We woke up early to make sure we had everything packed and ready to go. Our driver was going to meet us at 0800 to take us to the Col de la Forclaz which was our starting point for the hike. When we woke up, the clouds had not yet gathered and we could see form our room Mont Blanc and the peaks that surround Chamonix. Our room sat right on the river and it was amazing to hear the river, see the mountains and feel the brisk morning air. It made us excited to get ready to go on our adventure! We got ready and headed downstairs for breakfast. In America, the standard for breakfast at a hotel is plastic eggs, some cold cereal, yogurt, and maybe a waffle in the waffle maker. In France, the standard is delicious, fresh, amazing food. There was fresh bread, croissants, quiche, cheese, jams and jellies, sausages, granola, fresh squeezed juices, chocolate, pastries, and more bread. They even had extra baggies so that you could pack up your lunch. It was amazing. We then went upstairs and made sure our bags were ready for our driver to pick us up. The front desk folks were helpful as usual and then a young man appeared to take us to our starting point. We loaded into his little car and drove down through Chamonix toward the Swiss border. It was hard not to marvel at the sheer cliffs and steep grades of the mountins…surely we wouldn’t be hiking up anything that steep! It turns out that our driver served a mission in Italy and was from France. His English was impeccable. He was studying Law so that he could be a Police Officer and his wife was studying to be a Nurse. She served her mission in Gilbert, Arizona. The thing that cracked us up was that he talked about how his wife was working for our her parents this summer in their village. Wouldn’t you love to be from a village and work there….what do they do there, milk the cows and sing songs as they guide the sheep out of the mountain? Sounded a lot better than taking the train to work and sitting in a cubicle. We passed by Trient and soon found ourselves at the Col de la Forclaz, the starting point for our hike to the Hotel Du Glacier in Champex Lac. We popped out of the car and took some pictures at the trailhead and then headed down the trail at a brisk pace. We were moving! The trail followed along part of the trail used for the Tour du Mont Blanc and followed along a Bisse or little aqueduct that carries water from the mountains to the little towns that pepper the valley.
Of course, being excited, we didn’t realize that we took the hardway to Champex Lac over the Fenetre d’Arpette instead of the easy way up the valley. This ended up being great, because the views and the scenery were amazing. When we got to the end of the flat trail, we found ourselves at the base of a glacier and a beautiful river running from the glacier. The water has a milky white appearance and the thing that surprised us was just how much water there was and how green everything was. Everywhere you turned you could see waterfalls, lush vegetation and sharp mountain peaks. From the stream, we started to make our way up the mountain. The trail was amazing, hard packed dirt winding up through trees and stones that appeared like they had been borrowed from a Lord of the Rings movie. The weather was overcast and the misty mountains would stick their heads out now and then to remind us that we were small little dots climbing up formidable terrain. After a few miles, we came to a mountain hut that overlooked the glacier and the river. We sat on a bench and ate some chocolate and cheese. Some other hikers were making their way down from the pass and they looked fairly haggard and beleaguered. Undaunted, we continued our climb toward the Fenetre. The path grew steeper and steeper and it seemed like the Swiss didn’t believe much in switchbacks. Further and further into the mist we climbed until we made it to the pass. The views weren’t great due to the mist, but just making it to the top was exhilarating. It even snowed a little at the top. It was a steep climb! We could tell that this trip would be no joke. After a quick lunch, we started down the other side toward Champex Lac. We could see why everyone looked so destroyed coming down the other side….this side was steep and boulder filled! It must have been terrible coming up this way. We continued down until we were back amongst the trees and flowers. We saw a hiker eating huckleberries but didn't’ try any ourselves. We continued down toward our destination and made it into some area with some cows and came across our first Swiss electric fence. It was kind of cool because it was a solar powered battery that was attached to some line that was electrically charged. It looked like it was easy to move around and change depending on where you wanted your cattle to graze.
We continued down (it just seemed to keep going) until we came to a beautiful waterfall. After some pictures, we ambled into the lake town of Champex. It’s a little village / ski resort that sits on a pristine mountain lake. The water was so clear you could see everything in the lake. We found our hotel, with our luggage waiting at the hotel du Glacier. We ate a wonderful dinner filled with salad (watermelon southern salad to be exact), meat, and cheese and then went for a walk along the lake. We came back to our little hotel, talked with the kids, and then fell asleep. It was quite a hike afterall!
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