Day 7 - Technological Errors

After a relaxed breakfast with seriously good muesli, I trot along to the Tourist Bureau to change money and to find out what all the fuss is about. I find a charming and exceedingly pretty young lady who changes money and answers my questions about the chairlift to La Breya. Half an hour later Bill and are hit at the back of the knees by the said apparatus, and we pull down the safety bar to be whisked silently upwards to the cool air 700m above the valley floor, leaving Alec to visit the alpine garden while Martin goes round a military museum.

The views from the top are stupendous. We can see into the mountains that were shrouded when we crossed Grand Col Ferret two days ago. In the northern distance, the eastern end of Lake Geneva, fed by the youthful Rhône, is a blue-grey sheet far from our mountain stronghold. To the south, the line of yesterday’s walk from Praz de Fort is clear on the ground.


Looking towards Lake Geneva, with Lesley and Graham in the foreground

Bill mutters at his camera and announces that he has left his battery in the hotel room.

‘Never mind, mate,’ I offer. ‘Any shots you want, just give the word.’

At that point my camera flashes me to change the batteries, and I realise I’ve also left the replacements down below.


Praz de Fort and Issert in the valley

Reg, Nancy and Anne have followed us up the chairlift, but Nancy has no intention of chasing those two greyhounds on a race up the rugged path to Cabane d’Orny. Instead she joins forces with Jo, who rode up earlier with Adrian but has jibbed at the drop-offs on the said route. Anne and Reg set off, pursued by Adrian and Bill, and I stroll along at my own pace, trying to commit the stunning views to memory. The narrow path is a delight, so much more adventurous than much of the TMB. On my right are craggy pinnacles and talus slopes, whilst below the mountain falls steeply to the forests through which we climbed en route to Champex-Lac. The weather is close to perfect.

Eventually I make my way over loose boulders to the crest of the lateral moraine and look down onto the ablation zone of the Glacier d’Orny. Ahead is another climb to the Cabane d’Orny, but I can’t find the energy or enthusiasm for the final thrust, so I sit and absorb the scale and nature of the landscape until I am called by name. I turn round to find Hilja standing there.

‘I’d no idea that was you following me.’
‘You looked so sad sitting there.’
‘No, not sad. Just contemplating. Maybe the droop of my hat made me look sad.’
‘Are you going up to the cabane?’
‘No. I’m going to make my way down. If you see Bill, please tell him.’

With that we go our separate ways, and I hum and sing softly to myself on the way to the café at the top of the chairlift, where a beer sets me up for a ride down to the world of the internal combustion engine and the freshly ironed shirt.

Bill and Adrian march into the hotel half an hour after me. They announce the third of the obligatory three technological troubles: Adrian has left his GPS high amongst the Aiguilles d’Arpette.

Our foursome reassembles at the lakeside bar for pre-dinner beers. We learn that Reg followed up his mountain sprint with a swim across the lake, but on diving in to return he cut his nose and skinned his chest on a submerged rock, thus earning a special award for the Silliest Thing Done on the TMB.


View from balcony - Boulangerie


View from balcony – snow-capped Grand Combin

We enjoy another litre of vin rouge before taking dinner at a bar/restaurant. The meal is undistinguished but, by Swiss standards, inexpensive. Conversation flutters around the question of tomorrow’s route: the tough one via Fenêtre d’Arpette or the standard way via the chalet of Bovine. Alec and Bill are contemplating the former, but Martin and I have already decided against. We learn that Lesley has modified our nickname to The Four Muscle-y Dears. How sweet!

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