TMB Stage 10

Our original plan was for today to be mostly a rest day, but it decidedly was not. We realized yesterday that a couple tweaks to our route were needed. First, that the route we’d planned to walk to last night’s hotel and then up to Refugio Flegere would cause us to miss the ladder portion of the hike, something Molly and Zoe had particularly been looking forward to. Second, that if we were to backtrack to that higher route we’d be adding a lot of elevation.

As a result we ended up in the mad dash to the bus stop I described yesterday, then took that same bus back to the same station this morning to continue from where we left off without missing a single step of the trail. The other result was that since we cut some milage off of yesterday’s hike it was added to today’s. We only walked a little over 4 miles today, but they among the hardest and most rewarding four miles of the 100ish we’ve travelled so far.

Before setting out this morning we enjoyed the best breakfast we’ve had so far this trip. Our hotel had everything we could have wanted. I opted for the pain au chocolat, chocolat twist, marble cake, bacon, local raspberry yogurt, Savoie honey on bread that was scraped from a block the size of a basketball, lox on bread with tomato and cucumber, a hard boiled egg that I forgot I was boiling but that turned out perfectly, OJ, and cafe. It was a delightful start to the day.

We picked up sandwiches from a local shop on the way to the bus station. The sandwiches are one of my favorite things about this region. Today’s was on fresh baguette with ham, cheese, tomato, lettuce, butter, and pickles. Somehow we timed the bus nearly perfectly and rode up the hill to pick up from where we’d left off yesterday.

The first half of today’s hike was up. Steeper than anything we’ve done so far. So steep that some portions were literally straight up on fixed ladders. We generally consider 1,000 feet per mile to be a normal steep climb. Today’s track rose 2,400 ft over 2 miles with some stretches even more inclined.

The elevation chart of today’s hike. You can probs guess where the ladders were.

I hadn’t really done any research or reading about the ladder sections. That was probably for the best because they were pretty terrifying. I’m already not a fan of ladders. My favorite commercial is the one on CNN where an adult woman scolds her even older adult dad for climbing a ladder to clean his gutters. Every time I see it I remind the girls to scold me if I ever show any interest in ladder climbing. Sadly, they continue to let me clean my own gutters. I even did it for the one weekend we were in Chicago to clean out all the tree jizz that mysteriously fell this year. Hopefully this fall after the leaves have fallen they’ll step up.

We passed a lot of rock climbers on the way up.

Anyway, many of the ladders were terrifying. Molly mentioned there were 9. I was picturing something like Mesa Verde. Sturdy, wide, long extensions at the top, made for tourists. What I got was a narrow, improvised, maybe safe maybe not mix of ladders, chains, rocks, bolts, bridges and whatever other crap the person who built the whole system had in their pack. Below each ladder, I’m not exaggerating, was 1,000 feet of nothing, then solid rock. So falling=dying. I’m happy to report none of us died.

Pretty views were plentiful.

I did encounter one asshole who did his best to kill himself though. On one of the first few ladders I was about 1/3 of the way up when said asshole yelled “I’m on!” and stepped onto the top. I replied “what are you doing, I’m already here”. He looked down, then swung out to the side of the ladder, literally dangling a thousand feet in space. Zoe was behind me and she told me that when he got down he and the woman behind her had a very heated discussion in French.

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck! Why is she smiling?
Just a small portion of the ladder section.

When we all did reach the peak of today’s climb we paused to enjoy our sandwiches. Then we started the descent to Le Flegere. It was a pretty uneventful hike down with the exception of a stop for Moscow Mules and ice cream. There was an option une, deux, or trois boules of ice cream. Molly said we could choose however many boules we wanted so the only logical number was trois. I chose chocolate, caramel, and raspberry. There is no way to describe how delicious they were.

Mes boules.

After our snack we headed to the place we had intended to spend the night, Refugio Le Flegere. As soon as we were shown to our dorm I checked to see where the Flegere cable car let out in Chamonix, then Googled hotels in that area. I found one within 5 minutes and that’s where we are now Refugio Le Flegere would be fine if you were young doing the TMB on a tight budget. For us it was well worth it to spend the 88€ on a round trip cable car ride so that we could spend the night in a nicer place. Tomorrow we’ll take the cable car back up and once again continue from where we left off.

Rifugio Le Flegere. Nope.
Making our way to alternative accomodations for the night.

We’re now writing and drinking from the patio of Hotel Eden. There are cold drinks and there will soon be hot food. One last day tomorrow and we’ll be back in Les Houches where this all began!

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