TMB Day 6 – Col de la Croix du Bonhomme to Col de Voza – Birthday Sunrise Camp to Roof Camp
Kilometers hiked: 25-ish
Total Kilometers: 111
Electric shocks: 2 total
We covered two stages today. The hiking was easy and unlike the earlier sections of trail as we passed through some real live towns with some real live people making a real live living. Fueled by a mid-afternoon sugary birthday blowout, Spice Rack and I hiked all the way until dark, settling on another fantastic campsite with incredible mountain views.
The usual 5am alarm did the usual thing. We woke up, checked that the sunrise was probably still an hour away, then snoozed for a little too long. When we did drag our pads and quilts to the small lump above us, clear views into the still-sleeping French valleys were our reward as the wisps of high cloud got their gold and then poured it down onto the peaks below. For the first time looking at non-Mont Blanc massif mountains, the views swept 180 degrees in front of us, looking much like the softer, weathered mountains of the continental divide in the U.S. We sipped warm mocha La Croix as the hours ticked away and the first hikers ticked by. Beautiful morning, beautiful company. No rush. Why rush?
The world was warm and awake when we did start hiking down the trail around 9:30am. The going was easy and spirits were high as we made quick progress around a sloping bulge to Col du Bonhomme(2329m). We caught our Polish friends just as we arrived and learned a bit about them and their life in the Netherlands. And it’s not only their first backpacking trip, but also their first honeymoon! Awesome. We wished them well as we left the busy col, hoping to see them again, but knowing that we probably wouldn’t with our different schedules. Such is life on the trail, with friendly, interesting people flowing in and out of each others’ lives except for a select few who stick around. First the Inns, now Gosha and Pavo. Happy trails to all.
Close proximity to the town of Les Contamines made this walkers paradise a busy one. One interesting thing about hiking the TMB clockwise, against the flow, is that each day the passing hikers are fresher and less experienced. The daily change is subtle, but now the trekkers, mostly only on day 2 or 3 of their adventures, seemed particularly anxious and clean as they pushed for the first time out of the heavily populated French valleys. Spice and I exchanged our lists of favorite books and got ample practice saying bon jour before reaching the first trees seen in days on the outskirts of town.
The smell of raspberries filled the heavy air, lush with rich oxygen. We picked and ate a bunch, only occasionally getting stung by a sneaky nettle. After hitting the main road, we ducked onto the outdoor patio of a restaurant to celebrate another year of quality living. Spice’s original craving was for French toast. We had wondered whether it’s just called toast here or if they have it at all. Earlier, a local hiker seemed almost offended by the idea of eggs and toast eaten during the same meal before we could even explain the horrifying truth behind what we were looking for. So we settled for the next best thing, way too much sugar. A sensible salad to begin, followed by a large glass of cappuccino ice cream smothered in espresso, all washed down with a raspberry crepe with a thick lather of whipped cream, or chantilly, on top. A blop from my warm peanut butter took this last one to the next level. Americans love their pb&j. We lounged just long enough for the thunderstorms to roll in, booming thunderously and rustling a mighty wind. We helped secure some canopies at the local farmers market before continuing on.
The trail descended gently through the valley by countless charming villages and vibrant gardens. We took a right and started a relentless climb through more of the same that would take us to camp on the last pass before Chamonix. Big lumps of ice returned to our world, hanging high above, nameless to us, but spectacular all the same. We worked on our acapella remix game and ate gummies as we marched steeply into the cooling air. A banging party full of 13 year olds drinking Coke and playing spin-the-bottle came and went before we finally could climb no more at Col de Voza(1653m). It was 9:30pm, fully dusk, but views of the jagged west slope of the massif were still impressive in the fading light. Looking forward to tomorrow. The Chamonix valley was filled with twinkling lights, filled with life. We actually climbed a bit higher up a ski slope to make camp on the flat concrete roof of a utility building. It only took one more electric shock to get there.
Perched in a great spot, we spread out for a late dinner and quickly dozed to sleep. A long day, but a good day with the promise of a beautiful tomorrow. Birthday camp. Happy birthday Spice!