After much organishing and preparation, we were excited to welcome Joachim and his niece, Mart to Chamonix for their 2 day guided trek. Without further ado, I'll let Joachim tell you about his recent adventure.
Day 1 - Les Praz to Argentière
After waking up early with a fantastic view at Mont Blanc from the balcony of our room and after a hearty breakfast, we were met at 8:15am by our guide Guillaume. Before we could start the tour, we first had to take the bus that would take us to 'Les Praz'. On our way through Chamonix a quick stop was made to get some sandwiches from a local bakery on the way to the bus stop. Guillaume told us a little about the history of the village, the Savoy and its important figures and events over the years.
Once we arrived in 'Les Praz' we took the gondola lift to the Refuge de la Flégère. From here our walk to 'Lac Blanc' started. The path took us via the Lac de la Flégère to the nature reserve 'Aiguilles Rouges'. A small white goat seemed to welcome us from the ridge. The name of the park refers to the red rust-colored mountain peaks. The red color is a result of the high iron ore content in this region. A stark contrast to the granite structure across the valley where we could admire the Mont Blanc Massif….
In the meantime, Guillaume keeps our interest and teaches us a lot of things, ranging from practical matters including certain walking and breathing techniques to the fauna and flora around us. We finally arrive at Lac Blanc just before noon.
After an invigorating coffee in the nearby hut, we decide to stop a little further for our lunch break at the 'Lacs des Chéserys'. A good choice as we can relax all by ourselves. With the sun on our backs we enjoy the delicious local sandwiches.
We then continue our route and gradually descend to Argentière via the old path. Along the way we could still fill our stomachs in the morning with the numerous raspberries next to the road, the vegetation is now gradually changing. The raspberries make way for delicious blueberries, juniper berries, the entire range of flavors is at hand. As we descend, the vegetation changes more and more and we are gradually surrounded by more and more trees.
Fortunately, they offer us some protection because it has started to rain. Guillaume calls it 'just spray' and it in fact turns out to be nothing more than a refreshing shower. Along the way we see several hundred year old walls that were built at the time to stop avalanches, the walls seem to be built with stones like puzzle pieces. They are as good as intact. Towards the end of the walk we gradually leave the alarm cries of the marmots behind us and we gradually return to civilization in Argentière, which is unfortunately also the end of this first walk. A bus takes us back to the center of Chamonix. Curious about what we can expect tomorrow, we say goodbye to the guide for the day and after refreshing ourselves and having dinner in Chamonix, we dive under the sheets at the hotel.
Day 2 - Chamonix: Le Brévent to Servoz
For our second walk we start directly in the center of Chamonix. We walk to the Brévent gondola lift in about ten minutes. Our calves are immediately shaken awake on the steep road to it. Fortunately we started early and were able to take the first lift, all the way to the top of Brévent at 2500m.
We already notice that the weather will be kind to us today. The view from this point is amazing, no matter which direction you look. From the Aiguille du Midi over the Carlaveyron Nature Reserve to the Passy Reserve in the distance.
The first part of the route resembles a moonscape as we circle the Brévent on the northern side. We dive back into the Aiguilles Rouges Nature Reserve. After some time we deviate from the path and choose the GR5 route, which takes us further north. GR5…. That rings a bell with me…. A little later I realize… the GR5 route, which passes in the village where I come from in Belgium , barely a few hundred meters from our house. Guillaume jokes that I could walk there if necessary….
In the distance we see our destination where we will stop this afternoon, the Moëde Anterne refuge deep in the 'Passy Reserve'.
A steep descent awaits us. We have to cross the Diosaz river at the Arlevé bridge in the valley, about 1000m lower than our starting point. Just like yesterday, we are welcomed again by the white goat. The view is great again, the blueberries are begging to be picked and eaten again. We noticed that it is very quiet on this route. We hardly see any people, complete peace and quiet. The moonscape gives way to grassy terrain that later turns into a lightly wooded area.
Once we arrive in the valley, we look for the river to refresh ourselves. The water looks like a mirror, crystal clear. We start back for the last hour towards the Moëde mountain hut.
It is now gradually going uphill again because we have to get back to an altitude of 2000m. The sun is now shining directly above us. 26 degrees, almost the end of September, who could have predicted this? Fortunately, the warm clothes can be left in the backpack. Fifteen minutes before we reach the hut we pass another small community, no more than a few huts. They are Guillaume's colleagues who manage a group of a thousand sheep. With the return of the wolf to the valley in recent years, this has been a difficult balancing act. The guide tells me that they have already lost 100 sheep to the wolves this year. Nature at its best, or its worst. Our lunch break is coming, we arrive at the Moëde Refuge with the Anterne in the background which rises like a wall behind the hut.
We enjoy the soup of the day. “Don't forget to put the cheese in,” we hear from Guillaume. We must honor tradition so we put the ‘Tomme’ cheese in. A tasty choice as it turns out, the soup is delicious after this long walk. We sit on a bench out of the wind in the full sun…. It feels like summer here. I could sit here for hours, but we have to move on. Another walk of almost 10 km awaits us, we start to descend again. We pass la Pierre à l'Ours and the rock lives up to its name, and continue towards Ayères des Pierrières. To avoid having to follow the road all the time, we leave it behind us and continue the route through the forest on a path parallel to the Souay river. Sara is waiting for us at the end point and we are taken back to the hotel by car. We take time to discover Chamonix some more as we look for a place to have dinner and look back at this weekend… What a great experience it was,…. the pure nature, the silence, the conversations with the guide, the friendliness of the few people we encountered... can we rewind time and start again?