September 1, Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri

Day summary:

  • 6.5 hours (Kev Time – hah!)
  • 8.5 miles
  • gain 735 m, lose 740 m (a little misleading)

This was one LONG day – made worse by the fact that Barry had developed blisters the day before, aggravated by walking all over Le Chable trying to figure out how to make our way uphill.  It actually started out beautiful and easy, walking along the side of the mountains to Col Termin.  Though the trail was on a steep incline, it felt safe and there were occasional cables to hang onto during nasty weather.  After Col Termin it got a lot rougher and the weather more harsh.  Hiking on a path is great; clambering over boulders, trying not to break an ankle, is a lot more difficult.  In fact, our Aussie friends detoured off the trail, heading down to Lac Louvie and a hut down there since she was not feeling well.  As we neared Prafleuri, we also experienced trail alterations due to glaciers melting more and more each year.  I think I’ll slap the next person who questions global warming!

Here is the trip summary for today:

We were slow getting out of the gate this morning – we spent some time trying to protect Barry’s blisters for the trail ahead.  I  used tape and cushioning to reduce the wear.  Everyone is in such a rush!  Sometimes because they are trying to cover an incredible amount of ground in one day.  I think there was one group trying to make it all the way to Arolla today – that’s just nuts!

The Cabane du Mont Fort was great!  Recently (?) redone or added onto?  We had a room to ourselves.  However, it was not cheap – and please believe that petit dejourner is VERY petite here.  Bread, butter and jam, and coffee, tea or cocoa.  Portioned out per table, you don’t feel like you can ask for more.  That’s it!

The first part of our hike was great – very exposed but with a mix of up and down and terrific views of mountains and valley below.  We finally reached Col Termin for a late lunch.  Then it got tough – there are just a lot of rocks to climb over.  We had two more passes to make it over, Col Louvie and Col Prafleuri.

The cowherd at Mont Fort had tried to warn us – he asked us if we were going to hike over the glacier, and we had no idea what he meant.  But after making it over Col Louvie, we had to scramble down rocks (again) and then ford a glacial river!  EEK!  I remembered all too well walking through glacial run-off on Mt. Baker (Washington State Cascades) – I didn’t even want to think about it.  There were some rocks placed along the way to help with the crossing, but it was still deep and long and COLD!  I looked up and around the tarn and thought I could make it around and over the “little” rivers closer to the glacier more easily.  Before Barry could talk some sense into me, off I went.

BIG MISTAKE!

Poor Barry, trying to watch and see if I was okay!  The waterways were wider and more difficult than they had appeared from afar.  And the terrain very squishy – giving way or causing me to sink really deep into the muck.  I did finally make it around, after cursing and falling and crying and getting wet and cursing some more.  Barry made the easier crossing with the help of two Brits that we later dined with.  He watched and waited and waited and watched – then we joined up, grateful to be together again (me, very contrite after making such a dumb decision), and we made our way up and over the col and then down to the cabane.  We were treated to an encounter with an ibex just as we were getting close to the cabane.

We were late arrivers for dinner at Cabane de Prafleuri – but not the last.  There was a guided group of 9 Japanese hikers that was VERY slow (but also older).  The place was hopping because it was hosting some kind of event for families of CAS folks.  There was a lot of wine getting passed around and singing going on.

We were all too ready to fall into our sleeping bags and get a well-deserved rest that night.

(limited journaling due to long difficult day and very unhappy feet)

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Sign along the way showing area wildlife


On our way – a little belatedly

More rocks than path

Exposure and views

Did we mention the views?

Can we stand to take just one more picture of mountains?

The weather did start to darken in the afternoon

Nearing Col Termin

Lac Louvie

Let the clambering begin

Just as we were flagging on our ascent over Col Louvie, we were treated to a small group of Chamois crossing the trail in front of us – it lifted our spirits!

At both cols we were teased by “false” fronts – we thought we were there, but then we weren’t.  And then we saw crazy cairns built by people with too much time and energy to spare (but the rock towers were pretty none-the-less).

Col Louvie

We’re headed that way!

Seriously, it looked a LOT wider in real life!

Are we there yet?

YES!  Can you see my relief?

Then as we were approaching the cabane – we were blessed with an encounter with an ibex bull!  This was the only one we saw on the trip.  He was pretty cool – and a terrific trail’s end to a LONG day.

The facilities at Prafleuri were much more dormitory-style than at Mont Fort – there were many rooms with many beds.  Comfortable, but not as private.  We were glad to have sleep sacks, ear plugs and breathe rights.  We were also fortunate to be positioned by the window, which we cracked open a little bit before going to sleep.  That many hot bodies in a closed room made it stifling by morning; at least we got an occasional breeze of fresh air.  And we were able to store our lunch items on the window ledge to keep them cool and fresh for the next day.

 

Settling into our space at Prafleuri

As we were readying to leave the next day, we ran into an interesting dilemma: the staff at Prafleuri claimed that their water was not potable – but since I saw CAS family members filling their water bottles up from the tap, I questioned that claim, and noted that the water for sale there was priced very high -hmmm?  Barry heeded the warning and bought a bottle; I filled up from the tap – and suffered no ill effects.  With that much glacial run-off, it’s hard to imagine it not being safe (and I’ve had Giardia before, so I’m no fool about this!).

Prafleuri was not as expensive as Mont Fort, and provided a better breakfast: the standard bread, butter and jam, tea/coffee/cocoa plus yogurt and cereal – with the containers placed out on the counter so you could help yourself to more.  Unlike MF, we were “assigned” tables for our meals – maybe because of the CAS event?  They sat us based on language, so we likely would have sorted ourselves out that way in end.  But it also meant that as late arrivals the night before, we were still sitting with people we could talk to, so that was nice.

As for “Kev time” – we think he’s just nuts.  But I’m sure there are some who can meet his times; and he does clarify that he doesn’t include any breaks, it is purely walking time.  I know that we were slower today because of Barry’s blisters and my insane detour, but still, we left Mont Fort close to 8:00 am and didn’t arrive at Prafleuri until after their normal supper hour (6:30-ish).  So I really question 6.5 hours.  Some of the crowd at Mont Fort (the ones trying to get to Arolla) took the shorter but steeper route over Col de la Chaux.  Although we had to scramble after Col Termin, I would not have wanted to miss the views.

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