Day 5: Les Houches

Day 5 - Les Houches - View from my room I am in Les Houches.  This town is just west down the valley from Chamonix.  I stayed in the same hotel two years ago when I did the Tour de Mont Blanc and Les Houches was the starting point.  I think I even got the same room again.  The view from the window is on the high snow covered mountains of the Mont Blanc massif.

Day5 - Leaving Refuge Moede Anterne I skipped breakfast and stepped on the trail early at 6:42.  From the Refuge (high 2000 m) the trail goes down steeply to the bottom of the small forested valley and then countless switchbacks lead up out of the forest, eventually above any vegetation line - just rocks - to the Col Brevent.  Then more climbing to the summit of Mont Brevent which provides a stunning view.  Day 5 - Col_Brevent This took 4 hours.  The descent to Les Houches took another 3 hours and I started to have a problem with my left knee.  So I used that as an excuse to end the stage in Les Houches (as the book suggests) and not go for another two hours (as I planned).

This little hotel/restaurant in Les Houches is my forth accommodation in France on this trip.  I also stayed at two places in Switzerland.  There is a difference in check-in rules.  In Switzerland they require to fill in the standard registration form with your name, dob, nationality, address, country you were born in and your passport number.  They don’t ask for any photo id or a credit card.  Now in France 3 times out of 4, I was just asked my name and got the key.  And today I was shown my room and got the key even without that.  I like the French way better.

Day5 - Les_Houches and Chamonix Another anecdotal observation about European vacations.  So this German lady I mentioned in yesterday’s notes is having her vacation now.  She has already spent two weeks in Greece attending some painting workshop led by some famous marine Greek painter.  The third week she worked as a member of a small volunteer group helping some poor farmer from Wallis, Switzerland to stock up the hay for the winter.  Now she is hiking in the mountains staying in the refuges and gets down to the towns when there is some music festival going.  She is going to do this for three weeks.  Total six weeks of vacation.

Day 5 - View from Refuge on the way down to Les Houches I had a retired French couple sitting next to me at the dinner.  They have done mountain hiking for over 40 years.  They know all the mountains in France and beyond.  In the 1980's they climbed the Mont Blanc with their daughter who was 15 at the time.  Now she lives in San Rafael just north of San Francisco and works for some champagne producing company.  They visit her often but this October they all are going to meet in Australia just because they have not been there yet. 

I saw several people running on the trail today.  Unbelievably fit.  Running up the switchbacks they say bonjour smiling.