7/19/16 – Gite Bon Abri to Gite le Moulin

Day 6 on the TMB trail notes.

A fairly early start to this day had us leaving Switzerland and headed back to France. We were mentally prepared for some climbing, but we really had no clue about what was in store. It was another hot day so we were going through fluids early and often as the first climb of the Col de Forclaz kept going up with very few switchbacks and no gradients less than 20%. We then descended to the Col de Forclaz road where the Tour de France would be coming through the next day.

There were already many camper vans and other RV’s waiting at the road for the race to come through. Many amateur cyclists were making their own efforts at the climb as well. I was able to buy a hat to replace the one I lost somewhere along the way and we continued on towards the village of Trient.

Once the descent into Trient is made, the climbing continues up to the Col de Balme. The sign in Trient suggests that the climb to Col de Balme is 4 hours. I believe that’s because no matter how fast you go it seems like 4 hours. This was literally the longest and biggest climb we have ever done. We were very hot and there is only about 20 minutes of shade on the climb while the rest is done in the sun. Near the top is some fairly hairy scrambling because of snow crossing and the technical nature of the route. We were hoping it would be freezing cold at the top but there was barely even a breeze. We also ran out of water right when we got to the top, but we could see, “the hut that time forgot,” about a mile away.

Looking into France from the Col de Balme.

Yea, the “hut that time forgot,” in the distance.

Making our way to the top before the Col de Forclaz.

We reached the hut that time forgot which is so called because of the little old man and woman who run the place. The man doesn’t seem to speak and the old woman only speaks mean. She has the reputation of being a witch and it’s easy to see why. She is at least as old as dirt and has a nasty attitude. Everyone who does the TMB knows this little lady and marvels at the fact that she is STILL there and STILL mean. She reluctantly sells you a 1 liter bottle of water for 6 euros and then gruffly gives you an “au revoir,” which is translated as, “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.” We were very happy for the water though!

After refilling and getting lectured on American politics by a chatty British fellow, we ran down through the Le Tour ski area. Our next climb was our last climb for the day and though it was flattish compared to what we had already come over it was extremely technical. Most of the route was up a gnarly ridge line with slanted rocks and stones embedded in the trail. The footing was such that you could never really take a step without carefully determining where you were going to put your foot. If you did not determine your foot’s destination beforehand you were asking for a face plant at best and broken ankle at worst. It was also a very deceiving climb because we kept thinking we could see and were near the top which we were not. Once forever had passed, we reached the actual top of the ridge and began what our guide described as a tricky descent. There were wooden steps involved for fun to go along with the, by now, usual steepness.

Per usual we got a bit lost looking for Gite Moulin but did manage to find it at the end of our second 20 miler in a row. The Gite was in a little green meadow filled with vegetable gardens and flowers. Some of those veggies became our dinner of veggies and potatoes.

We were so exhausted and hurting by this point that we looked for and found the easiest route back to Cham (that’s local speak for Chamonix) for the next day and decided that route was the one for us.