9 Days in Chamonix – Part Trois

Sunday’s chill was welcomed, though at the time felt like a waste.

Mountains, trails and limited time made it a hard call.

Monday made up for it. And some.

I set off back up to Mont Lechant from my base in Les Houches, taking the same trail to the top. Midway, after some 500 meters of vertical ascent, I could hear what I thought was chainsaws. Coming into view weren’t chainsaws, but petrol strimmers. Two guys were walking down from the top, with industrial Stihl strimmers, cutting down the overgrowth along the trail. I’d never witnessed anything like this before.

Huge shout out to the local municipal authorities for organising this.

Whereas the trails were dusty and bone dry on Friday, Monday saw damp terrain underfoot, combined with freshly cut grass and foliage. The footing wasn’t as secure, but on the plus side, the temperature had eased off ever so slightly.

I pushed on, using poles to move more efficiently. On reaching the Col a single prop plane buzzed overhead at 50 ft banking right and out of the glacial valley, before circling a couple of times. I followed the train tracks up and onto the flank of the Col des Rognes. I was tempted to head up to the hut and get ever closer to 3000 meters altitude (I’ve taken the lift to Aiguille du Midi before, but never ran or walked close to the height). The trail became rockier and a succession of zig zags, before longer traverses kicked in.I saw my first marmot. Running in the opposite direction, some 50-100 meters above me, quickly vanishing into the rocky features.

The terrain grew in steepness, the zig zags more compact. Reaching the next plateau, trail gave way to larger boulder fields, with a trail hidden amongst it. I persevered for a bit, before retreating. If I didn’t need to get a long run in, it would have been an epic walk, however, it would more than likely take up the majority of my day and I was keen to get back before the scheduled electrical storm hit the town.The descent was fun, the switch bags entertaining and I used my poles to pivot on tighter corners. I’ve never really been one to use poles, but I’m genuinely impressed how much of a battering the Leki poles have taken, even after trying to snap them a few times with bad placements. Getting up a good lick and rock hopping, near the tracks, I was stopped by two young French women, asking about where they were on the map. Despite my best “anglais” “sorry, I’m English” they persisted to quiz me in their native tongue. Reaching for my own map and repeating my best pronunciation of “anglais”, they switched straight into English and we shared a brief conversation about where the trail went, what it was like and where it was on the map (it wasn’t on theirs). Smiles and au revoirs exchanged, I made my way onto Mont Lechant and down the windy, technical trail to the lift station.

Water topped up, I dropped onto the Tour du Mont Blanc Trail and swiftly found a host of people with large trekking packs, gingerly trying to navigate root infested areas of the trail and short rocky sections. The running was good, flowy and fast. When it dropped off to the river, it was mellow enough to launch down to each platform and push on.At the base of the glacier was a powerful waterfall…..

I carried on the trail for a few more kilometres, before calling it a day and returning home. The bridge by this point was a tourist hot spot. Whereas I had it to myself and quickly got my shot, streams of people were lined up with several cameras each.I stood there quietly waiting, my patience waining. When a couple made their way to the opposite side, following 5 photo opportunities in the centre, I ran across the bridge, eager to get on with things.

Back up the lift station, I followed the extended route taken on my previous outing, bumping into the same French ladies from earlier. However, this time I pushed the descents, with a better knowledge of what lay ahead. My heart rate rose, my sweat increased and I pushed to get down in under 5 hours. Risks taken, decisions made, I reached the chalet in 4 hours 58 minutes.

17 miles and 2000 meters of ascent on some challenging terrain sections.

I was happy.

More importantly, it was time for lunch.

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