrow is our last day, it’s going to be a hell of a hike, and it’s going to rain all day. Today is out last chance to see the Alps we’ve been hiking through. And seeing them is what we got to do! The views were incredible. The whole massif was visible all day as we hiked on the ridge. This was our tenth day hiking around this geological masterpiece and to see it all at once, near the end of our journey, was the perfect way to spend an easier day.
I say easier lightly. Today was “ladder” day. The ladder section is infamous and there are many more posts in the TMB Facebook groups about how hard the ladders are than any other topic. Our gain was intense today, just shy of 3,000, and all straight up. I know. I know. I say that everyday. But today it was literally true. There were 9 ladders to complete, the longest being 25 feet. One slip and you’d definitely fall to your death. With the combination of the ladders and some serious scrambling we gained about 500 feet in less than a quarter mile. Huge elevation gain with nearly no milage. It was still scary as hell, especially with our 20 pound packs on our backs and our poles put away so we could use our hands. Oh! And we needed to pull ourselves along chains during some horrifying sections of the steep drop off with a large gap between the rock we were balancing on and the rock wall the chain was attached to. I have to admit. I LOVED every second of this section.
We had a leisurely lunch at the top, once our nerves had all calmed a bit. The rest of the hike was mostly down, and pretty rocky making it challenging. A quarter mile from our rufugio was a restaurant where we got ice cream and Moscow mules. Delightful end of the hike!
We checked into our rufugio. There was no electricity, no potable water, signs of mice, and horrible recent reviews on Google, including…bed bugs! Zak sat on the bunk he was assigned to and went right onto his phone. I knew he was looking up other sleeping options. I made the decision to agree with whatever alternative he was going to offer. I wasn’t about to play the “you decide” or the “well, we’re already here” game. Sure enough, within minutes he found a place in Chamonix, where this whole adventure started, with a room for the night. The room happens to be lovely, has electricity, water (and wine and beer), and no signs of mice. We took the self-imposed-not-allowed cable car down several thousand feet to Chamonix and walked to the hotel.
Tomorrow, we’ll take it right back up and FINISH the hike. It’s going to be hard, it will be our third longest milage day, over 2,500 feet up, and over 5,500 feet down! All in the rain. But we’ve come this far. We’ve got it!