Tour du Mont Blanc :: Val Veny to les Chapieux

Up early and packed up too efficiently again. Poor Charlie and Liz, after several months of this and neither exactly morning people, probably groaned every morning when they saw us up and about and ready and waiting for our breakfast before the agreed upon 08:00.

Off we went along the road to Lac de Combal. This was probably the stretch we least liked on the trip. Pretty much all of it was on tarmac and it just seemed to go on and on, fairly steep in place, with nothing much of interest to see. Eventually we got there, though, and continued along the flat on what was supposed to be an old Roman road and up to the Refuge E. Soldini. Several people seemed pretty tired at this point … Brian’s shin was still sore and Felicity had picked up a knee ligament injury which she was struggling with.



Inside the refuge was extremely cosy and warm and we all enjoyed our lunches and hot chocolate as it got more miserable and cold outside. From there we set off uphill towards what used to be a customs shed near the border with France. The girls got a good chuckle when I set off at a fast pace, Dean started running past me and then I ran after him … the problem was obvious … neither of us was going to want to be the one to stop running first …



On the way to the custom’s shed we passed more brown and white milka cows with their bells. Doing our best to keep warm at the shed in the cold wind, we debated how and when they get milked. Of course it was Catherine, the farmers daughter, who had noticed the portable milking rig further down the valley on the way up. Problem solved.

We continued on up to the Col de la Seigne, taking a photo of me on a patch of ice along the way. Once at the top, we quickly crossed over into Italy to get out of the cold wind and descended down the very steep path to Refuge des Mottets at a fairly leisurely pace in glorious sunshine. Along the way, Janina filled Catherine and I on all the current complexities of her love life which was a fun way to pass the time. Janina is a biology teacher in her mid (okay … early … I’ll be kind) thirties living in Brighton who was a constant source of chuckles. The slagging and teasing between us was non-stop, but even aside from that, her stories of skiing, teaching, travelling around the world etc. kept us amused for the fortnight. Also, for some reason, she was a tad obsessed with marmots and nearly wet herself each of the times we spotted some marmots down from the Col de Balme, down from the Grand Col de Ferret and above les Chapieux. We all teased her saying they were nothing more than fat rabbits, but she was having none of it.

Catherine and Janina

Catherine and Janina

Just before the Refuge des Mottets, we came across a Maremma sheepdog guarding a flock of sheep. We’d seen signs warning people to not antagonise the dogs so we stayed a decent distance away, but we couldn’t help spending a good while taking photos of him. We were all a bit entranced by this huge but noble dog quietly watching over the sheep.

Maremma Sheepdog

Maremma Sheepdog

After a bite at the refuge, we continued down the road to our rough camp at les Chapieux, spotting a couple of marmots along the way. This rough camp was a little rougher than the last and we washed ourselves in the freezing cold river that evening. No sooner had we pitched our tents, a car full of young dodgy looking French guys arrived back to their tent which was pitched amongst our tents. Teresa spent the whole evening keeping us amused with her scary theories of what they were up to and warning us all to tie up the zips on our tent when going to bed.

Dinner that night was at a hotel right beside the camp site. It was by far the best meal we had out on the whole trip and we all stuffed ourselves stupid. The starter was a really delicious soup, the main was boar with potato gratin and the dessert was a fruit tart. The only downside was that we were sitting outside all wrapped up, but the food made up for that. The staff, and even the chef, were all great fun and made for a really enjoyable night.


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