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Tour de l’Argentine

29 Oct 15
Heidi Kumm
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One of my questions for Merlin while coordinating my WorkAway plans in Gryon, Switzerland was “how’s the hiking + trail running in the area?”, turns out Merlin was not lying when he said the options are endless. From the day I arrived the Tour de l’Argentine has been mentioned by multiple people, yet it still took me about 4 weeks to actually get out there and run/hike the loop. It did not disappoint! And I really should have done it earlier because now I really want to summit l’Argentine but I’m running out of time!

Great Source for Route Detailsm + Map: Wanderland
Total Distance from Chalet Martin, Gryon: 25km/15.5mi
Route from Chalet Martin, Gryon: Gryon > toward Solalex > trail to Bovonne > La Matte > toward La Vare > Col des Essetes > Anzeinde > Solalex > Gryon

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— these signs are on each sign post along the trail, it is very easy to follow —

I left the chalet just before 9:30am on a Tuesday morning with my fingers crossed for good weather — the forecast threatened a cloudy day but I had high hopes for another false forecast. The weatherman has been consistently inaccurate, as the bright sunshine in the midst of today’s “90% chance of rain” proves. The first stretch of this trek was through the little village of Gryon, following the road toward Les Plan and then Solalex. On the road up to Solalex I gave up on the pavement and followed a dirt path straight up the mountainside and through a few empty pastures.

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The trail led me up to Bovonne, a tiny cluster of homes that were completely silent — creepily silent. They were obviously lived in and not yet closed up for the winter season but there was no movement and no sound. So weird. I scurried up the trail that took me right through the houses and headed up to the wide open pasture behind them. There were a few painted rocks scattered across the field so I zig zagged my way across a minefield of hidden holes following red + white stripes to a mini summit that gave me a 360 view of all the mountains.

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Across the valley was Les Chaux, the summit cross I have telecabine’ed and hiked up to multiple times over the past few weeks…the home of my favorite stretch of trail in all of Switzerland [okay, maybe just the Gryon area, there is a lot of Switzerland I haven’t seen!]. This little summit above Bovonne is where I hopped onto the official Tour de l’Argentine trail as it snaked along the base of the l’Argentine summit high above. Finally…runnable trail without cow pies or hidden ankle breaking pasture holes!

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I took the route counter-clockwise, toward La Vare, and I opted for the shortcut above the small clump of homes that made up the tiny village. Had it been earlier in the season I may have dropped down to La Vare to scope out any cafes, but alas, it’s so late in the season even the cafes in town are closed down until the snow arrives. This shortcut kept me higher on the mountain, surrounded by dramatic rocks, orange larch trees and towering mountains. It was calm, quiet and beautiful…turns out fall is freaking awesome even without bright orange, red and yellow trees!

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As the trail continued on the mountains above me transformed. When I first saw the l’Argentine it was a pretty impressive mountain but I didn’t get too attached — the view I was flaunting a tall cliff that looked to require ropes and legitimate rock climbing skills [and the friends required to do such things safely] so a summit was out of the questions. However, as I ran further along the Tour de l’Argentine trail it became obvious there was a LOT more to this mountain than just a boring ol’ rock face! So much more! And now…now I want to go back and find my way to the summit because I know it’s possible from the backside! The “tail” of the l’Argentine summit sloped down and, while steep, it looked completely summit-able in a pair of trail running shoes. Someday…

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After a long, runnable squiggle of trail I started climbing back upwards through a mess of massive boulders on insta-switchbacks that nearly made me dizzy. The long ridge of the l’Argentine continued sloping down to meet the pass I was approaching making a summit seem even more attainable. I seriously considered finding my way up to the summit then I realized I was a just shy of 10 miles away from home with minimal supplies so I opted to just add the summit to my “must do list” for future visits.

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When I popped up at the Col des Essets crest the world seemed to just roll out around me with three lumps of mountains surrounding me and valleys dropping down below me. The eastern slopes clung to a dusting of snow while the west-facing slopes were full of dying fall colors. The trail led down the pass to Anzeinde another small cluster of homes and cafes in the valley.

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I slipped and slide down the trail, dancing between slick mud and melting slush until I arrived in the shut-for-the-season village. I knew the run back to Gryon would be pretty straight forward from here so when the grassy horizon off in the distance started is siren call I gleefully abandoned the main trail to follow cairns and cow poop across another field. I was in a valley, scampering across a meadow with mountains on both side of me…but both of those mountains seemed to peter out just as the meadow melted into the blue sky. I wanted to know what was out there!

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Eventually, I gave up on the horizon…it just kept teasing me with more “ooh, I’ll just go to that big boulder” view. I kind of wish I had kept going, just to see what was out there, but hunger called me back to reality and after about a mile of cow pies I reconnected with the main trail.

From Anzeinde the trail followed a rapid-filled river down to Solalex, the first village that wasn’t completely shut down for the season! I refilled my water bottle and pretended to stretch while I let the mountains mesmerize me. A little change in perspective makes all the difference — summits always look more intense from below + trails always feel more badass when you’re actually running them.

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I followed the road out of Solalex then ducked onto the dirt trail near a parking lot. I had considered sticking to the road for quicker miles…I’m glad I didn’t. The stretch of trail from Solalex to La Benjamine is amazing! It’s soft, rooty and the kind of runnable that makes me grin and giggle. I’m seriously considering a 4 mile warm up/cool down just so I can go play on this 2 mile stretch of trail again…it’s just that awesome.

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After my giddy gallop through the trees I hooked back up with some pavement and made my way back through Gryon to finish off my day of exploring. Aside from the first/last 2 miles this entire loop was new to me. I did very little research [lots of word-of-mouth “you’d love this” + a list of villages I’d go through was the extent of my route preparation] and loved every minute of “hmmm, I wonder what’s next”.

This is the kind of running + exploring I love but always forget to do. It’s intimidating to not know what you might encounter on the trail + it’s a tricky balance to pack enough gear without weighing yourself down too much…but the excitement that comes with discovering a rushing river or a perfectly orange tree in the middle of nowhere always ends up being worth the what if’s. And the extra weight of basic solo emergency gear? Great for training, right?!

1 Comment

  1. The Padre October 29, 2015 at 9:14 am Reply

    Unreal!!! WoW

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