Over the next two days we would leave the Italian side of Mont Blanc and return to France. Goodbye gelato, hello pastries.
Day 7 – Val Veni to Les Chapieux 6 hours 50
Total distance 20.5km ascent 945m descent 640m
Those of you studying the Cicerone guide as you read this, you will spot that we didn’t walk from Courmayeur, where we had previously finished. With limited time to complete the route, and having chosen to camp in the valleys and not stay at the refuges we had no choice to but skip part of today’s walk. Catching the bus as far as it would go, up the Val Veni. This still left us with a long walk, but at least cut out a steep ascent.
It did mean that we weren’t on the TMB main route until we reached refugio Elizabetta, so we followed route 12 and then 13 to reach it. This by the way is a gorgeous valley to walk up and whilst I usually go high wherever possible, I don’t think I would have traded these views.
Beyond the refuge the path continues at a gentle ascent until you get close to the Col de la Seigne. Thankfully we were taking our time enjoying the scenery, otherwise we might have missed this chap!
The route up to the Col de la Seigne still had a significant amount of snow and ice, so even though it wasn’t particularly steep it was slower walking. Once at the Col the view back down into Italy is stunning; although the view onwards to France is a bit limited by the broad col summit.
The route downhill to France and the refugio de Mottets was a nice walk, but then followed by another road walk to our rough camp in the village of Les Chapieux.
Day 8 – Les Chapieux to Les Contamines – 6 hour 50
Total distance 16.5km ascent 930m descent 1315m
It was raining heavily as we set out from our campsite in the village, heading through farms for the Refuge du Bonhomme. The weather was so horrendous I didn’t take any pictures until I reached the refuge and the top of the pass, it was a morning of having my head down and trudging through the wind and rain. Despite the mist the refuge was easy to find. It doesn’t mark the top of the pass though, so we had to trudge on and as the rain finally relented so the camera came out.
Eventually, as we headed downwards, out of the cloud, and through the high alpine valley, we reached the refuge de la Balme where we could thaw out with coffees. From here the route was a gentle downhill following the river through woodland and a gorge to the campsite at Les Contamines. Les Contamines is a short bus ride to St Gervais which it is definitely worth a visit if you require pastries!