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A Cloudy Col des Chamois Attempt

27 Jun 17
Heidi Kumm
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After weeks [years?] of talking about a trek up the Grand Muveran it finally started to look like it would happen. Gemma + I set aside a day, stared at a map + chatted up a friend…then we checked the weather. After a solid 10 days of blazing sunshine, we were headed into a long weekend of thunderstorms. The dicey weather combined with late-season snow vetoed our plan to snag a Grand Muveran summit.

On to Plan B we went…Tour du Grand Muveran!

Or, not.

Because we wanted views if we were going to spend two days in the Alps!

Okay, Plan C — the Col des Chamois!


Col des Chamois

We were up extra early on Friday morning, piled food into our packs + jumped in the car for the twisting drive up to Pont de Nant. It was rather refreshing to arrive early on a weekday — there was actually parking available! With one last gear check, we headed up the trail.

...I’ve always said I wanted a goat farm in the Swiss Alps. Now it must be. My name, these goats, those mountains!

I knew the first bit of this trail, but I remembered it as being the last leg of a trek from Chalet Martin to Cabane Plan Neve rather than the first stretch of a hike up + over the ridge towering behind Cabane Plan Neve. While it relentlessly wove us up the mountainside it felt far easier than the first time I made the climb. I’m giving the pep of “fresh legs” credit for the that.

As we neared the last steep climb up to Cabane Plan Neve clouds started to drop down over the peaks surrounding us. They weren’t overly threatening nor aggressively dark, but they were clouds. Selfishly, we were upset that these clouds would hide the views we were chasing. More importantly, if the clouds stayed low we’d run the risk of getting socked in over the ridge as we were traversing snow fields + glaciers. Not the most appealing option…

...we’ve both had terrible luck with this trail + are yet to perch here for a cloudless lunch!

Once we arrived at Plan Neve we decided to snack through our packs + ponder the weather. We were in the mountains, after all, so the weather was always moodily changing. About the time we made the decision to bail on Col des Chamois due to weather the skies opened up with rain. It wasn’t thundering rain, but it was just enough rain to fully commit us to our decision to pick a new destination for the day.

Our Plan D became some quality time along the trails near l’Argentine. We’ve both completed the full Tour de l’Argentine multiple times so we weren’t very motivated to do the full loop [although we definitely tossed it around as an idea a few times, before we lost our ambition!].

The re-routed plan had us dropping back down toward the Nant Valley, then veering right toward the face of l’Argentine. I can’t help but feel a bit proud of myself for knowing many of the peaks around me + having a very solid idea of where the various trails led. I’ve managed to spend enough time in the Alps near Chalet Martin to know where the snow will be, what trails connect + what mountain cafes will pour us a fully charged cup of coffee. I’m also a bit ashamed of my lack of knowledge in this department when it comes to Summit County, Colorado. Guess I’ll have to up my game come September…

After a shady stop at Buvette La Vare for a quick cup of coffee, we were on our way again. We headed out as if we were going to complete Tour du l’Argentine again, but talked ourselves out of it as soon as we made it to the first fork in the trail. Rather than carry on in moody weather, along trails we knew quite well, we opted to call it a day. In our defense, we did take the long route back!

The Silver Lining

As it usually does, everything worked itself out. We were lucky enough to be heading downhill when the skies finally let the sun win out over the clouds. Once back at the car we inhaled the last few bits of our snacks + made our way back to the chalet for cold showers [yea, it eventually got hot enough to warrant cold showers!].

We could have spent our entire day trekking around the Swiss Alps, taking in all the mountain views. Instead, we returned home in time to jump on board a group trip down to the valley to go climbing. About 15 chalet’ites settled into the meadow-y grass around the crag, soaking up life. We set up a picnic, threw sticks for the dogs, chased children + climbed up rock faces.

That’s the real beauty of Chalet Martin. Somehow the chalet has acquired a bit of its own personality, bringing together people. The hobbies, careers + life goals of the people sprawled around the crag would have never caused them to run into each other if it weren’t for the chalet. Something different brought each one of us to the Swiss chalet in a tiny mountain village, but once we arrived we all found the same reason to stick around — the people.

Turns out our Plan D.2 was the right plan for us. It wasn’t perfect + it wasn’t exactly what we had on our checklist, but once it all worked out…it was right.

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