Statistics: mileage 14 miles ascent 5180′ descent 2874′ 8 hours
The breakfast was typical of French refuges and consisted of coffee and a hard crusty roll with butter and jam. Our host threw in
There was mumbling among a few of the hikers around the breakfast table about some serious snoring that had occurred during the night. It was so bad that the occupants of that room dragged their mattresses into the hall to escape the offender.
The hike began on a beautiful rainforest path that followed the Bon-Nant River. We walked by a Nordic sports training area which included ski jumping. I had always wondered how someone gets the nerve to go down a ski jump for the first time, and this ski area revealed the answer … they start small, but even that takes courage!
Shortly, we came upon the picturesque pilgrimage chapel of Notre-Dame de la Gorge.
The chapel was named for the narrow, gushing ravine that we crossed over on a stone bridge, the Pont de la Tena.
The trail began to climb steeply at this point as we walked over Roman laid slabs of stone. The narrow gorge continued to roar along its route down the mountain.
Climbing higher and higher we reached the end of the Val Montjoie, where we turned around to take in the view of the valley below.
A ritual in European mountain country is to toss a stone on a pile of rocks to commemorate some event. Such is the case at Plan des Dames, where it is said that a woman died here during a storm.
Toward the end of a five mile ascent, nearing the Col du Bonhomme, we encountered a series of switchbacks up the mountain.
A cold wind whipped over us as we reached the mountain pass, the Col du Bonhomme, where a tiny shelter offered a brief reprieve from the wind. Since a number of hikers were trying to squeeze inside we stayed long enough to warm up, then continued on to the next pass, the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. As we looked back down the trail, the little shelter was still busy.
Happily, as the wind died down and better weather held, we were able to take an alternate trail route I had planned into our original route over the Col des Fours. This trail variant, which would keep us high on the mountain, appears on the map as a trail cutoff with beautiful vistas, bypassing Les Chapieux. However, the ruggedness of the mountain trail did not actually save us much time. At Col des Fours, we had a commanding view of the mountain valley below, where we would rejoin the primary trail at Villes des Glaciers.
As we scrambled down the very steep trail, we were entranced by the terrain which contained some very interesting strata.
After a long, but rewarding day, Refuge des Mottets was a welcome sight.
Les Mottets is a big refuge that had been a cattle farm. Our sleeping quarters were in a 50 bed converted cow shed, 25 pallets on one side and 25 pallets on the other side. Dinnertime was fabulous! First of all, the food was great, then we met some people who have since become dear friends, and then after dinner someone broke out their accordion. Everyone locked arms, swaying back and forth, and all of us joined in song. This was a memory maker of an evening, presenting a wonderful aspect of these treks!