Cabane du Mont Fort (2’457 m) – Col Termin (2’648 m) – Col de Louvie (2’921 m) – Col de Prafleuri (2’965 m) – Cabane de Prafleuri (2’624 m)
Three peaks, horribly tough, incredibly spectacular!…
… so I woke up with apprehension. Three times up and down is on today’s mountain menu.
Mont Blanc in the morning sun
In the middle of breakfast we heard other hikers’ “ohh” and “ahh”. When I looked out of the window, the sun started illuminating the distant Mont Blanc. We all hurried outside with cameras. The air was still cold but the sky was clear. The snow on the Mont Blanc was glowing in pink.
After thanking Daniel, a shy but very competent guardian of the hut, Sano and I put on our backpacks and walked into the fresh morning air. Almost everybody seemed to be heading for the same route.
Chamois on the ridge
While we were traversing the steep slope on a narrow path, 6 or 7 chamois appeared on the ridge above. The silhouette of their slender body contrasted against the blue sky. What a beautiful sight! They looked at us for a while and then ran away higher up.
We kept traversing the slope as if we were heading direct into the massive snow-covered Combin, which soars aloof across the valley. The Grand Combin (4’314 m) is so dominant that we could not keep our eyes off! However, the trail was narrow and it required our full attention! On our right, the valley was just about 1’000 m down a pretty steep slope.
Many hikers were also coming from the opposite direction which creates a pleasant form of alpin crossroad congestion. A friendly hello, may be a quick chat and everybody was on the way again.
A fabulous view from the Col Termin
In two hours we arrived at the first pass, the Col Termin (2648m). It was a fabulous viewpoint, facing the Grand Combin in the south and looking down at Lac de Louvie (Lake Louvie). Along with other hikers, we had a short break, enjoying the splendid view.
Our spirits were high after such an incredibly scenic trail, but from there a steep downhill was waiting, before climbing up to the 2nd pass.
The Col de Louvie, today’s 2nd peak
After managing the valley of stones and rocks, we arrived at the Col de Louvie (2921 m). We were happy to stop and settle for our last dry-freeze Japanese rice lunch. The American team (five people from the Massachusetts hiking club) was nearby and in their usual upbeat mood. John was brewing coffee and looking over to us said: “Starbucks open!”.
From there we looked down a wide, barren moon-like landscape, which is called The Grand Désert, and marched down the rocky trail.
Soaking feet in the glacier pond, not in Onsen…
As soon as I saw a small glacier pond, I could not resist the temptation to take off my shoes and socks, and soak my tired feet in the cold water. Refreshing but so cold that I could not keep them under the water more than a few seconds! Karen and John from the Starbucks team joined me in soaking their feet for more than a minute. Different breed – or may be their feet were just about to fall off.
Today’s last peak?
After we passed what we believed to be the 3rd pass, which it was not, the real 3rd pass appeared on the horizon! Incredulously I gazed at this pass which looked steep and far away. I was not prepared for this and really exhausted after all these ups and downs on slippery gravel slopes which required a lot of attention and physical effort.
But no choice! Complaining silently to myself, even questioning why I do this, I climbed the exhausting path of rocks and screes to the 3rd col, Col de Prafleuri. Finally the hut came into view.
At last, Cabane de Prafleuri
I was relieved when I arrived at the Cabane de Prafleuri. We were almost the last ones and the terrace was already buzzing with many other hikers.
The hut was located in the middle of an eerie, barren field, locked in by the treeless mountains. It almost looked like some kind of construction site, without any open view. Beautiful? Not really.
Sano was in the meantime euphoric after today’s hike, while I was glad that I could finally put my feet up.
After 50 hikers negotiating two showers and two toilets, we sat at the dinner table chatting with a friendly UK team (two sisters and their husbands).