Refuge Robert Blanc – Courmayeur
Saturday 15th August 2020
“The danger of adventure is worth a thousand days of ease and comfort”.
Today we will leave France and enter Italy via Col de la Seigne.
We started with stunning sunrise views from the incredible Refuge Robert Blanc, 2,750m up the mountainside. The effort of getting there the evening before was forgotten in appreciation of this special place.
This was going to be a long hiking day as there is a very long steep way down and surprisingly enough still a lot of elevation gain, it’s the way it goes here!
The owner at the refuge told us our ‘plan’ would take us 12 hours…this was not what we had researched/planned and we thought it would be 9 hours maximum!
He also told us that our route was technical!! We decided we would go for it anyway and once at the bottom make our next decision from there based on time/distance.
The track cuts across the base of the oddly named Glacier des Glaciers, with lots of rocks and gullies to cross, some requiring the use of handy chains and ropes to aid you.
To be fair they were easier to climb than some of our Scottish Munro’s that provide no ropes or chains just heather which you precariously have to hang on to at times of need!
The gnarliest section was right at the end, above this striking zig zag track. Here there was just enough width on each ledge for a boot, and a rather large drop off below, so they’ve installed what felt like about 100m of wire to hold on to.
At the top, we had a view of both France and Italy, pretty stunning and cool! From the Italy side we were able to gaze onto the Val Veni.
The contrast between the rich green of the meadows and the rippling grey mountains beyond is striking and looks almost unreal at times.
From here we also got stunning views of Italian Mont Blanc.
Mont Blanc is permanently covered in snow and ice hence its name. The literal translation for Mont Blanc is “White Mountain”.
Mont Blanc massif, the scale of which is almost beyond words rises up almost vertically from the valley floor and dwarfs us.
There is a power in these mountains you cannot help but be captivated, gripped and awestruck by their sheer presence and scale.
It was then a steady descent down enjoying great views of the Aiguilles of Peuterey as well as Mont Blanc.
Walking in the mountains makes me feel energised. When I walk I sometimes have that feeling of zoning out, in which time passes almost unconsciously if that makes sense.
Sometimes we walk together in silence, each of us wrapped in our own thoughts or simply enjoying the quiet stillness of the countryside and mountain tops, other times we chat non stop.
After reaching the valley floor in good time we make the decision to continue with our plan as we were ahead of time so it was a straight back up again to cross over another mountain pass on the other side!
We slowly head upwards taking in the views.
We eventually reach the platuae and once again the views are stunning…it just goes on and on but I’ve no complaints!
We make our way downwards traversing the mountain which has some really nice views of Mont Blanc and the surrounding peaks from the opposite side….there is glacier after glacier, it’s an amazing spectacle of Mother Nature showing off.
This landscape is a striking example and dramatic reminder of the rich glacial history of the landscape, carved, shaped, sculpted and ultimately abandoned by the mighty rivers of ice that once pushed and sliced their way through the earth and rock.
On the route down we take a break and simply sit soaking in the intense tranquility of the moment, the stillness of the air, the mountains hovering over us, the glaciers that are hand supported in the rock face, dirty white rivers of ice and feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin.
We reluctantly continue slowly downwards hiking in the most beautiful balconies. Its breathtaking.
We reached the pass Checrouit a ski resort high above Courmayeur.
Once you reach Plan Checrouit, if your legs are a bit worn out, you can take a cable car down to Courmayeur. The cable car can save about 1,900 feet of elevation loss.
One of our group is struggling quite a bit with the steep upwards and downwards and weight of the bag. When she sees a cable car down to Courmayeur where we are staying for 2 nights as we are having a rest day here, she decides to take it the rest of the way down cutting her journey by 2 hours.
We wave her off before desending very steeply, dangerously and dustily into Courmayeur.
This day once again felt like a lot of elevation loss towards the end of the day when you descend down into Courmayeur….and you know what comes after a big loss of elevation!