Day 2 — Les Houches to Les Contamines
Les Houches to Les Contamines
Total Distance 18.5 (about 90 to go)
Elevation: 3,000 feet up (but we cheated for some of that), 2,500 foot descent
After our descent from (into?) Hell yesterday (4,500 feet), we decided that we would cheat by taking a gondola (the Bellevue Gondola) and shaving some miles and ascent from our day. In exchange, we decided we would take an alternative route via the Col de Tricot, which promised some amazing high alpine views.
I should pause here — because the TMB is essentially a town to town trek and the Alps are not roadless, wilderness like many of us in the States are used to, there are a lot of options to shorten the trek — gondolas, shuttles, public transport. It is possible to knock off an hour or two or if your sick, injured, or not feeling it, to simply skip an entire section and go by bus, train, or taxi to the next town.
Ok, back to this morning. We walked through town, getting a picture at the iconic TMB start/end arch, to the gondola station. Warning bells went off as we approached and saw a large and gathering crowd of obvious TMB hikers. The ticket desk for the gondola indicated that wind and thunderstorms had closed the gondola. That did not bode well for the start of our day or our plans to take the alternate hike — the guide books and locals warn that the variant should not be attempted in bad weather because it is in the alpine zone and very exposed.
Note: We felt a bit like we were “cheating” taking the chairlift, but we actually met no one that didn’t take it.
Finally, the gondola opened and we were on our way — hopeful of the day to come. We were greeted on the top (Col de Voza) with dark, ominous clouds and thunder. That sealed our decision to skip the higher route and to take the traditional low route which also offered amazing (albeit lower) views, travel through quaint French Alpine villages, and routes along pristine mountain streams.
We ended up hiking with an amazing 75-year-old solo female hiker from Texas and a lovely couple from New Zealand. Part of travel like this is the joy of connecting along the way.
Despite (or because) of our cheat up the gondola and the uncertainty that the delay caused and our decision to forgo the high route, our day was amazing.
Tomorrow, we are expecting some more serious elevation — 3,900 feet up and 2,700 feet down over 12 miles.
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