When the Columbia crew left Chamonix on Saturday afternoon I packed up my Ultimate Direction Fastpack, stowed away my big Columbia duffle and headed for the train station where I hopped on a train to Vallorcine and immediately hit the trail following the Tour du Mont Blanc trail. I spent my Saturday afternoon/evening hiking against the flow of UTMB 170km racers doling out “great job” and “keep it up” along with many claps + smiles that I hope were encouraging. I was headed to Trient, the 120km check point of the UTMB where I hoped to crash at a hostel after catching Amy [the Runner’s Roost MUT Team coordinator + a major, level-headed enabler for my first ultras] as she came through.
— Can you spot the runners heading down the trail to the Vallorcine check point? I saw Eric Lee on this stretch. —
I arrived in Trient around 9pm which gave me plenty of time to snag a bed at a hostel, shower and internet stalk Amy’s last check point. I was down at the check point when she came trotting in with Maddy, her newfound trail friend. She looked fantastic. Yes, fantastic. That girl may have been 86 miles into an intense mountain race but she sounded happy and her stride was strong [as long as you didn’t make her do stairs!]. Amy was a fountain of advice when I first committed to the Run, Rabbit, Run 100M and her attitude when she came through Trient is the reason why — she’s freaking amazing, she keeps her head on straight while racing and some day I’ll figure out how to run half as strong as she does! Color me inspired…and impressed!
After sending Amy, Maddy and Jamil Coury off onto a dark, steep trail I called it a night, sneaking back into my hostel dorm as quietly as possible. As promised the rest of the hikers in the dorm were up early and made just enough noise to rouse me for breakfast. However, I managed to leave all of my motivation in bed. I had conveniently forgotten half of my phone charger in the luggage I stored in Chamonix so while my phone charged [for photo taking…I had also left behind my SD card for the GoPro #rockingatlife] I napped until it was time to check out and hit the trail again.
From Trient I continued my trek going against the UTMB race course but this morning there were no runners — earlier in the day the Trient check point’s cutoff time came and went, it was clean up time for the crew. My destination for that evening was either Champex or La Fouly. I figured I could hit La Fouly without much trouble, it’d be a long day but manageable. La Fouly was my plan — until about two hours into my hike when I came upon the adorable cafe in an open mountain meadow. I could rush on to get to La Fouly before the hostels filled up…or I could stop, take in the mountains around me and inhale a fresh-baked pear tart. Yup, I went with the tart option!
— My lunch view on Sunday afternoon, I stayed for nearly an hour! —
By the time I rolled into Champex I was kind of over the Tour du Mont Blanc route. I wasn’t having fun. I was annoyed with the cities I kept hiking through and unimpressed with the price/quality of the hostels available. I did not want to continue hiking the TMB route in the morning…but decided to eat dinner, shower and sleep before making any rash decisions.
The following morning I still had no desire to head back out onto the TMB trail. I wanted to hike, but I didn’t want to hike up and down the mountains from one tourist city to another…so I asked about a nearby glacier hike I’d heard another hiker talking about. Two very helpful French-speaking hikers pulled out a map and gave me all the details I needed…”follow the signs to Cabana d’Orny and Cabana du Trient, you’ll find a glacier”. Boom. Done.
The hike I made up to Glacier d’Orny was steep and relentless and incredible. It confirmed my “meh” feelings about the Tour du Mont Blanc route…if the only emotion I could muster up for the Tour du Mont Blanc route was “meh” I needed to change something. So I did. In the next two days I discovered remote huts, glacial waterfalls, interesting locals and the Swiss train system. Basically everything I was looking for, and more.