This stage marked our return to high mountain views after two lower altitude days in Swiss valleys, which were pretty and pastoral but lacked stunning scenery. We started in much the same way as the previous couple of days: walking through a quiet valley from Trient through the equally quiet (and even smaller) Swiss village of La Peuty before leaving the road on a gravel path through a meadow that crossed a rocky stream and then entered the woods, where we ascended steeply via a series of well-graded switchbacks.
We quickly rose to fabulous views through the trees of Col de la Forclaz, where we’d passed the day before. And after a good climb, we cleared the trees, entered an open hillside where we could see Swiss valleys below us and the height of land of Col de Balme above us (marking our return to France). It was another lovely day, albeit (as it had been the day before) somewhat hazy and borderline muggy.
During this climb, we had one of those funny experiences that often happen during international travel, at least amongst those of us who try to speak the local language. I had spoken French with a group of three women who were hiking near us. They had spoken French back. But it wasn’t until we’d spoken three or four times that I overheard them talking amongst themselves and realized they were Australian!
About 700 meters into the climb, we came to a series of old hut buildings, very strongly built of fieldstone and featuring the cross that’s a standard feature on many Valais hillsides and valleys. While the buildings seemed abandoned, two of the low stone huts were open for use (presumably) as emergency shelters. As you can see from the pictures, it was pretty dark and dank, although it’d be better than getting lost or freezing to death in a snowstorm.
Then we reached Col de Blame and its namesake refuge at 2191 meters – and the whole Chamonix Valley lay spread out before us with Mont Blanc dominating the skyline on the south side of the valley. There was a perfect spot out of the wind by the (closed) refuge and we took our time for a relaxed lunch. Like several sections of the TMB, the hillside below was criss-crossed with signs of downhill skiing: lifts, rope tows, pistes, etc. As you can see from the photos, however, this really didn’t detract from the views! We had a particularly good perspective on Glacier du Tour, one of the largest on the massif.
From the Col, we dropped slightly and then climbed to the highlight for the day (and one of the highlights of the trip overall), Aiguillettes des Posettes (the stony rounded hump in the middle of the photo above, which, appearances to the contrary, is slightly higher than Col de Balme). This stone outcrop offers a 360° view of Switzerland and France with Mont Blanc, obviously, dominating but plenty of other spectacular scenery.
From here, it was a fun (if knee-punishing) descent on switchbacks right off the end of the aiguillette, coming out on the road just above the small villege of Tré-le-Champ, our destination for the night. We found accommodation in the unbelievably quaint Auberge La Boerne. Each room was very cozy and dark, which made me feel like I was sleeping in the hold of a ship! After organizing my gear, we ended up sitting in the lovely garden, enjoying beers with a sweet German couple, before sitting down to a great French country dinner.