It was pastoral calm as we began the third day of the Tour du Mont Blanc.
We had a quick snack before heading into the snow zone. We planned for lunch in a bit, but it never happened.
Ah, a little snow at the col looks fun. At the top, all changed quickly. A late winter and snow just last week has made July feel like anything but summer.
From my bottom bunk looking out a small window in a wood-paneled room, I see a glacier and Alpine peaks high above. Our home for tonight, the Elizabetta hut in Italy, is at about 7,500 feet, two miles from the Italy-France border.
The only way we could get to this place, as remote as you can get on the Tour du Mont Blanc, is by walking. Sue and I are in day four of the Tour. Day three was beautiful, grueling, treacherous and much more. More than 8,000 feet in elevation change hardly tells the story.
After we had climbed for four hours and 4,000 difficult feet up on Friday, we reached the col (pass) at 8,100 feet, thinking we had 3,000 feet downhill to our refuge, or hostel.
I looked up and could make out moving figures far above, climbing through the snow to another pass.
“I am so glad we don't have to do that,” I thought.
Think again. Two hours later, we had endured slippery snow banks and rocky passages, and were so exhausted that taking photographs was just too much. There were moments when we wondered why we were here.
Today, we had four hours of steep climbing, but very little snow. It took us to an 8,200-foot col, at the Italy-France border, and as we arrived, so did our view of Mont Blanc, at 15,770 feet. It appeared close enough to touch, outlined by brilliant blue sky. While eating our picnic lunch, it was crystal-clear why we were here.
Reg heads up, toward the second col. The conditions got much worse and the camera took a break while we focused on making it to the top.
Day four started after a night at a remote refugio at about 5,000 feet.
We were awe-struck at our introduction to Mont Blanc. We are about halfway to the top of the 15,770-foot mountain. It looked much more imposing in person.
A baguette, cheese and Mont Blanc made a perfect picnic combination.
Refugio Elizabetta is a rustic remote outpost on the Tour. Trekkers are packed into the small building, with triple bunks and single mattresses pushed right up against each other. We lucked out with a private room.
Refugio Elizabetta is nearly lost in the Alpine landscape in the photo above.
The Elizabetta offered rustic accommodations, but a good, three-course evening meal.