Serious Snow

We had seen weather reports before coming that there would be a lot of snow while we were here in Argentière.  We planned ahead and got most of the runs we wanted to do out of the way early just in case the snow arrived in full force.

We were beginning to think it wasn’t really going to snow that much as temperatures have been in the mid to upper thirties, and the snow has been light so far. There has even been quite a lot of rain.

As of this morning, there is evidently still not a drop of snow down the valley in Chamonix.  Things have changed here in Argentière however.

12” and still snowing.

It has been snowing all night and so far about a foot has fallen, although it’s hard to tell from the picture.

We made our way up to Le Tour this morning because we had heard that it was much snowier than anywhere else.  Le Tour is only about 2 miles up the road and maybe 500 feet higher than Argentière.  We were told it is the snowiest village in France.  We do not have any means of verifying that, but judging by what we saw this morning, it would be hard to argue.

Le Tour!

At least two feet has fallen on Le Tour since Saturday night, and it is still snowing.

Since we lived here this past summer, we knew that French roads are not known for their width.  Yes that could be the understatement of the year.  Add a few feet of snow and some snow plows and things get interesting.  Adding some aggressive French drivers to the mix is like adding jalapeños to your hot sauce.  Things get spicy!

Serious uniformity!

We do not have any other plans until later in the day and can therefore avoid the roads for the time being.  Fortunately we have popcorn and Netflix to keep us occupied.

We’re baaack!

We have safely made it back to Argentiére!  Several people have asked why we came back to the same place.  The most obvious reason is that we really enjoy being here.  The other reason is that we wanted to go out to eat.

We didn’t find out until the day before we left that our favorite restaurant, Pizzeria Des Moulins, is closed until December 18, so that was rather disappointing.  Our second favorite restaurant, Hibou Deli, is open so they will be getting our business frequently.

We are staying across the river and just down the road from where we stayed this summer.  Our apartment is quite a bit smaller than where we stayed this summer, but we are only here for a week and should be able to manage.  However if I am shorter upon returning home, it will be because all the doorways and ceilings in the place were apparently made for Hobbits.  I am constantly ducking in order to not run into door frames and ceilings.  Even M has to be careful in the shower as the ceiling has a severe slope.

Dining area and massive 1 person kitchen.
Huge living room with massive TV!
Like going to the bathroom on an airplane.
Two bedroom!
Even with the sloping ceiling the shower is better than the one we had this summer.

As one can see from the pictures, we have stuff strewn everywhere.  And by we I mean me.  There is one small wardrobe where you can hang a few coats and four shelves in the bedroom for placing a few items of clothing.  As you can see from the pictures, the entire place is smaller than some bedrooms in the US.  Having said all that, it does have basically everything we need.

M has already been to the grocery store numerous times to get our favorite foods.  Her favorite bakery is closed at the moment because apparently that is just something they do in France.  M has visited the new bakery however and sampled some of their offerings which were satisfactory.

The area immediately around Argentière is snow free at the moment, but the high mountains have lots of new snow.

One day I will remember the name of this mountain.

That is all for now.  Hopefully I will come up with more to write about in the next few days.

Tour of Argentiére

Since the majority of my readers will never come to Argentiére, and the rest have never even been out of the US, I thought I would share some pictures of where we have been living this summer.  Argentiére is like most villages in the Alps.  It has a grocery store and quite a few restaurants and shops which are all on the main route through town.  By quite a few I mean six restaurants and about as many shops.  Certainly there are significantly larger areas such as Chamonix, but even that is smaller than Frisco.  There are also even smaller places like La Tour or Montroc that do not even have a small grocery.  I hope the pictures will give you some idea of a typical Alpine village.

This is the Gare, or train station, across the street from our apartment along with the car park.

The train runs regularly about every hour.  Most would think it would get tiresome after a while, but we do not even notice it anymore.  It doesn’t make a lot of noise or honk it’s horn all the time.  It’s also free to use from Vallorcine all the way down to  Servoz which is quite a way past Chamonix.  Fortunately it does stop around 8 pm.

Our apartment is at the very top on the right.

Like most living spaces along the main street, there are usually businesses on the bottom floor and living spaces above.

Looking North at basically all of Argentiére main thoroughfare East side.
Trailhead for what I like to call, “the Goat Hill.”

The picture above is the beginning of one our favorite runs that leads up to Le Chesereys.  I call it the goat hill because we see Ibex every time we go up it and they look like goats.

This street leads to most of the houses in Argentiére.


This is the town plaza.

The town plaza is used for things like live music and the town party which was last weekend.  As far as we could tell, the town party consisted of some food and the selling of used books.  There was also a man singing on a stage.  I recognized some of his tunes, but was not exactly sure of the songs since for some reason he was singing in French.

The grocery store!

The big part of the sign on the left reads, “Marche U.”  That is the name of the grocery.  It’s part of a grocery chain called Super U.  For comparison sake, this grocery is about 1/5 the size of the Whole Foods in Frisco.  Really small.  I have become quite adept at ordering deux poulet blanc and demi kilo steak haché from the grumpy meat guy.  That is of course, two chicken breasts and a pound of hamburger.  He makes the hamburger while you wait.  He cuts off a hunk of steak and puts it in the grinder and voila, steak haché.  I also learned how to say “oui,” when he asks, “C’est tout?”  I used to just give him a thumbs up because I didn’t know he was asking me if that was all.  Every week our conversation is exactly the same.

Meat guy: Bonjour.

Me: Bonjour.

Meat guy: Qu’est-ce que tu veux?

Me: Deux poulet blanc et demi kilo steak haché.

Meat guy:  incoherent mumbling…

Meat guy: C’est tout?

Me: oui.

Meat guy hands me my stuff: Au revoir.

Me: Au revoir.

It hasn’t varied in a month.

Bridge over the river Arve.

As you can see, there are lovely flowers planted everywhere.  Even over the river which flows with glacier melt and was quite high in the June when we got here.

Town Hall/La Poste.

Yep.  Town hall and the post office all in one little building.

Catholic Church.

It is France, so you must have a Catholic Church.

One of two streets through the local neighborhood.

I am not exactly sure what happens when two cars enter this curve at the same time.  There is barely enough room for a single car to drive down the street so passing is not an option.

Looking south at the west side of Argentiére main street.

Hopefully you now have some idea about what Argentiére is like.  That concludes your walking tour of town.

Normal days.

It has been a little while since the last post, so I thought I would write something just to let my one reader know we are still alive and doing well.

Since we are not training for any particular race at this point, our days are a bit more routine.  We do some work related things each day as well as some form of exercise.  M actually tries to get in a normal work day whereas, since there are not any physical clients for me to train, I only have to train them virtually, which does not take as long as an actual training session.

I am certain my clients are completely happy with this as it means they can do their exercises, or not, and there is no one there telling them to do it again because they did it the wrong way.  Or add more weight because it wasn’t heavy enough.  Or tell them to stop talking and focus on what they are doing.  Or subtly or not so subtly imply that drinking 2 bottles of wine at dinner when there are only two people eating dinner, might be a little on the high side.

Unlike at home, we actually try and go out to eat once per week here in France.  I have mentioned Pizzeria Des Moulins before in this blog and we continue to frequent one of their two establishments in Chamonix.  Last night, since M had done a huge run earlier in the day, we decided to go for the pizza instead of the pasta.  Fortunately we were able to get there early enough to get a table without a reservation which is unusual as the place is continually packed.  For a place with plywood walls decorating the interior, that says a lot about how good the food is.

As usual M and I each got our own pizza.  M’s had ham and fresh tomatoes, while mine had pancetta and goat cheese and arugula, which in France is known as Rocket salad.  We don’t know why its called Rocket salad.

We were happy to see our usual wait staff, Omi, Diddier and the rest of the gang.  For those who might have seen Diddier before, it was quite unbelievable, but he had on a different shirt!  And even more amazingly, his jeans were not the normal painted on tight ones he usually wears.  This pair of jeans was so tight they were like a second skin.  Despite the unusual clothing of the staff ( at least to our American fashion sense – which is non-existent) our servers are awesome and we love going to see them.  They treat us very well and put up with our horrible attempts at speaking French.  As with most French people, they usually just switch to English to avoid having to hear us speak French.

Since today is a Sunday, that means laundry day for us.  Our apartment has a washer and dryer which is great as it means we do not have to go down the street to the laundromat.  Our washing machine is German and works great as most German things tend to do.  Our dryer is French and has a mind of its own.

In fact we do not even call our dryer a dryer anymore.  We call it a damper because most things just come out sort of damp no matter how long they have been in the thing.  I say the damper has a mind of its own because that is true.  For example:  let’s say you have selected the cotton setting and scrolled through the length of time options and selected one hour and three minutes.  I know that sounds like a weird amount of time, but our dryer does not believe in ten minute segments.  It will only give you choices like the following; 34, 47, 1:02 etc.  Since our drye….er, I mean damper, does not work all that well, we generally try and select the longest time option available.  And yes,  those options change randomly throughout the day.  The other problem is that the damper will then disagree with whichever time setting you have chosen and simply change to a different (usually shorter) time frame.  We have to keep a sharp eye on the tricky thing as there is no telling when it might decide that its done damping and simply stop.  However, this is not as simple a process as I have made it out to be.  Sometimes the damper is simply having a rest!  Yes that’s right; it will randomly stop damping for whatever length of time it feels like, and then start back up again like it just came back from a bathroom break.  We have found that if we do not curse at the thing, and give it a break between loads, it seems to reluctantly go about its job.

We hope everyone back home is doing well.  Please let us know if you have any questions or blog topics to suggest.


Aiguille du Midi

If you are at all afraid of heights, this is not the trip for you.  The Aiguille du Midi is a tram/gondola ride to the very top of one of the aiguilles that are prominent in the mountains above Chamonix.  Aiguille translates as needle and that is appropriate because many of the peaks around Mt. Blanc are sharp and pointy looking.

Villains lair for the next Bond film?…No! It’s the Aiguille du Midi!

For the majority of climbers, the Midi is the jumping off point for climbing Mt. Blanc and the other peaks nearby.

Who wants to go through the icee tunnel first!?

The picture above is where you put on your crampons and start the descent to the glacier below before beginning the traverse across said glacier and then starting the climb to Mt. Blanc. I don’t know the distance of the climb, but since Mt. Blanc is 15,780 feet high, I do know you have about 4,000 vertical feet to ascend from where you start on the glacier.  And that doesn’t include the mountain you have to climb over before you even get to the actual Mt. Blanc climb.

Towards the bottom left of picture see zigzag with people climbing. Mt. Blanc is the big peak in the background.
Zoom in and look bottom right just next to the rock to see a person traversing the glacier.

M, Nancy, Sarah and I were amazed by the views and the magnitude of the many peaks around us.  We were also amazed at the people who could not wait to get out of the gondola so they could smoke a cigarette at over 12,000 feet.  There were people who got off the gondola, stood around smoking and not looking at anything, and then got back on the gondola to go down.

M took her fear of heights training to new levels (get it?).  Fortunately the platform you initially get off the gondola onto is made of wood and you cannot see through it. It is about 25 feet wide with serious drops on either side. M tended to stay in the middle of the platform and was unable to go up the scary metal grate stairs leading to higher levels.  I can not blame her as I had a bit of uneasiness myself when ascending those stairs.  It is an odd sensation being so high in the air with only a 2 inch deep metal grate between you and death.

If you zoom in you can see M in the middle of the platform below.

I was very proud of M for being willing to do something that was quite scary.  The trip down on the gondola was even better as she kept her eyes open the whole way!  Part of that was due to the fact that I pointed out to her that at 5’2” she was one of the tallest people on the gondola!  It was a strange occurrence, but it’s true.  The gondola was filled with a big group of Asians and one lady from New Jersey who were all significantly under 5 feet tall.  They were not “little people”; they were all just extremely small. It was such a rare thing that M was distracted most of the way down thinking about being tall for once.  There is also the fact that I was making “whoooaaa” sounds at random times.

Apparently a lot of the people on the gondola had never been on one before and were unfamiliar with the up and down motion that happens when the gondola reaches any of the towers to which it is attached.  Therefore, whenever we would experience that brief swaying of the gondola, many people on board would in unison, say, “ whooooaaa”.  Since I thought this was strange, I decided to start saying “whoooaaa,” at random times to see what would happen.  As is often the case when I think something is funny, I was the only one laughing.

We had a great day on the Aiguille du Midi and I would highly recommend the trip to anyone who visits the Chamonix area.  I will leave you with some more pictures.  Oh one more thing!  If you read the word Aiguille and pronounce it, “ah-gwilley,” people in the know will laugh at you or look at you funny.  It is properly pronounced, “ah-ghee”.  Because it’s French.

Looking East towards Italy and Switzerland.
Bring a jacket.  It was only 30 degrees at the top.
Told you there were lots of needles.  Looking North.
Looking about 8,000 feet down to the valley and Chamonix.





We’ve been busy!

I know at least one person who reads this blog has been eagerly awaiting this post.  I hope he enjoys it.  For those of you not eagerly awaiting this post, I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Last Monday, crew chief Sarah Baker and newly hired assistant crew chief Nancy Baker, arrived in Argentiére.  The crew doesn’t get paid much, but they sure work hard.  M and I had been looking forward to familiar faces and were glad they came all the way to France to visit.

Last week was also a taper week for M and I so we could be fresh for our race this past Saturday in Italy.  The race is called The Grand Trail Courmayeur and it is 105 kilometers long.  For our American audience, that came out to about 65 miles.  To answer the next question, yes that is to be run all in one day.

M and I knew the race would be our toughest challenge yet, but we felt well prepared after training for a month here in Chamonix.  At just after 7 am Saturday we set off from Courmayeur in hopes of being back sometime before 7 am Sunday.  The race cutoff time was 1 pm Sunday so we had plenty of time, but we both were planning on beating the 24 hour mark.

Mountain ultra races in the Alps are known for their climbing and this race was no exception.  I am certain that there is a secret competition amongst race organizers trying to see who can make the most ridiculously difficult course.  The race began with a 3 mile descent to the bottom of the first climb.  M and I had broken the race down into sections that went from aid station to aid station in order to make the race seem more manageable.  The first aid station was supposed to be around the 8 mile mark at the midway point of the first climb.  We should have remembered that like all other races, there is usually some wiggle room as far as where the aid stations are actually located. The first aid station was at mile 9.5 and after climbing for 2 hours, I was ready to refuel.

Taken during the race, not sure of location.

The climbing continued until the next aid station at about mile 15.  This section is where we began more serious climbing.  There were quite a few boulder fields to cross and some snowy steps that had been hacked into the side of a cliff where we used a rope to ascend through a crevice in the mountain.  Eventually we descended into the town of La Thuile and another aid station, or in Italian, ristorio.  Of course descending really only means its time for the next section of climbing and so began the next climb.  The climb up to Baite de Youlaz aid station was actually one of the easiest climbs of the day with only a few boulder sections and a larger than normal portion of narrow paved mountain road.  This was only an appetizer for the next part of the second major climb of the race.  Miles 24-32 were the longest and hardest miles I have ever done.  By this point in the race, there had begun a torrential downpour and the temperature dropped considerably.  Pants, jackets, gloves and hats were all required for the race and I was thankful because I needed all of them.  I ran out of water about mile 28.  This normally would not be a big deal with only 3.5 miles or so to go to the next aid station, but when there are mountains and lots of technical climbing in between you and that aid station, it becomes quite an ordeal.

I was at such a low point that each time I would come around a corner or over a saddle hoping to see the aid station, and all I saw was more mountains to climb, I just had to laugh.

Keep going, it’s just over that next ridge…

I learned all about staying calm and not panicking during this point of the race.  The reality is that there is nothing you can do except keep going and trying to use as little energy as possible til the next aid station.

Would have been nice to take this trail down…
But no, we got to go along the scary ridge instead!

When your best speed is about 30-45 minutes per mile, 3 miles takes a long time.  After what seemed like forever I spotted the aid station off in the distance.  Along the way there was the prettiest blue lake I’ve ever seen.

Picture does not show actual color, it was much better.

I finally made it to the aid station located on a saddle in the coldest and windiest spot  they could have found.  I refueled and put on more clothes and got going down as fast as I could.  I was glad the trail down was only really steep and rocky because otherwise it would have been difficult.

We actually did get to go down this trail, finally.
What happens when you try to take a picture while going downhill.
The little red flags were our markers to follow all day.

The next ristorio was at the Refugio Elisabetta, which M and I had stopped at 2 years ago during our trip around Mt. Blanc.  It was quite nice to be on a familiar part of the trail.  It was also nice because most of this part of the trail was either downhill or flat.

By this point in the race, my body and mind had rallied back into form and I was looking forward to the next climb up to the Maison Vielle aid station.  This part of the course was also familiar so I knew what to expect on the next climb.  I knew it was not too long and not at all technical and thus allows for a steady pace.  Unfortunately this is where my calf decided it had had enough racing and would not allow me to push off going uphill or plantar flex going downhill.  Even though I was having my best race ever, I knew it was over at that point.  There was no point in continuing to race when I couldn’t run at all.  There was also no point in ruining the rest of my summer by injuring myself beyond repair.

I was told at the aid station that I would have to walk down to Dalonne so I decided to drop out of the race at the Dalonne checkpoint.  I also wanted to make it to Dalonne because that would be the furthest I had ever raced at 48 miles.

That particular aid station was the biggest of them all, with hot food and the ability of picking up a drop bag that had been placed there earlier.  It was also where our crew could meet us and help out a little bit with resupplying for the last section of the course.

Earlier in the evening, M had blazed through this aid station and was greatly helped along by Sarah and Nancy.  They helped M refill her bottles and change into dry clothes and be on her way.  I showed up about an hour after M left and the crew supported my decision to drop.  They also carried all my stuff back up the hill to our apartment, walking slowly the whole way so I wouldn’t have to walk alone in the dark.

Nancy made me a sandwich and Sarah kept a sharp eye on M’s tracker so we would know when to go back to Courmayeur and see M finish.  We all tried to sleep a little, but I mostly just tried to relax and eat after such a long effort.

Sarah, Nancy and I got up at 3:30 am and made our way back down to the finish area in order to greet M and cheer her at the finish.  A little over 22 hours after starting, M came down the finishing chute to the roars of all 3 of her supporters.  It was M’s best ever race and she finished second in her age group and fourth overall among women.  The last part of the course had been utterly diabolical with the shortest but steepest climb, and one of the more technical downhills of the entire race.

M conquered her fear of heights and conquered the hardest race she’s ever done.  It was a remarkable feat, and we were all very proud and humbled by her performance.

Blurry because she was moving so fast!
Yea! Finally done!

We decided that Pizzeria De Moulins back in Chamonix was calling our name, so we left Courmayeur a day earlier than planned.  We made it back to Argentiére with no problems and then proceeded back to Chamonix and killed off quite a bit of pizza.

M and I are now in recovery mode which basically means we eat all the time.  Fortunately we have temporarily moved to Zermatt, Switzerland where there is no shortage of yummy food to keep us full.

I hope to have another blog with pictures from our trip up the Auguille du Midi soon. You will certainly see many pictures of Mt. Blanc!





Exciting news!

Ok it’s only really exciting for me.  When we are at home, I have plenty of access to gluten free pizza.  Either from the store or when M decides to make homemade pizza. Gluten free pizza has not made it to the stores here in the Chamonix valley and finding the proper dough for making homemade pizza hasn’t yet been accomplished.  From all this, you might gather that this is an important slice of my life.  Pizza de Moulins to the rescue!

It turns out that right in downtown Chamonix is a pizza place owned and operated by Italians, and they serve gluten free pizza!  Fortunately, like a lot of other food here in France, it also happens to be relatively cheap.  M and I both had our own pizzas and it was less than 30 Euros total.  Plus there is no tipping!  Pizza de Moulins is a huge deal for us because now there is somewhere we can eat out if we want and where I can almost be satiated.

Yesterday was Saturday so we did our usual long run.  We followed the last 6 miles or so of the Mont Blanc Marathon and then added Col du Brevent to get to our turn around point.

As usual Mt. Blanc did not disappoint along the way.

Fortunately there were no scary cables to cross, but there is one section with some handrails to hang on to so you do not fall down the scary stairs.  As is becoming the norm, most of the hikers we saw were either American, British or Aussie,with a few Canadians and French in the mix as well.

We made it up the steep climb to the Col and were greeted by a guy who was not very talkative, but he did stand still for a few pictures.

Col du Brevent official greeter.
Looking east from the Col.
It was cold at the Col!

We made it down off the Col and safely back home in time to eat lots of food and watch the day’s carnage on the first stage of the Tour de France.  The tour comes fairly close to us this year, but it would be difficult to get to the stage without a car.

Sundays are generally shorter runs for us and we try to choose routes that are interesting, or easier or new to us.  Today’s route took us up to a place called Le Peclery.  I had been part of the way up the trail a few days ago but had not gone far enough to get to the top or do the loop we planned for today.  I had told M that the part of the trail that I had been on was very smooth and not technical at all.  My information was correct as far as it went.  We found out today that the trail got a fair bit steeper after my turn around point.  It also had a gnarly descent down the other side where a 30-40 minute mile was pretty fast!  Nothing could have prepared us for the middle section though.  We have seen some amazing places since we’ve been here, but Le Peclery might be the prettiest.  The pictures will not come close to representing the beauty of the area.  The entire top of the climb was shrouded in pink flowers interspersed among the boulders and rocks.  We were in awe and had to keep stopping for pictures.  We were also the only people there.  We haven’t heard anyone talk about the area so we feel like we’ve found a special place.

One of the Aiguilles.
Pink flowers everywhere.
No Hobbits were home at Le Peclery.
Looking towards Switzerland surrounded by flowers.

After taking many pictures we finally made it to the descent.  We were not happy that it took us almost as long to get down as it did to get up.  Take three steps, switchback, another three steps, another switchback.  As usual we felt like the village of Le Tour which we could see below, kept getting lower down the mountain instead of closer.  M let out a cheer when we finally got back to the main trail.  The descent could not ruin what we had seen though, and we look forward to seeing Le Peclery again.

Summertime playground looking like a car show.

I had high hopes of having pictures to support my title reference to Will Smith’s song, “Summertime” but all the cars have been moving and not posing for pictures. Since M and I have been here in Europe we have seen more supercars in less than a month than we’d previously seen in our lives.  For those that are not familiar with the term, “supercars” generally refers to cars that are really fast, very expensive, and somewhat uncommon.  Within the first two weeks of being here we saw a Ferrari club rally and therefore had many Ferraris driving past the apartment for a couple of hours.  This got kind of old as I had to keep jumping up off the couch every time I heard a V8 or V12 engine revving as they went by the apartment.

In the last 3 days we have seen 2 Mclaren 720s’s which is currently the fastest car you can buy for less than a million bucks.  Throw in all the Porsches and one Lamborghini Aventador, and as M said, “These things are a dime a dozen around here.”  Needless to say, for a car person like myself it has been exciting.

Now back to the real world of running in Cham.  On Saturday, M and I had another big run.  We followed the same beginning as last weekend, but this time we went a different direction once we reached Vallorcine.

Vallorcine as seen from slightly above.

M had gotten the information for the new part of this run from the Chamonix trail running group website.  To say their description of the run was understated would be a disservice to the word.  The website did not mention that part of the run was literally straight up the side of a mountain with mostly climbing up and over rocks.

Seriously, that is the trail going straight up!

The site did have a brief mention of chains and cables, but it did not say that the first part of the traverse across the mountain was all chains and cables and railings attached to the side of cliff faces.

M being fearless!
Yeah, it just kept going like that for a while.

We were rewarded with some cool views of the Emossons Dam and the lake behind it once we made it to the top.

Really wanted to get in!
Dam view from the trail.
Yes there is a road that goes all the way up to the dam.

After traversing for a while and seemingly going nowhere, as usual I began to believe that the Loriaz refuge was constantly moving away from us.  We had some great views along the way and did eventually find the refuge where we could start descending back towards home.

Good place for a breather.

A little over 8 hours after leaving home, we returned.  It was quite the training day and served our purpose for adapting to long days in the mountains.

Driving in France and Italy.

In order to scout out the living situation for our upcoming Italy trip, we decided to rent a car and see if we could drive over to Italy and back without killing one another or anyone else.  Since I am writing this you can assume we were to some degree successful.  Don’t worry!   M is here too and currently trying to catch up on the eating we missed while being gone all day.

We took the bus down to Cham this morning and managed to pick up the car with no troubles.  The car was a Peugeot 208 with a 5 speed manual and not too much horsepower. It did however like to rev really loudly and not go very fast while doing so. Handling dynamics were good though, as the car was smooth through the bends.

Without too much trouble we made it up to the Mt. Blanc tunnel which goes through the mountain for about 11 kilometers and comes out just above Courmayeur, Italy.  There are very strict rules to follow when in the tunnel and are as follows.  The speed limit is 50-70 kph and you MUST maintain a minimum distance of 150 meters between yourself and the car in front of you.  Consequences for disobeying these rules include fines of 800 Euros as well as losing your license.  Though strict, these rules might have some possibilities of helping I-70 traffic with a few modifications!

Everything was going swimmingly until we missed our turn for Courmayeur.  This was a huge mistake.  If you miss the turn, you will basically have to drive to Milan in order to turn around because there are no off ramps for many miles.  You will also get to see none of the beauty you are missing because most of the road is covered with tunnels.  I imagine that after 12-15 miles of going the wrong way, most sane people will do as we did and break the law by turning around in one of the tiny little passages in the median.  Fortunately the Italian 5-0 was not around to arrest us.  Of course they would have to have been at that exact spot or they would have had to drive 50 miles the other way so they could turn around and come to get us.

By this time, M and I were not on polite speaking terms due to miscommunication regarding our previous direction.  Really, I’d like to blame Google for that because Google maps could not keep up with where we were on the road.

After many extra miles we made it to the parking lot in Dolonne which is a hamlet of  Courmayeur.  We were able to find our lodgings for our upcoming trip along with the main square of town which has many gelato options.  Wandering around Courmayeur isn’t so bad really considering the view.


We went for a little run and ended with a stop at one of the gelato places and all was right with the world.  A refreshing strawberry, or in M’s case, a refreshing Nutella, Oreo, vanilla gelato, will certainly take away whatever troubles you might have had.

It ended up being a much longer day than it probably should’ve been, but we made it home safely and are very happy with our accumulated knowledge of driving around France and Italy.

We finished our biggest training day ever!

As we started up the first climb, the song that says, “25 miles from home girl, my feet are hurting mighty bad…” was playing through my mind since that is how far we had to go. That and 3 big climbs totaling 9,000 feet.

Top of first climb looking down on Le Tour.

I let out a sarcastic shout when made it to the top of the first part of the first climb. Sarcastic because we only had another 1,000 vertical feet or so to go up.  As usual we saw some Ibex, including one who was doing his business in the middle of the trail.  He looked kind of upset that we interrupted him, but he did get out of the way when he was finished.

That little town is Vallorcine, which is where we were headed.

The next descent is very technical and steep.  At one point I looked at my watch to see that we were doing quite well descending at 37 minutes per mile pace!  There are no pictures because I did not want to fall off the mountain,  but just think straight down with lots of rocks in the way.

Vallorcine is a pretty little village.

After reaching Vallorcine, it was time to make our way up and over the mountain to Switzerland.  As usual, it took a while but the scenery on the way was not too awful.

I believe the technical name for these is, “purple flowers.”
Can’t tell from the picture, but this waterfall was about 100 feet high.
Yellow flowers!

After what seemed like forever but in reality was only a few minutes shy of forever, we made it to a relatively flat section of the trail that we had been on 2 years ago when we circumnavigated Mt. Blanc.  This lead us to a hated section of the trail that we remembered from 2 years ago.  Hated because at that time it was a massive ascent.  Luckily we got to descend it this time and it was much cooler than last time as well.

You are now in Switzerland.  You’re welcome.
Can’t get enough glacier pictures!

We descended into Trient and began our way up the last climb of the day.  Since we had recently been to the top of this climb from the other side, my brain wanted to believe it wouldn’t be too awful as the climb does not look so bad from the top.  At this point everyone should be laughing at my naivety.  Obviously there are no easy climbs in France or Switzerland.  They wouldn’t even put a trail up something with less than an 18% grade. By this point I am going through water like a man just out of the desert.  Fortunately there were creeks and snow along the way to fill water bottles and use to cool off.  I took to putting snow in my hat and down my shirt, both of which worked nicely for keeping me cool.

That speck up there is the witch’s hut. See blog from 2 years ago to learn more.
Almost to the hut when that mountain peeking up stopped us in our tracks.

Once we made it to the top of the climb at the witch’s hut, it was all down hill, mostly, from there.  After just under 8 hours we came into town where M proceeded straight to the bakery and bought lots of recovery foods (read: eclairs, chocolate mousse, and fresh bread).

We will now spend the rest of the night eating so we can run again tomorrow!