TMB Day 8 – Random ski slope to Argentière – Sheep Invasion Camp to Attic Camp
Kilometers hiked: 7.5-ish
Total Kilometers: 141.5
Ladders descended: 5-ish
I woke up early even without the usual alarm from Spice Rack’s phone. The sheep had moved on in the night, leaving me to my peaceful perch way above the bustle of Chamonix. The forecast called for mega thunderstorms today, but I thought I would have more than enough time to get my hiking done before the excitement started. I dozed a little bit, occasionally poking out of my bag to watch the brightening mountains. They were blanketed in ominous clouds that confirmed the weather prediction and I watched the tiny lights of climbers retreat down the snow slopes and glaciers. Not a day to be in the mountains. I looked right and saw a mean haze that kicked me into action.
It was clearly dumping rain in Les Houches. Mont Blanc was now invisible behind a dark curtain and the wind was moving it my way, fast. I sprung out of bed, packing up my stuff as quickly as I ever have between bites of granola and sips of my last water. After a couple minutes on the trail, even though it was only 6:15am, waaaay too early for a thunderstorm if you ask me, a light pitter-patter turned into a heavy deluge of water and ice. I took cover from this pummeling next to a big-ish rock, covering my pack and crouching under my umbrella. Sheep ran for cover. To where, I don’t know. The stiff wind sped the cold and wet through in 15 minutes so soon I was zipping down the now-soggy trail, splashing through a world of miniature lakes and rivers.
In that short period of time, my mind switched on my PCT animal survival setting. Maybe it was just the familiar combination of wet, cold, rugged trail, and solitude. This felt like Washington. I felt alive. Feral. My mind was sharp. My focus was on moving quickly and staying warm and alive. I was just visiting that PCT version of myself this time, with only a short way to hike and in friendlier conditions, a town rapidly approaching, but it felt good to know that I still carried AtHome with me.
I ruthlessly ate up the trail before arriving at Lac Blanc(2352m), a most beautiful lake with a most beautiful view. Other hikers huddled in their tents or under the covered deck of the refuge. I darted around, efficiently snapping photos and absorbing the sights. Back on the trail, clouds brightening, air warming, sun poking through.
Down down down. I returned to the main TMB for the final drop to Argentière. This exciting trail was unafraid to use near-vertical ladders and wooden steps to scale rocky cliffs. It was fun. Like a big, adult playground with a touch of danger. Before long I was cruising once more through the lower forested slopes of the valley past struggling Counters on their way up. Argentière at 10am. A short and sweet day on the trail.
I consumed and packed out too many pastries from the bakery in town. My thru-hiker self still had too much control over my decision making. The bus driver grunted away my fare as I boarded, before whisking me down valley to Chamonix.
There were some things I needed to get done in town. I wanted a new SIM card that would hopefully let me update this blog (No luck, my phone is trash and refuses to connect to anything even with wifi. Uploads will have to wait until I get back home.). Buy food. I would wait for Alamo and Gryllz to show up to do that. Check mountain conditions for the coming Haute Route. The mountain information center was closed. I wandered around the beautiful city center, enjoying being in a legendary destination surrounded by magnificent peaks. I felt much more at home here than I did in Courmayeur. Chamonix is filled with tons of other hikers/climbers/bikers just like me wandering about.
I was lucky and overjoyed to be ambushed by Spice outside of a coffee shop as I drifted. We compared notes about the section I had just hiked while wandering around a farmers market, sampling cheeses and dried things, before hopping on the bus to Les Houches where Spice arranged an Airbnb for the night to relax, stay dry, and wait for the others to arrive. I’m happy to say that Spice has decided to join the Haute Route Crew. We Counters have to stick together after all, and even though she’s now done with the TMB, the Haute will cover completely new terrain for her before finally becoming its own route after Champex. It throws our ratio way off (we already had too many chicks), but four is a good number. Still just two shelters, plus she has a stove, and speaks way more French then I care to know. Quality company. I’m thrilled that she’s coming along and know the others will be too.
The lazy afternoon of writing, reading, and showering passed by as rain came and went in the valley. I feel a little bit bad about not camping tonight, seems kinda like cheating. But not really. I need a dry place to regroup for the next phase of the trip and the soft mattress and hot shower almost make me feel human again. Live a little. Plus, it will be good to start out rested and dry with the new kids tomorrow.
Thoroughly relaxed yet still tired, showered yet still dirty, we headed back to Chamonix to gather Gryllz and Alamo for dinner, live jazz, and a beer or two. It was encouraging to find them already looking like hiker trash on benches outside the tourist office. We have a lot of catching up to do and need to figure out where Gryllz hid the bricks in her pack. Back to the attic den for sleep. Our packs have exploded in true hiker trash fashion and it’s stinky in here, but it’s home for the night. Welcome to the party, Gryllz and Alamo. Good to have you on board.