Tour du Mont Blanc :: Contamines to Les Houches

The usual deal. Up early and packed everything up. Luckily, though, we could actually see the surrounding mountains and, although the sun wasn’t over the ridge yet, we could tell that is was going to be a nice day. Once we were ready, Charlie sent us off to meet in Contamines so that some of us could take out some money and buy a few things.

Setting off from Contamines, we made our way up through the eastern outskirts until we reached the TMB variant route and then continued up steeply up to Chalets du Truc where we just continued on after admiring the amazing views of the Glacier de Miage. From there, we descended again to the Chalets de Miage where we all had our lunches and ordered their famously huge portions of “tarte aux myrtilles”.

Munching on our lunch, we got the chance to take a good look at the next segment of our walk – the extremely steep 600m ascent to the Col de Tricot. Charlie told us about an informal challenge that people try where they time themselves from the gate at the bottom to the top of the col. I think he said the best time he’d heard of was 31 minutes, that he did in 39 minutes when he tried and that another guide said that doing it in under 35 minutes nearly killed him. In the same breath he warned us against trying it because one of his previous clients tried it and suffered from a sudden drop in energy levels half way up and nearly collapsed even though he was young and fit.

Col de Tricot

Col de Tricot

All this talk was just supposed to prepare us for the difficulty of the climb and persuade us that slow and steady was the best option, but I couldn’t resist giving it some sort of a shot and seeing what time I could get without killing myself. Off I went, quickly passing a guy who had passed us a couple of minutes before and ploughed on up the steep zig-zagging path. I pushed pretty hard, but made myself take breaks in an effort to be somewhat sensible. Each time I took a break, though, the guy behind me going at a steady pace would start to catch me and I’d set off again. On and on, up and up the path went, but all of a sudden I was at the top and stopped my stopwatch at 36 minutes, 40 seconds.

That was probably the most satisfying segment of the trek, and it was pretty cool to see the rest of the group trickle within ten minutes either side of the hour mark. Everyone seemed to enjoy the challenge of pushing on up to the top of such a steep ascent.

Me and Charlie

Me and Charlie

From there we descended and then ascended again to the top of the of the Téléphérique de Bellevue where Brian, Felicity and Xen decided to take the cable car down to les Houches rather than walk. After following Charlie for a bit down what would be ski slopes in the winter, we found the path and I headed off down the steep descent at a jog. The girls had been joking that I was trying to look like a superhero because I had my towel hanging out of the back of my rucksack to dry and it looked like a cape. So, when I set off down the path I could just hear a load of giggling from above because apparently my “cape” was billowing behind me as I ran off.

The descent to les Houches was long and steep and I took shortcuts wherever I could, so at one point I was fairly sure I’d gotten lost. I knew I was supposed to be following the cables of the cable car down, but I could see a cable car far to the west. That turned out to be a different cable car, and I eventually figured out from the map that I was on the right path and continued on down into the town in time to meet the others off the cable car and have a drink in the bar across the road.

Since we’d somehow run a little behind on schedule, we had to wait a while longer for the next bus so I took the opportunity to take out some cash. The barman’s response to me “Avez-vous une banque ici?” was either “Oui; cent metres.” or “Huit cent metres” so I jogged up the road for what turned out to be more like the latter 800m, took out some cash and nosed around an outdoor sports shop.

Back with the group, we all had a good laugh at the fact that Gary had somehow been one of the last to arrive in the town even though the last time anyone saw him he wasn’t far behind me. He must have got waylaid a bit, but we never did figure out exactly what route he took. To further pass the time before the bus came we just pestered Charlie with teasing and questions until he had to give up trying to read the sports section of the newspaper.

Finally the bus came and we went up the road to our campsite at les Montquarts, between les Houches and Chamonix. Since we were fairly late, we had to quickly pitch the tents, have showers and get ready for dinner. That night we started with soup, had crêpes and a tuna dish for main and a custard and caramel mix with pastries for dessert. After dinner, we washed up and once Brian had beaten me in chess again, I joined Catherine in the site’s games room where she was charging our phones while reading and then we went off to bed.


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