TMB Day 5

TMB Day 5 – Col de la Seigne to Col de la Croix du Bonhomme – Purple Rain Camp to Birthday Sunrise Camp

Kilometers hiked: 11.5-ish

Total Kilometers: 86

Electric shocks: 1

A short day, but another good one. After the excitement of the night before, Spice Rack and I felt rejuvenated and alive, blissful and free as we cut into France.

We survived the night in most comfortable fashion. Sleep was abundant, and the rain stayed away after our soaking. The 5am alarm came and went as we savored our cozy spot and the silence of the waking world. When color streaked back into the sky, we dragged our quilts and pads to a flat slope nearby to cook up a warm brew and watch the sunrise.


Some distant clouds blocked the most colorful wavelengths, but the dramatic landscape was renewed in the fresh morning glow. Peaks of the Mont Blanc massif disappearing on our left, some shale stuff on our right, and some big things behind us in France. The weather felt settled and we felt invigorated. Hours passed before the first intrepid hikers started arriving at the col from France and we surprised them with hearty whoops of “Ciao-Oww!!!”

When the sun added warmth to the light, we returned to camp to survey the damage and dry things out. My tarp suffered a few punctures where it had rubbed on rocks, but this was easily repaired. We yard sale-d everything we owned on our hill. The other hikers must have been at least a little bit confused. Breakfast. Pack up. Get hiking. Goodbye Italy. Hello France.

Yard sale!

We strolled with a spring in our step down into the valley below. Glaciers and peaks, grass and flowers. Struggling Counters. Blissful walking in the warm sun, snacking on gummies and humming Purple Rain. We passed by the French version of He-Man before reaching the valley floor at Refuge des Mottets. Here we met the Polish couple, Gosha and Pavo, who we’d been leapfrogging all day yesterday. They had an interesting night out as well, but everyone was smiling as we recounted the trials and tribulations. Toilet, “do you want any peanut butter?”, hello to donkeys, followed by more strolling down valley to the next refuge.

Descending from Col de la Seigne into Vallee des Glaciers.  Our variant climbed up to the rocky saddle on the far right.

From here we left the main TMB route for a variant over a high pass. The climb started on a gravel road before we veered onto our own improvised cow-variant through a pasture filled with poop. I got an exciting electric shock from the unassuming nylon cord at the perimeter as I lifted it to let Spice under, but there was no visible blood coming from my nose or ears so we marched on.

Shiny shale turned to rusty red as we approached the pass. Thunderstorms built ominously across the sky as we climbed and Counters descended. Spice tasked me with trying to get them to join me in singing Purple Rain so again I hummed the tune and inserted the only two words I know appropriately. Smiles we abundant, and it was life-affirmingly easy to find some Americans to join in. Turns out nobody knows more than two words to that song. We passed Gosha and Pavo, then were passed by two supermen carrying their mountain bikes. Purple Rain, Polish ass, a thunderclap or two, then the pass. Col des Fours(2665m).

Pavo, Gosha, Spice, and a superman.  Last night’s camp is the saddle on the left side of the ridge.

Combining snow from the summit and lemon gummies, Spice and I improvised refreshing lemonade with surprising success. The red rocks around us reminded her of home in the American Southwest and did strike me as out of place in this environment. The massive transmission towers added to the American west feel where humans can be hard to come by in the vastness, but there is always evidence of our touch.

Red rocks coming down from Col des Fours.

The wind was biting and the clouds threatening again, so we slid down the snow to the dry slopes below. We didn’t get very far before finding an idyllic patch of grass in the sun in which to enjoy our lunch and ogle the views. At this point, even though it had been a short day, we decided to camp nearby rather than push down trail to a pair of lakes. It would be Spice’s birthday tomorrow and she wanted to start it right with birthday views. I didn’t take much convincing, but exposed above the treeline and surrounded by active thunderstorms spurred me into finding and pitching the best camp possible. Tucked in a grassy nook, with Spice’s help, we pitched the tarp in the tightest storm-mode ever. A sexy pitch.

A sexy pitch.  So good it scared the storms away.

But we wouldn’t need it in the end. The roiling weather blew east, amazingly hitting everything, but us, and we enjoyed a pleasant evening, sharing quality bread and formaggio, washing it down with unfiltered snowmelt and sublime views. A peaceful place with echoes of Purple Rain on the mind.

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