Day 3 – Courmayeur to Champex.
Day 3 was now to be a rest day for Steve, looking back & in the ideal world we should have delayed our run giving Steve a rest day on Monday but the weather forecast of storms later in the week had forced us to run at the first opportunity, we were where we were.
I breakfasted alone (well if you don’t count 20 Japanese guided TMB walkers, (stop being righteous Paul because to be fair they were all lean & fit’), began with an appetite but soon felt that every mouthful was a burden as my stomach expanded painfully. Back in the room, toilet, lie-down, toilet, lie-down, ‘how the hell can I take on today feeling like this?’. I dragged myself out of the room, ‘Hi Judy, hi Steve, Judy my stomach hurts!’ She settled my concerns with something like ‘shut up, I’ll take your photograph’ whilst Steve moved on to the start of my route which he’d reconnoitred the previous afternoon.
Photo taken, thanks Steve & with temperature already being in the mid-twenties I was soon overtaking the Japanese & thinking this isn’t the way I left Courmayeur with Dorina 2 years before (when we walked the TMB in a spritely 7 days). The correction worked, back on track, I began the steep climb up to the Rifugio G. Bertone, a climb of 700 metres through a fine & relatively cool forest. I enjoyed the climb & settled into the long day ahead.
Once at the hut I ordered a Coke, two Origina’s (one for the bag) & asked can I have the key for the toilet. ‘It’s closed for cleaning’ the smiling waiter beamed, ‘find a tree’ another customer proffered (now I don’t normally hit women but…). I found a tree & felt a tad better.
From here I was, as planned, to take the high ‘original’ TMB route over the Mont de la Saxe over to the summit of Tete de la Tronche at 2,584 Metres this would be my highpoint for the week. This variant adds some 500 metres climb & several Kilometres to the route but gets you far from the madding crowds, the plus, being higher it gives you stupendously good views of Mont Blanc & many of it’s lesser Eastern peaks several of which I have climbed. It was a tough ask but well worth it.
By now I was drinking frequently so after descending to cross a mountain stream I changed my principals of ‘don’t drink from streams’ to ‘must drink from streams’, the coolness of it’s nectar was a very pleasant relief.
I reached the Bonatti Hut after 4 & a half hours half an hour down on my estimated schedule, time was not essential, another toilet break, was before ordering another 2 Origina’s (one for the bag again). Text to Judy, roughly still on to see you at 3:00 pm.
From here it was a fine traverse run above the Val Ferret taking in water from several streams along the way, water so cool & refreshing ‘you’ve been missing out on this Paul’.
Next an enjoyable but frustrating descent to the valley bottom which I knew would result in a ball-breaking climb to the Grand Col Ferret (800 metres). ‘Head down go for it, there’s no other option, this is going to hurt’, & it did. That said I made it without stopping & must have passed well over 50 fellow ‘walkers’ who had travelled a lot less than me so I took what good I could out of it. At the Col I stopped to take a photograph & then ran on leaving a hundred plus others to their sightseeing & rests.
It was a long running descent from here & the heat returned but I knew I was into the second half of my day with a hut & then Steve & Judy to meet me (a pre-planned bail out option or late lunch stop).
At the Gite Alpage de la Peule I ordered an Origina & got by translation two pints of Orange Squash, both downed in one, ‘now where’s the toilet’, I was managing my stomach, just.
Next came a highlight, descending on I soon caught him, the Norwegian, had to mention ‘I came the high route’ & ran on. In truth there was a look of mutual respect & sadly this would be our last meeting. Not long before this I passed an Italian looking runner who ran like he was flapping with poles going here & there, these two fellow runners made a tired me feel better about himself.
I had agreed to meet Steve & Judy at a restaurant at La Fouly which they could recognise by the 8 foot plastic bear at it’s entrance. Two years is a long time in the life of a plastic bear, it was long gone but Steve & Judy identified the restaurant by the abundance of various new plastic wildlife, it was great to see them wave me in after over 7 hours & some 35K.
‘They’ve stopped serving lunch but we’ve found a place down the road’ Steve said. We walked there, Coke & Origina please, I half heartedly looked at the menu, just ice cream please, 2 scoops later & time to seek the inevitable toilet. Back at the table an Australian woman became enthused at my exploits took our group photograph & was joined by an Austrian woman wishing me good luck, no bail, I ran on. ‘It’s going to hurt but it’s in the bag’ the temperature was now in the mid-thirties.
An hour further on & just before the days final climb another pint of Orange Squash & another ‘can I use you toilet’, the Manageress & her single customer looked & seemed to know I was going through something.
In truth I again enjoyed the 350 Metre climb to Champex with it shade giving trees & various wood carvings of fungi & wildlife. A little after 6:00 pm I ran towards the Mimi Lounge my pre-arranged rendezvous point with Steve & Judy, both a very welcome site. Judy ordered a large beer, a small one came so I had two as I slumped in a somewhat comfy chair.
Due to lack of accommodation Judy had booked us into a hotel down in the valley in Orsieres. This felt like a ghost town but was far cheaper & we eventually with Steve’s navigation found a similarly cheap but good evening meal. We planned tomorrow’s options before it was time for bed with no extra bottle shared, lesson had been learnt.
Day’s Stats:- 53.5 K with 2,940 Metres of ascent in exactly 10 Hours (well plus a second) spot on with my pre-day prediction. That doesn’t say it all, the continual descent into La Fouly had been 1,500 metres, the 5 plus litres of fluid I took on board whilst running & the heat were all as big a story in their own way.