Day 25 – Thursday, August 22 – Refuge Moede de Anterne to Les Hooches – 19 Km
Last night went surprisingly well, except for the fact that I apparently sabotaged myself. I was worried about the large number of sleepers in my proximity, so I took two Tylenol pm and a melatonin. Last time I took that combo it didn’t work either, but now I know it’s not a good idea. I think maybe I was having a reaction to the diphenhydramine that made my heart race? It kind of put me in a zombie state. I wasn’t asleep but I wasn’t totally awake either. I didn’t start really sleeping until after midnight, but then I ended up sleeping well enough.
I got up twice to go to the bathroom. One of the times I did something to my knee. Maybe I sat on it bent, or something, and pulled some ligaments. I’m not sure, but it really, really hurt, and it continued to hurt throughout the day. It was not good.
Breakfast was at 6:30 and ended at 7:20 and they wanted everyone out by 8. I didn’t like this, because it was supposed to be a 7 hour day and I couldn’t check in till 5. I started walking at 7:30 ish, and thought for sure I’d be super early.
We went down 400m almost immediately, and my knee started giving me trouble right from the start. Bernard and I left at the same time, but he quickly left me far behind.
There is a ton of water here, just falling off the mountain sides. Water seeks the easiest path, which most of the time happens to be the walking path as well. So the slower walking was a combination of my knees hurting, but also picking my path through the water, and not wanting to fall again. I forgot to say it yesterday, but I fell again. I’m not really even sure what happened. I was trying to make a side step onto a tuft of grass and went down on my side. On the grass, so it wasn’t too bad, but I still fell, and I still probably pulled a few things. My costochondritis started acting up more today, so I’m pretty sure that was a direct result of the fall. I really hope I don’t fall any more. I’ve been lucky so far.
It was a long hike down and around the corner, before I crossed the river and started the long, long climb up to the col de Brevent. Going up is better than going down, so I didn’t mind that part. But I knew what was coming. A very, very steep descent.
There are some days I don’t have to pee much, and some days I feel like I have to pee every hour. Today was one of the later. It was difficult, because there wasn’t a lot of cover, and a ton of people around.
I caught up with Olivier on the way up and walked with him for a bit. When we got kind of close to the col, there was a place you could walk back out onto a little mountain top. I went ahead and it because it wasn’t very far to go. The main scenery didn’t change a whole lot this morning, but it’s still fun to see how far you’ve come from a different perspective.
It was a beautiful day.
After this little fake col with the ridge, it was through a very rocky area to get to the real col. There were some snow patches. It’s the first time I’ve been that close to some. It all looks so dirty, as it’s not new snow.
Finally we were at the real Col, and there was Mt. Blanc, super close. I couldn’t see Chamonix at all from here, so that was a little disappointing. It took 4 hours to get to the col, which was only about an 8k walk.
Olivier was going to Chamonix, which was down and to the left, I was going to Les Houches, which was up more and to the right. Michel was also there eating lunch, but he was going to Les Houches, so he thought he might see me again. Olivier asked if I only had 1.5 hours left for the descent, and I said at least 3-4 because of my knees. Little did I know it would be 5.5 hours.
I had to go up again, and across a very rocky area, across the top of Mt. Brevent. This was probably one of the more dangerous parts I’ve had yet.
There was a part where there were metal ladders and poles. I put my poles in the side of my pack, as I knew I needed both hands.
There is a telephrique to the top of Mt. Brevent, so there were a TON of tourists that might not have been there otherwise. So many people.
It took me an hour just to get to the telephrique. Then it was down through a marmot area, and across some more ridges.
I was still moving pretty slowly on the downhills, which was most of it from this point.
I finally made it to the main downhill off the side of Mt. Brevent. There was a relief map in the refuge, and it basically went straight down. I knew that didn’t bode well. This was the longest, steepest descent yet. In several places there were chains to hold onto. There were also a lot of man made wooden stairs, or stone stairs. The whole thing was painstakingly slow. And painful.
I passed a sign that said 2.5 hours to les Houches, which would put me there around 4. My airbnb host had said he would be at the apartment at 6, but I talked him into letting me in at 5. After a while it became clear that I was going to have to hurry if I was going to make it by 5. My day was much longer than expected.
Finally the really steep descent gave way to a gentler one, and by some miracle my knees allowed me to go faster. I half ran as best I could the last hour. But I couldn’t really tell how fast I was going, because the whole day had been slow. Was I really running, or was I just moving at normal speed? Idk.
There were signs for a supposedly amazing view of the Christ de Roi statue. I made it there, but you could only see the back of this really huge statue. I will have to try to remember to look tomorrow and see if I can see it from where I am. It was strange.
On the way down from the statue, it said I had 35 mins to Les Houches, which should put me there about 4:45. I didn’t know how long it would take to find the apartment. My host had said he would leave work to come let me in, and then go back. So I really didn’t want to be late. I ran into Michel coming up! How did that happen? I knew he was still long behind me. Turns out he took the telephrique down. He’s no dummy. He’s continuing on the GR 5, which runs together with the TMB for a few days, but we probably won’t see each other anymore. I’m taking a variant tomorrow.
Luckily the last two hours was through pine forests which basically all looked the same, so I wasn’t tempted to stop every few steps and take pictures.
I finally came out into the town, and it was 4:45. I decided I had enough time to go to the pharmacy and buy some more arnica, and stop at the ATM. I was going to run into the grocery store as well, but they had a sign on the front saying mountain backpacks were forbidden. Well that’s going to make things difficult in THIS town, the official start of the TMB. There was even a sign saying so. It’s not very far from the apartment, so I think I’ll come back in the morning before I start.
The host, Dino, is very nice. His English is better than he lets on. It’s certainly better than my French. I took a shower and washed some clothes and put them on the balcony to dry.
I think my knees and legs are going to be very sore tomorrow. They hurt pretty badly right now. I have about a week with the TMB. I hope everything goes ok.
Despite the issues with my knees and the extra time, today was amazing, and the weather was really nice.
My host made dinner. Started with some absolutely excellent bruschetta. So very good. Then some absolutely delicious mushroom risotto. The main course was osobucco, but I’m not sure if that’s how it was supposed to be. The flavors were good, but it was hard and gristly. Mom wouldn’t have been able to eat it at all. At first I ate most of the gristle, but then I started being more discerning. Still, it’s the most meat I’ve had in… since the hotel in Armoy. It was nice to have some protein and not just bread and cheese. Dessert was a delicious berry tart.