TMB Days 3 and 4 and Rest Day

Day 5:  Rest Day in Courmayeur, Italy

Miles So Far (approximately):  41 miles (60 or so to go)

Elevation:  12,526 feet up, 12,572 feet down total

Day 3 and 4 are done!   Due to Wi-Fi/cell accessibility and a lack of energy, I was unable to share the highlights of those days.

Both days involved more elevation and hence moved us above the tree line with amazing vistas.

Day 3 — Les Contamines to Les Chapieux

Day 3 was a hike 20 kilometer hike with an elevation gain of 4,400 feet from Les Contamines to Les Chapieux and cross the Col (pass) du Bonhomme.

The day started at the historic Notre Dame de la Gorge church and the ascent quickly began.

The trail begins on an old Roman road and one of the first features was a nearly 2,000 year old Roman bridge.

Again, one of the best features of the TMB is the occasional refuges (Refugio) that one encounters, where you can get an espresso, a beer, breakfast, lunch, or even spend the night.  An hour into our climb, we encountered our first and decided we were long enough in to get an espresso and a wild blueberry tart.   We used their facilities, pet their cat, and were on our way.

Refuge Cat

I have to be honest, we stopped at the next refuge, which was about another hour for a cold drink. And, to be be honest, we stopped at a third after the pass.

Ok, enough of refuges, the hike up to the Col was long, but the views were spectacular (as this trip is proving to be consistently — lots of work for big payoff).   While resting at the Col, we realized there was a trail race under way and had an opportunity to cheer the runners as they checked in with a race official — the resting hikers clapped, cheered, and used trail cups as make shift bells clanging them with sporks or whatever.

After a short visit at the Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme, which was cut short by the fact that the staff was tending to an injured hiker and preparing for a helicopter evacuation, we bag the 930 meter descent to Les Chapieux.

As we descended, we passed through an agricultural area complete with cattle with bells (more cow bell!) and sheep.   All the hikers were amazed when the shepard appeared and moved his flock of 100-150 sheep with a few extreme well trained dogs (see blog post  later on French dogs).   It has not been uncommon to come across either cattle with bells or sheep being watched over by a content looking sheep dog.



We began our day with a refuge cat and ended with a sheep dog!

Day 4 — Les Chapieux to La Vasaille

Our night in Les Chapieux was our most “rustic” accommodation.  Yes, I sound like the old guy, but I got spoiled by other other places and the single flat pillow, tiny bed for my wife and I, and bath down the hall didn’t quite cut it after our climb the day before.   However, right as I was about the whine to my wife, I looked out the window at the field of campers and felt like I had it pretty good.   Enough on that and my entitled sleeping expectations.

Day 4 from Les Chapieux to La Vasaille was a 17 kilometer hike with 3,000 feet of ascent and 1,500 feet of descent passing over Col de la Seine at about 7,500 feet.  This was the point we crossed from France into Italy.

As with much of the TMB, we began the day on a farm road and came across a large herd of cattle along with the ranchers  (I can’t call folks wearing beret a cowboy).  Fortunately (for us), after we passed they began driving the cattle down the road we has just passed.

I should note here if I haven’t already, that the TMB is not a wilderness experience — roads, refuges, and most of all lots and lots of people.   You are never alone on the trail.  While we have hiked and backpacked many wilderness areas in the Pacific Northwest and felt like we were alone in a sea of forest or among the peaks, this was definitely not that type of experience and we knew it would not.  Expectation management is essential for the TMB!

Today’s climb to the Col de la Seigne was steep but not as bad as the climb on Day 3 and the views proved to be just as stunning.

After the Col, we made our descent into Italy and looked forward to a visit to the Refugio Elisabetta for a drink and a late lunch.


The food and drinks were amazing — polenta and sausage and a red wine after a long hike while still in the mountains really hit the spot.

The rest of the hike was a beautiful descent into a valley and about a 45 minute road walk for a bus into Courmayeur.

Day 5 — Unexpected Rest Day in Courmayeur

This morning we woke up to booms, flashes, and pouring rain.   The recommended weather app, Meteoswiss, showed a giant, nasty weather system moving in.   Today’s hike would have required us to backtrack an hour before we hit new trail and the app warned that the thunderstorm would worsen and last most of the day.   We decided that our tired legs deserved a rest day and Courmayeur wasn’t a bad place to have one — laundry, good food, and rest were in order.   We managed to do all three feasting on the delights of Italian food.

Tomorrow, we hike to Chalet Val Ferret.

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