I won! Wow! But what if I can't do this….

Our competition winner Sylvia

Friday 6th July
Well today I got the great news that I had won the competition and would be off in approximately four weeks to do the east circuit of the TMB. On hearing the news my emotions were oscillating between huge excitement and total panic, how was I ever going to get fit enough to do this in the time available, especially as my diary for the next four weeks was also rather full. The rest of the day was filled with making travel arrangements.

Saturday 7th July
Today is really day one of my training, it is absolutely roasting hot here from early in the morning, but maybe that will be good for training purposes?

Early morning time was spent trying to find app for my phone so that I could record distance walked, time spent and ascent, not as easy as I thought it would be, due to the age of my phone!

Thankfully I am married to a five times Ironman, and Triathlete amongst other activities, who owns a multitude of devices to go with it. So this mornings doggy walk I was armed with a Garmin, set to turn off when I stopped (to allow a doggy to do what a doggy has to do) which kind of worked apart from it seemed to continuously being turning off and on even though sometimes I had not stopped, so I don’t have great faith in the end reading, but I am fairly confident in the distance which was 3.41miles.

In the afternoon, after consulting a local map of walks and paths I set out on a local walk, only to be thwarted two thirds in, by a landowner who had put a ‘Private, no entry’ sign where the path went onto his land. The gate was not locked but the walk went right past the farm house and down it’s drive to the road, so for a peaceful life (and it was a peaceful afternoon, as England were playing Sweden) I turned round and went back adding a dog leg to my original route to make it up to my personal target of miles and accent for today. Distance 7.86 miles, time 2 hours and 50 minutes, 1056 ft of ascent. Yes, the Garmin had been tweaked. I am also feeling a bit more positive after this walk as I enjoyed it and despite the heat felt good, maybe I can do this after all.

Sunday 8th July
Evening doggy walk as I work on a Sunday Morning. Distance 3.22 miles, time 59 minutes, accent 470 ft. Very hot today, 31 degrees at midday and hot into the evening, so we did a late walk at 7.30pm round the lanes, still 27 degrees at 9pm.

Did not sleep well last night due to the heat and also had a slight stomach upset today. I put down to a ‘school girl error’ of taking two litre insulated flasks of water with me yesterday in flasks I have not used for about two years and in my hurry did not even rinse them out first!
In the early hours I was worrying about my ability to do this, however, don’t laugh, but later on today I read the itinerary and realised that I was not expected to walk the whole Tour Du Mont Blanc, 170Km and 9500meters of accent, in six days. What a relief! And now feel so much better and positive about the whole trip. ☺

Family Support Needed! And Training Begins

A view of the sea

Monday 9th July
Early morning dog walk as we were out from 9.30am to 6.30pm today on a previous engagement. Distance 3.96 miles, time one hour 15 minutes, ascent 644ft. After my revelation yesterday I am feeling good, excited.

However, am beginning to realise that doing something at short-ish notice is not that easy, juggling things that were in my diary and rearranging where possible, or coming up with solutions that mean I can fit a bit training in. Still a nice ‘difficulty’ to have in the circumstances. The heat here is also till proving problematic.

“Who have you told about your trip? What were their reactions?” I have told as many people as possible, mainly because the more people I told the more incentive I have to train and complete. I told our children over our WhatsApp family page on Friday. Our eldest son ‘Wow, fantastic news!! What did you have to do to win?’ ‘☺ That’s excellent Well done!!’ Our daughter ‘That sounds fantastic! Who did you win it through?! The ideal prize for you Mum, how jammy!!’ Our youngest son, had missed the WhatsApp conversation trail, but phoned on Sunday for a chat, so I told him then. He was very pleased for me and like our daughter said it was the perfect prize for me.

They all know I have missed the hills/mountains the last couple of years. My husband ‘ Its one of the trails in the Ultra run book, the ultimate trail. Very jealous!! Oh well double dog walks to compensate ;-)’ and of course well done.

Tuesday 10th July
Morning dog walk along the coastal path out to a headland, with a ‘dog leg’ added to bring up the accent. Distance 8.17 miles, time 2 hour 39 minutes, ascent 1226ft

Really nice walk this morning, felt fine with a very welcome breeze which kept the temperature down a bit. Looking forward to the walk but getting a little concerned with regard to fitting in training. However, had to be an early morning walk as we travelled to my parents in law today for a short visit, which takes four hours, plus dog stops. As a guest I find it difficult to go off training for any length of time so think I will have to leave a long walk till I am back home. Another difficulty is that we are about a days drive away from any mountains, so it is not possible for me to do any training on a mountain. I thought with the ups and downs on the coastal path I would be able to make some decent accents, however they are worryingly low. Think I will visit the local gym to see if they have a machine that I could use.

“What is the best outcome following this trip for you?”

Well firstly to complete it! Secondly to persuade my husband to do the other half of the TMB with me as our holiday one year, don’t think it will be hard.

Wednesday 11th July
Dog walking in the hills on the edge of my Parents in law’s village, early in the morning to be back for breakfast. Distance 6.26 miles, time 2 hours 5 minutes, ascent 887 ft. Feeling a bit tired today, but got my itinerary through yesterday and had a good look, the accommodation sounds wonderful, it will certainly be the most luxurious mountain walking I have ever done, I am more use to a Scottish bothy for the night. Think the dog is enjoying the extra long dog walks. Had the usual problem of trying to fit the training into a day with the minimal impact on others and also finding somewhere to walk with a bit of ascent built in.

“What is your biggest fear about the trip?”

My biggest fear about this trip is that I may spoil it for others, maybe with an injury or possibly slowing the group down if everyone else is much faster than me.

Thursday 12th July
Another dog walk in the hills on the edge of my parents in law’s village, early morning to be back in time for family breakfast. Distance 7.14 miles, time 2 hours 29 minutes, ascent 1383 ft. Felt okay physically but a bit tired, still not sleeping great. Always a bit awkward slipping out the door to do training, although my parents in law were very supportive. Also I got a bit disorientated in the woods today. I had a map but no compass, or so I thought, then I remembered that I had a compass on my phone! So wasn’t lost for long.

Friday 13th July
Rest day, lazy beach dog walk today, he had a swim too. Distance 2.6 miles, time 1 hour 16 mins, ascent 511ft. I have been looking at some walks I could do as part of my training, and was pleased to find a couple in the South West Coastal Path book which will give me my target of 3000ft of ascent or more in a day's walk. It would mean a drive of about two hours each way and obviously I would need to find public transport back to the start, to pick up my car, but much more enjoyable than a gym. Tired after a long hot journey home last night

Saturday 14th July
Morning walk from Batson’s Creek Salcombe to Thurlestone. Distance 11.52 miles, time 4 hour 17 minutes, and accent 1850 ft
Evening dog walk and swim, for all of us. Distance 1.96 miles, time 43 minutes, ascent 299 ft. Feeling serene! Wonderful morning, why have I not done this for so long?? The coastal path was beautiful, I had butterflies flying around me at one point, and it really is a very beautiful part of the South West Coastal Path. Hot again today but with a light coastal breeze, which helped. Pleased as I did the walk without using my poles. To date I have trained without them, but intend to use them on the TMB. Wonderful finish to the day too, with an early evening short walk and swim.

No real difficulties - heat, although that’s better than it was last week.

Sunday 15th July
Evening dog walk and swim, for all of us. Distance 2.14 miles, time 55 minutes, ascent 297 ft
Lovely cold swim at the end of the day, tired but happy. No problems excpet time as I work on Sunday mornings.

“How would you sum up of your first week?”

Huge elation at winning, huge panic when I thought I was expected to walk the whole TMB in six days, huge relief when I realised that it was half. Pleased with the way the training is going to date, but concerned about the lack of ascent. Delighted at the accommodation for the trek, it will certainly be the most luxurious walking holiday I have ever done.

It's Hot! Training Ctd Research Begins

A view of the sea

Monday 16th July
Walked up and down a local hill five times as I had a lot to do today but wanted to get a decent walk in, this cut out travel time.
Distance 12.04 miles, time 3 hours 50 minutes, ascent 1635 ft. Bit boring and hot. and started with our dog but he was slightly unwell, too much seawater yesterday! So only did two rounds with him, and then took him home, before continuing.

“How are you feeling at the start of this week?”
Feeling okay, can also feel my fitness beginning to improve, the ups and downs don’t seem quite as bad. You especially notice this when doing local walks.

Tuesday 17th July
Local dog walk. Found another local hill to add to my repertoire. Distance 2.61 miles, time 59 minutes, ascent 356 ft. Dog still has an upset stomach and we stopped at the Post Office on route, and also for a chat with a neighbour. One hour pilates class. Feeling good, a nice treat this morning was to turn a corner to see a hawk taking off from the top of a garage, beautiful. It’s these little things that make walking special to me. Wanted a quieter day today as I plan to do a more challenging walk tomorrow.

“Now you know a little about the group you are walking with. Would you ideally like more detail? Do you have any thoughts about this?”

No, that gave me an idea. I was a little concerned that the group might be quite large, and therefore walks take longer; or the age group was all very young people and I would not be able to keep up. Not that this is really relevant, I know that often the older person can be a lot quicker! I am very pleased to have a mixed age group.

Wednesday 18th July
Morning walk 5.83miles, time 1 hour 57 mins, ascent 1718ft. Started the day feeling worried and frustrated, I had planned a long walk from Babbacombe to Brixham along the coastal path for today. Unfortunately our dog is still unwell, if anything he is worse and we really thought we would have to take him to the vet this morning. We therefore cancelled all plans to be far from home.

Therefore in the morning I went up and down hill known locally as ‘heart attack hill’ for its steepness. Seven times in succession. Very boring, but got a good amount of accent for the time and distance as a reward. I also saw my hawk again, it flew across the road in front of me this time at about head height, fairly close to where I saw it last time.

The boredom of this walk made today difficult. The road I walked on is a steep single track, narrow, twisty, with high hedges either side containing nettles, it is also a cut through from one village to the next, so there is a fair amount of traffic…..A lot of which do not realise that their wing mirrors are wider than their vehicle.

“What did you think about the booking process our Clients follow? Do you have any suggestions?”

It seemed very straightforward to me, I am afraid I don’t have anything I think I could add.

Thursday 19th July
Walked from Babbacombe to Brixham along the South West Coastal Path. Distance 15.28 miles, time 6 hours 18 minutes, accent 2723 ft
Did not feel great when I left, I felt tired and a bit queasy, however, not long after starting I felt much better and was very pleasantly surprised by my day. I had thought I would do this walk in the winter on a nice sunny day but had not got round to it. The reason being there is quite a bit of promenade walking, and the whole area is known as the ‘English Riviera’ and is extremely popular with holidaymakers, to the point of being absolutely mobbed on a sunny day. There were bits that were exactly what I expected, but there was also some - more than I expected - really nice bits too, and the woods were especially appreciated due to the heat.

The biggest annoyance is traffic! This whole area is so busy at this time of year especially, so it made the getting there and return journey much longer than anticipated. And the heat. Quite a long day, but pleased to say I did not have to resort to using my poles.

“Do you feel we have given you everything you need to prepare? Do you have any suggestions?”

A bit more time! Fortunately I only work on a Sunday. If I had still been in full time work I would not have been able to do the training I have.
I think a bit of guidance on how much ‘spending’ money would be good, but having said this I realise that to state actual amounts is asking for complaints as everybody’s spending is different.

Friday 20th July
Morning dog walk with a stop at the shops. Distance 6.44 miles, time 2 hours 15 minutes, ascent 994 ft. Felt surprising good this morning considering yesterdays walk, perhaps it will hit me tomorrow.

“Do you feel like you have the support you need from your local network?”

My husband has been very good, doing double dog walks some days. On Thursday he dropped me off in Babbacombe, drove to Brixham and left the car in a carpark for me to pick up, while he cycled home, as well as doing double dog walks.

Saturday 21st July
Country lane and fields walk with dog. Distance 7.31 miles, time 2 hours 27 minutes, ascent 1001ft. Feeling positive, nice walk, overcast and humid Bit of difficulty finding the entrance into one of the fields for the footpath!

“Have you done any research of your own?”

I have bought a Pays Du Mont-Blanc hiking map 1:50000, and marked on this (very roughly) where we are stopping each night, and had a look at what to expect each day route wise. Other than this I have decided not to do any research so that each great discovery in the week will be personal to me/our group and I won’t be disappointed should the weather be bad and we don’t get to see a particular highlight.

Sunday 22nd July
Evening dog walk round the lanes. Distance 3.28 miles, time 1 hour 7 minutes, 552 ft. Feeling tired and hot as the weather is getting even hotter!

“How do you feel this week has gone?”

I had hoped to do two back to back walks of about 10 miles this week, with some decent elevation, but is was not to be due to a sick dog and commitments elsewhere. However, overall I feel positive and can definitely feel my fitness improving.

Monday 23rd July
Leisurely walk to and on the beach with the dog, ball throwing and sea glass collecting. Distance 2.91 miles, time 1 hour 29 minutes, ascent 469 ft. It was very nice to have a pleasant gentle walk without an agenda.

“How are you feeling at the start of this week?”

Feeling a bit nervous again, will what I have done/do by way of training be enough? I have tried to follow your guide but as previously mentioned, I have found it difficult to get the accent in quite a short millage; and also trying to fit it round day to day life. I realise that I only have one week of ‘real training’ left, as I intend to taper once August starts.

Tuesday 24th July
Walked the South West Coastal Path from Torcross to Salcombe, Distance 14.49 miles, time 5 hours 44 minutes, accent 2533ft.
As I walked I remembered what a lovely section of path this is and really enjoyed it. It is also quite a quiet section of the coastal path which is nice. I was pleased with my time and again walked without my poles. I may need them tomorrow though as my leg and back feel a bit tight this evening.

No difficulties really, still hot but at least today there was a sea breeze, which was very welcome. Some sections of the path were a bit overgrown and horse flies continue to be a pain, literally.

“Have you been thinking about your diet as a part of your training?”

No, not really, I have been eating more due to the exercising, to maintain my weight. We generally eat healthily anyway. Very little processed foods, no ready meals, home cooking, not vegetarian. However, I have been drinking Coke on my long walking days, which I don’t normally do ;-). My husband has just ordered me some electrolyte tablets to put in my water, that will be a first!

Wednesday 25th July
Walked the South West Coastal Path from Brixham to Kingwear/Dartmouth. Distance 11.6 miles, time 5 hours 30 minutes, ascent 2992 ft.
My knees beginning to grumble a bit, but nothing to write home about. Again I was pleased as I did not use my poles and this particular section of the path has lots of ups and downs. Lots of butterflies out and about today, and this time lots of different varieties. Also saw quite a lot of birds today and had a little robin follow me along one particular wooded section. I also heard seals out on rocks out to sea but unfortunately could not see them due to the very dark shadow of the rock.

It’s hot again - weather is finally set to break at the end of this week. Set off early to try and combat this but ended up having to walk from the park and ride into Dartmouth as the bus does not start till 8am….

“Have you taken any medical advice as part of your training?”

No, should I? “No!"

Thursday 26th July
Morning dog walk round the lanes. Distance 3.28 miles, time 1 hour 7 minutes, 552 ft (* details copied from 22nd July, as my Garmin had run out of battery power!)
Itchy!! I have a heat rash on my back to go with the horsefly bites. Think I am sustaining the horsefly population single handed. However no difficulties really - apart from trying not to scratch. Knees felt okay again this morning.

“Have you thought about the kit that you will be taking yet?”

Yes, I looked at your guidance leaflet on what kit to take and already had just about everything. The only thing I will change is that I only have one quick dry man-made top, which I will take, but... I have some icebreaker merino wool t-shirts/tops that I have acquired over the years that I like very much as in the past I have been able to wear these for more than a day without them getting smelly ☺ which I intend to use instead. I have chlorine diox tablets but these are so old I don’t know if they have expired? Do they expire? They were not under essentials, so I will probably not get replacements unless you advise otherwise.

“Give me a summary of your third week?’”

Going a bit more to plan this week, feeling good, pleased with myself as I haven’t used my walking poles to date, so hope that the benefit of these will help on the TMB.

Accident! Will I have to Cancel Everything?

An x-ray of Sylia's hand

Friday 27th July
Dog walk, through lanes, over fields and on the coastal path. Distance 10.15 miles, time 3 hours 38 minutes, ascent 1796 ft. Heartbroken!
About half a mile from home on a lane I slipped and fell on tarmac. This morning we had our first rain for months and the roads were slippery, I was also going downhill on a very steep road. I ended up spending the rest of the day at the hospital. I have fractured my left wrist and am currently in a slab plaster, with an appointment for Monday morning at the fracture clinic.

“Oh my God! We are so sorry. Try to stay positive, someone is currently doing the Tour du Mont Blanc with us - with a broken wrist!”

Saturday 28th July
No walking, feeling wretched . Trying to stay positive

Sunday 29th July
No walking again obviously, in fairness there has been lots of rain and gales yesterday and today and I must not get my temporary plaster wet because apparently it will turn to mush. I cannot do up my coat with the arm inside.

Am a little more hopeful today. I went on Mont Blanc Treks website and had a look at some photos of the route. All the pictures show a lovely wide, smooth path, I am therefore assuming that there is no scrambling involved? I also investigated on the internet the different types of waterproof arm/wrist braces that are available, and spoke to my sister in law who works for the NHS who said that the NHS do fibreglass topcoats for limb fractures as long as the fracture is stable.

It’s hard trying to stay patient for my visit to the fracture clinic tomorrow, it feels like a lot rides on what they find/say.

Monday 30th July
Spent the morning at the Hospital Fracture Clinic. luck was on my side, the doctor who attended me had walked the TMB, his immediate reaction was, ‘Oh that’s a brilliant trek, you have got to do that’. He then checked my A&E X-rays and told me I had broken my Radius close to the wrist, and there was a very small nic, but the alignment of the bone was good. However, he would need to check that the alignment had not changed due to swelling. If it had I would need an operation, and therefore no TMB holiday next week.

He arranged for me to have a ‘soft combination cast’, so that I would be able to fly, apparently it allows for a little swelling which often happens on flights, comes in four colours, and I decided on shocking pink to keep my spirits up. Unfortunately it is not waterproof.
Then down to X-ray again. I am delighted to say, that very fortunately the bones had not moved and I was okay to go!

Afternoon spent phoning Mont Blanc Treks, friends, insurance company (unable to get an answer) work, my sister in law and friends.
What a rollercoaster of a morning; am I or aren’t I going to be able to go. However, this evening I feel relaxed and happy. I am going to owe my husband so many brownie points after all this ☺

“Tell us more about what happened whilst training? What is the prognosis moving forward?”

On Friday, my training was quite a long dog walk, through lanes, over fields and on the coastal path. About half a mile from home on a lane I slipped and fell on tarmac. This morning we had our first rain for months and the roads were slippery, I was also going downhill on a very steep road. As soon as I tried to get up I realised I had done something to my wrist. Once I reached home I asked my husband to take me to minor injuries unit at our local hospital. I was X-rayed and told I had fractured my wrist, a slab cast was applied and I was given an appointment at the fracture clinic of our main hospital.

All being well the cast should be removed in five weeks.

Tuesday 31st July
Walked from home on lanes, alleyways and the coastal path. Distance 5.6 miles, time 1 hour 49 minutes, ascent 725 ft. Glad to be out again, found myself slightly nervous on the steep downhills on the roads, especially as there is a lot of small loose stones/dirt washed onto them by the storms over the weekend. Other than that it was a lovely walk, the sun was out and there was a nice sea breeze.

The fingers on my left hand swelled up slightly during the walk, but went back to normal quite quickly after stopping.

Too many tourists on the Coastal Path.

“Do you think your injury will affect your enjoyment?”

As I said before, I have never had such a luxurious walking holiday and had hoped to make use of the sauna and Turkish bath, but won’t be able to do this because of the cast. Also I have been training without poles, thinking that if I then used them on the holiday it would make it so much easier. I am certainly glad I did, but I will now be down to one pole.

“Is there anything we can do to allay your worries?”

After I had asked Sara a couple of questions my worries were allayed. My cast is basically a special bandage, and I was told at the hospital that if I had any issues with it I needed to go to a hospital as soon as possible. Sara advised me that after the first night (where we stay in the mountain hut) there is relatively easy access off the mountain if required.

My second worry was that there would be scrabbling involved, but both the hospital doctor and Sara advised me that there is not on this section. At present I can’t tie bootlaces or cut up my food, but the doctor thinks this might be okay by the end of the week.

Wednesday 1st August
Lazy dog walk with my husband to the beach and back stopping for a coffee. Distance 3.3 miles, Time 1 hour 42 minutes, accent 489 ft
Feeling okay I have started to pack my bags today and have spent quite a while waiting for the phone to be answered and speaking to the holiday insurance company.

Felt a lot better about the down hills today.

Had to try my clothing on as I packed; I could not get some of my tops over my cast! Glad I thought to do this rather than just chucking things in a bag at the last minute….Also can’t get any of my gloves, even my mittens, over my cast, so I am bringing a single wool sock for this hand which does fit over ☺

I am not going to be very colour coordinated!

“What are you most looking forward to? Why?”

Getting started, its been a bit of a rollercoaster, I just want to get on and enjoying doing it now.

Thursday 2nd August
No exercise I am afraid but I did go into Plymouth to get my haircut and get last bits and pieces.
I’m quite bored - I am not very good at not doing a lot, especially when I can see so much that needs doing.

“What are you least looking forward to? Why?”

Travelling to the airport and staying at the airport hotel the night before. It will be a long train journey, fortunately with just the one change, but obviously it will be more of a challenge with luggage and one arm! It can be lonely on your own in airport hotels. I kind of feel that this journey has the potential of other challenges along the way.

Friday 3rd August
Walked to the post office and back with my husband and the dog. Approx 1 mile. Did the hovering, does that count? ☺
Pleased with the progress with my wrist, managed to cut up my food, and tie boot laces today.

However, I have rucksack issues, I have a day sack which is 25 litres or a 48 litre rucksack. I have tried packing all I needed for the visit to the mountain hut but it was a bit too much. I would either have to attach a pod sack with a karabiner, or take the larger sack and have it all but empty for more than half the trip. Decisions, decisions...

“Have you had to attend to anything last minute?”
Not really apart from…Non delivery of dog food, and also non delivery of our daughters birthday present. Feeling very annoyed with Hermes at present!

Saturday 4th August
Lazy dog walk to the beach, collecting sea glass. Distance 2.85 miles, time 1 hour 24 minutes, ascent 450ft
Keen to get started now - bored of one handed packing ☺

“How are you feeling?”
Keen to get started, I won’t really know how I am going to get on until I am actually doing it, which incites nagging doubts. Cursing my broken wrist as I think without this I would be nothing but really excited right now.

Sunday 5th August
Early morning lazy dog walk to the beach, collecting sea glass. Distance 2.91 miles, time 1 hour 42 minutes, ascent 491 ft
Absolutely beautiful morning on the beach today, enough to set anyone up for the day. Early enough to catch the sea birds. Difficulties will come this afternoon on a hot stuffy train into Gatwick….

“How are you feeling?”
Excited ☺ and if I am honest quite grateful that I don’t need to do my diary!

Wonderful, Wonderful Experience

A view on the Tour du Mont Blanc
**Holiday - Day 1** Well - as anticipated the most challenging day was indeed my afternoon travelling to Gatwick. My train, which lacked air conditioning and a buffet service (due to lack of staff) was delayed just enough for me to miss my connection (I had allowed 23minutes for this) I then had a one hour wait for the next train and did not arrive at my Gatwick hotel till gone 11pm tired and rather hungry.

Thankfully the next day went very smoothly, although my flight was slightly delayed, I think the pilot had a ‘hot date’ as we managed to arrive before the scheduled arrival time! Mountain drop off's were very good, taking me to Chamonix, where I was very kindly picked up by Sara, the owner of Mont Blanc Treks, and taken onto our hotel in Courmayeur. At 6pm that evening we, five of us in total, had a briefing meeting with Alex our guide for the tour. The remaining two participants were to join us in the morning. They were doing the whole of the TMB and had already done four days. Alex ran through what to expect over the next day, what personal kit was a must, where to leave bags for pick up, what we would need in terms of snacks and water for the next day etc etc and most importantly included information on where to stop to get a good Italian morning coffee.

Day 2 - Courmayeur to refuge Bonatti. Distance 17k, Ascent 750m, Descent 50m
This set the pattern for most days. After a short walk through the pretty village, we were greeted with a steep accent, and I mean steep accent, which went on for longer than was comfortable. I was quite a ‘Sweaty Betty’ by the time we reached the ridge. However, if I am honest I prefer this, as once you are up you can ‘stroll’ more and enjoy the views.

Due to very heavy rain the night before there had been a landslide from the Mont Blanc side of the valley, which had blocked the road, sadly claiming two lives. We looked down on the clearing up operation with lots of helicopters involved as we passed this area. We reached the refuge early afternoon, having made better than expected progress. Sat around in the sun, under the shadow of Mont Blanc, enjoying drinks and a highly recommended slice of blueberry tart in my case, getting to know each other.

Later in the afternoon we were taken up to our dormitory room. Which, has to be the grandest refuge dormitory I have ever been in, it even had pictures on the walls, and lovely views of the Mont Blanc range out of the windows. Because of our numbers it meant we filled this room, all bar one bed, which made it feel as though we had our own private room. The wonderful four course evening meal was very tasty and welcome and the nighttime entertainment was a spectacular thunder and lightning storm.

Day 3 - Refuge Bonnati to La Fouly. Distance 20K, Ascent 900m, Descent 1400m
We set off a little earlier today and stopped at the end of the valley for a coffee and cake at Refuge Elena, which gave spectacular views back down the valley the way we had come. Then up and over a col and onwards into Switzerland, having an afternoon hot chocolate at La Peule. We had settled into a good walking rhythm, and were all quite evenly paced which meant that generally we moved as a group, which enable you to chat with everybody within the group, take photos when we wanted etc making for nice relaxed walking for all, I believe. I also think having a fairly small group, eight of us, including Alex helps.

Day 4 - La Fouly to Champex. Distance 15k, Ascent 420m, Descent 570m
Rather overcast with rain threatening today, again we set off early hoping to dodge the rain forecast for later in the day. Apparently the Swiss weather forecasts are amazingly accurate. Luckily, today was a fairly short easy day, which was rewarded with the most spectacular hotel at the end, Hotel Splendide.

As predicted the rain started literally as we approached the hotel. The inside the hotel has a very definite Art Deco appearance, my room had a balcony and wonderful views down not one but two valleys, albeit through rain clouds. Early evening we met up in the lounge for drinks before going through to our large round table in the beautiful dinning room for another wonderful evening meal. It was a very relaxed and amusing evening with lots of laughter.

Day 5 - Champex to Trient. Distance 18 k, Ascent 750m, Descent 950m
A delayed start today waiting for the drizzle to stop. Fortunately it did not take long and we walked out through the village, past the lake and alongside the river initially before heading upwards towards Alpage Bovine. Atmospheric probably describes this day best. At low level it was a mix of sunshine and cloud but as we climbed we entered the clouds, just as we got to the ‘Bovine’ countryside. You could see nothing, but you could hear the cow bells, and all of a sudden you would come across a huge cow on the path in front of you. Likewise as we approached our lunch stop high in the Bovine countryside you could hear laughter and chatting but could see nothing. Here I had a huge plate of Roski, a Swiss dish I would highly recommend, on such a day especially. On coming down we entred Trient a small pretty hamlet and went to our accommodation in Auberge Mont Blanc (which was in strict contrast with the night before).

Day 6 - Trient to Argentiere via Catogne and the Col du Balme. Distance 13k, Ascent 1000m Descent 1000m
Our signature steep ascent greeted us immediately today, which must have proved very difficult for those who had had the pork curry and rice the night before. Along the route today we met many others who had also stayed the night in Auberge Mont Blanc and had also eaten the pork curry.

On the plus side today we were also greeted with the most fabulous weather, clear blue skies, and if there was ever a day to have good weather this was it. On route Col de Balme we saw a very camera shy Ibex. But it was at the Col where e got the most spectacular of views of Mont Blanc itself and also down the valley towards Chamonix. Just about the whole walk’s views were lifted straight off a chocolate box. We stopped for a long and leisurely lunch at Chalets de Balme which it was very difficult to rise from, before walking down into the very pretty Argentiere village with lots of good sports and food shops.

Day 7 - Argentiere to Chamonix. Distance 14k, Ascent 1200m, Descent 500m
Quick train ride this morning to take us back to where we had left the TMB yesterday, after purchasing food for our picnic lunch. Again another day of wonderful weather, perfect weather, warm without being too hot and cloud free. The views were just brilliant all the way. We stopped for our picnic by a stream coming from a large waterfall, with mountains on the other side of the valley and our vista could not have been better.

If it had been hard to leave the table yesterday lunchtime it was even harder to leave our grassy banks today. We finished at Planpraz, where two of our party had started nine days ago, they were ‘the completers’, they had done the whole circuit, what a wonderful sense of achievement I think we all had and how grateful we were for a nice cable car ride down into Chamonix. Well most of us - one might disagree. We all enjoyed a lovely farewell meal that evening and were delighted that our wonderful guide Alex joined us.

I had a really brilliant holiday, it was certainly quite a roller coaster to get there, but so very worth it in every respect, and I am so very luck to have won this holiday, thank you. I am now working on a cunning plan to return to do the west circuit/complete the TMB and certainly hope my path will cross again with all involved.

Life goes on

Sylvia sitting on a mountainside

Sylvia said goodbye to us and is back at home in South West England.

For our part, we have learned a lot from having her insight and we hope it has helped you too, to read about one of the most glorious treks in the world, from the point of view of one of our Clients.

Unfortunately for Sylvia, things haven't been as uplifting or straightforward since she got home....

18th September 2018

The good news is the cast is off and the wrist is making good/steady progress. However, the rotator cuff is not such good news; there has been no improvement and I went to the doctors yesterday where the rough prognosis is there is a suspected impingement, which is also what the physio thought. I was given a steroid injection into the shoulder and told to rest the arm/shoulder for the next couple of days, and return if there is no improvement in two weeks.

"Oh dear. That's awful news. Hopefully the steroid injection will ease the pain, but will rest actually help the rotator cuff to heal? Do you think that going on the trek may have aggravated it? "

"I think the idea of the steroid injection is to speed up the healing process so that I can either do physio, if the pain reduces, or if not in two weeks time they may send me to the hospital for a scan to see exactly what is going on/whether I will need an operation. The physio thinks there is a small tear, which might have induced the possible impingement...
I think the most likely cause was the pre-trek fall, as I fell onto the one hand (holding the dog lead with the other) out behind me. I don’t think the trek would have aggravated it, as prior to leaving I was mainly in a sling with the broken wrist, and also during the trek I walked quite a lot with the arm in a loop on the front of my rucksack, so the shoulder was largely immobilised. The discomfort has gradually increased since I have been back."

Planning More Excitement

A view of a mountain path

Sylvia's wrist is still causing her concern which is sad, but it is on the mend and certainly hasn't stopped her from continuing to enjoy walking. She ended off her diary with a wonderful piece of news:

I wanted to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and all the very best for the New Year. My holiday with you was the highlight of the year, but I am afraid it was surpassed with news on Friday that I am going to be a granny in the New Year 😀

"Good luck Sylvia!" For our part we were able to get great feedback on our pre-trek administration and services as well as useful information for the trek itself. And we gained fabulous insights into what our Clients go through. Thank you Sylvia - you really are able to take things in your stride and it was great getting to know you!"