Col Malatra

Day 32 – Friday, August 30th – Rifugio Walter Bonatti to Rifugio Frassati – 8 km

I had told the pharmacist that the lady in front of me had given me a Riccola. She said the ones she was giving me were stronger than a Riccola. I took one before I went to bed and I did not cough once the entire night. When I had laid down for a nap before dinner, I almost couldn’t stop coughing. That’s impressive!

I do feel like my symptoms are progressing, but whether I’m better? I’m not sure. 

I knew I had a very short day, so I stayed at the refuge as long as I could. I was the last one out. It was kind of sad watching everyone go one way, knowing I was going another. I will not be finishing the TMB, but it’s ok, I’m ready to move on. Maybe some day I will finish it, but I’ve basically been hiking in the mountains since I started in Le Puy, and they’ve gotten bigger. My knees are ready for something easier. Physically I’m ready for something easier. And certainly because of this cold I’m ready for something easier. 

It’s kind of strange that I’m in this final transition, and then I will truly be on the Via Francigena to Rome. It all seemed like a nebulous thing that was happening in the future, but now it’s here. Everything has worked out. I can only imagine things will continue to work out.

Doing the TMB was the big question mark. Could I do it, physically, and would I be able to find reservations the week of? I think it’s interesting that the threat of rain made me schedule shorter days, but then it never rained (while walking) and I got sick, but even that worked out. I could have been much, much sicker, but I was still able to do it, and I had planned shorter days, which made it easier. I am definitely being watched over. I am very grateful.

Today was definitely hard. The route was well signed and posted, so I really didn’t need to worry about that. But even though it was a short day, it was difficult. I tried to go slow, and not stress my lungs, or burn my throat, but I’m still mountain hiking in the Alps. There’s only so much you can do. I was also feeling the fatigue.

Mentally, from the start, I was glad I was stopping early. I know I could have continued on to St. Rhemy, even today, but I really didn’t need to. Doing less can be hard for me sometimes. But today, I think if I knew I’d had farther to go, I probably would have tried to push myself harder, or just been overwhelmed with how fatigued I felt. So I’m glad I made that reservation.

There was climb right from the start, so I slowly trudged up the hill, away from Mont Blanc. I passed by some old abandoned buildings that looked pretty cool, then went by some that were maybe less abandoned. 

At first I was all alone; just me and cows. But about about 45 minutes someone passed me. I was kind of grateful for that, because at least for a while I could look ahead and see where I was going. I had tried to guess which way the col was, but I was wrong.

A guy even passed me coming from the other direction. He must have left very, very early.

After the initial steep climb, it leveled out a bit, walking through cow pasture and rocks toward the mountains.

Then it was a very steep climb up. This climb today was 900m, which is about twice what yesterday was. But you do it the same way, one step at a time. I went slow, and stopped a lot.

At the top of the second climb, it leveled out again as it wound around the back toward the final ascent. I had already come about 600m, so only a third to go. I could tell the last ascent was through a scree field.

There were so many wildflowers. So many. I have not seen any Edelweiss yet, and apparently it only grows between 2000m and 3000m, so today is really my last chance, and at the beginning of tomorrow. I did not see any.

But as I was approaching the jagged, rocky peaks of the col, I could see chamois lounging about the rocks. They really like rocky areas.

I finally made it up, but there was a bit of a traffic jam. This was a very narrow col with really no room at the top. People had come up from the other side, and were trying to take pictures. There was very little room to stand, or sit, or even be. I took a few quick pictures, and went on the other side to see if I could see the Chamois. Most of them were out of sight, but I did see one. 

Then it was down the other side. The side coming from Mont Blanc was rated E. I wonder what this side was rated, because immediately there were ropes to hold onto as you climbed down very, very steep rocks. There were also some metal platforms anchored into the rock. And then it was very steep switchbacks through dirt and shale. It was kind of crazy, but what was I supposed to do? It’s not like I could go back.

After I got down a ways and looked back toward the col, it looks really steep. If I had been coming at it from this direction, I wouldn’t have thought it was possible. I would never have guessed the path led up between those teeth.

There were a lot of people coming at it from this side. It must be a popular trail. 

It was beautiful. The Alta Via 1 goes in the mountains around the north part of the Aosta Valley, coming down at Pont Saint Martin. I had toyed with the idea of staying up higher, but I’m really glad I’m not. Maybe that’s another trip. The Alta Via 2 goes through the south part. I had been on the 2 for a bit during part of the TMB. It switches at Courmayer.

I had to descend 400m to the refuge. Some of the refuges that are near cols are visible from them, but this one wasn’t. 

I got there about 12:45. It was only 8k, and it took me almost 4 and a half hours. I said I had a reservation but I didn’t know what time check in was. They didn’t have a set check in. I upgraded my Demi pension to full pension, so I could have lunch at a discounted price. Four courses for 10 E. So, so much better than my 12 E bowl of soup yesterday.

I wasn’t super hungry, but I thought I would be if I didn’t eat, and food to fight the cold. It was really good. I had minestrone soup, then scalloppine and ratatouille. There was a pudding for dessert, but there was some confusion from the girl whether it was part of my meal or not. I ended up eating inside.

They have a cold shower and a hot shower. The hot shower is locked, and you have to pay for the key. Totally worth it for 3 E. The thought of a cold shower with a cold sounded like a very bad idea. A cold shower sounds like a very bad idea, anyway.  Totally worth it.

They turn the generator off after lunch, so it was actually a good thing I got here when I did. I was able to take a hot shower. 

I am glad I decided to stop here instead of going on. I’m going to see if I can nap.

It is ridiculously cold here. I did nap, but kind of shivered under the doubled duvet the whole time. The rain woke me up when it started. I dragged myself out of bed to get a picture, but then I went right back. I don’t feel great.


I heard some whooping and hollering. I’m guessing some people showed up in the rain without a reservation and were told they had a room and food. Idk, that’s my guess. Idk why people would be that excited.

Dinner was good. It was basically the same options from lunch, I just picked the other ones, so less vegetables and more starch. Maybe I should have evened it out more between my choices.

First course was pasta, then polenta with cheese (the girl said it was a mountain thing) and lentils. There was so much food I couldn’t finish it. So much. I forced myself to eat the dessert again.





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  1. Those expansive views are amazing! Food looks yummy.


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