Day 4 – Champex to Tre la Tete.
A new Dawn, a very new Steve.
Breakfast was not served particularly early in this backwater & I feared the worse as the owner appeared to be on his own but give the man his due he didn’t hang about & our pastries, meat, cheeses etc. were served elegantly & swiftly. Judy was first to join me with Steve following soon afterwards duly decked out in running attire.
Fuelled up Judy then drove us up the Champex & took photo’s of us with the clear & still waters of the lake behind. We set of on another hot morning just before 9:00 am on a brief road section before heading into the trees with me saying ‘navs a bit tricky early on’ but in reality it was easier than I remembered & only one minor correction was needed.
The days Plan A was to tackle two major climbs & complete the day near Argentiere at Tre la Tete but there was a hint of a Plan B that from there I might try & reach Les Houches & reduce the run from 5 days to 4. Plan B was very optimistic & based on both me having no ill effects from yesterday’s efforts as well as the forecasted mid-afternoon Thunder storms not materialising. There was no way I’d be heading back up above 2,000 Metres if lightning was even a remote possibility.
Our first climb up to Bovine (a climb of 600 Metres) went well, we set a steady pace, Steve was back to his old self & whilst we walked nearly all of it we regularly passed the early starters as we made our way up through the trees. One couple took our photo at a clearing with an outstanding backdrop of Mont Blanc’s Northern most flank before we crossed a river to make the final steep part of the forest ascent. Soon the hardest work was done, we walked out into open pasture, took in the views & began a gentle jog on less steep ground to the Bovine hut. Here we took a break & ordered drinks, mine were the by now staple Coke & an Oringina.
Back on our way we climbed briefly on before reaching the Bovine high point, entered a wood then Steve led a technical descent at a decent pace allowing us to pass what I believe to be the last of the early risers, a fit looking girl & the ‘Italian’ runner from the day before, again he was flailing erratically & not looking his best. At one point Steve asked me to stop, he ran on & then filmed me running through a pasture of cows, we were enjoying ourselves & feeling good.
We reached our rendezvous with Judy at la Forclaz a little after my two & a half hour prediction but more importantly we had run at my by now settled pace & Steve had matched it all the way. Judy treated us to ice cream & drinks. By now I was more or less certain that Plan A it would be but subconsciously I was hoping that the clouds would begin to build at some point to rubber stamp this common sense. Before we set off again the ‘Italian’ emerged from the trail behind us looking absolutely knackered.
We ran on with me missing the initial descent path that I’d taken with Dorina but this error simply took us down later & brought us out to the bridge we needed to cross, a minor extra ‘jig’ having cost us a minute or two at worse. This morning had seen a marked improvement in my stomach but seeing a toilet block I went in just to check my bowels were sound & said to Steve ‘you carry on & I’ll see you on the next climb’. Nothing going with the Bowels (that’s a relief) so two minutes later I was back on the trail & Steve was out of sight.
As I moved on I finally spied him heading into the woods for the climb, he was clearly moving well, ‘so we’re in a race are we?’ might just have crept into our collective thinking.
I remember this jig-jag climb fondly having coaxed Dorina up it in 9 jig-jags at a time as she gulped water copiously at every stop to my concern of needing to keep some water for later. There was no stopping this time, I pushed hard & upwards but it took quite a while before I heard the clicking of Steve’s poles, finally his game was up I drew alongside said he was going well & ‘I’ll see you at the top’.
Rising above the trees the slope eased & I settled into an easier pace, my target was Col de Balme’s refuge, it was a long way ahead no need to overdo it or so I thought. As the climb steepened once again I turned on a jig & saw him, no not the Norwegian, the real Steve! He was working his poles to great effect, ‘bugger I think he wants to catch me’. He was not aware that I’d seen him, so got a little surprise when my pace speeded up once again. I put a lot of effort into the next 5 to 10 minutes but I was his target & he reeled me in. Steve being a gentleman had made a point & then settled in alongside me, moments later we reached the refuge together after a climb of some 800 Metres, what a difference two days had made.
More Coke & Oringina under a the hot sun (high 20’s even up here at 2,192 Metres) with the first signs of minor clouds blooming, I think it was here that I confirmed to Steve ‘it’s Plan A’.
Next we began a short descent to Col des Posettes with Steve again filming me at one point before I led us of the track on a beeline for the less obvious path that would take us to the Aguille des Posettes. This is a lovely rocky path with more than a hint of Snowdonia about it which leads to the lovely summit with splendid views into the Aguille du Tour & Aguille du Chardonnay to the South & the Aguille Rouge range to the North West. Feeling good that our climbs for today we stopped here awhile with a couple taking our photo before we re-fuelled for the long descent to our days end.
Steve led the descent well & our contrasting styles were obvious, he jogged it all with short skipping strides whilst I mixed fast walking & short bursts of running to re-close the gap, both were effective in their different ways. The most memorable thing of this descent though was Steve passing a fast moving ‘Granny’ like creature, as he passed their poles slightly struck & she cursed like a witch, it really was quite bizarre. Seeing her fury Steve sped on non-plussed & I passed her well to the left. Five minutes later I looked back, she was still in sight, I’m sure she had thoughts of catching us, some chance but we ran on just to be sure.
The long 900 Metre descent was finally brought to an end as we bore sharp right to see a smiling Judy waiting for us with Strawberries among other treats, in the sweltering heat it was a very welcome sight. We even had a picnic bench but another pretty long day soon saw me stand up & move over to lie down in the shade. Plan A, well of course how could I had even thought of a Plan B, ‘no hang on that was Steve’s idea for ME, wasn’t it?’
Judy re-canted how she’d given a lift to the very tired runner at les Forclaz taking him to Chamonix, his TMB was over, he was French & not Italian.
Not needing an early start we drove back to Les Bossons where I would sleep in my tent & Steve & Judy would sleep in a hotel which Judy had thoughtfully booked for Steve. Soon the heavens opened but by now Plan B had died in my spent legs long ago.
Day’s Stats:- 32.2K with 1,790 Metres of ascent in 6 Hours 26 Minutes. Plan B would have added 25K, 1,510 Metres, an awful lot of hours & the short hairs on my head going vertical!