Argentine, France (1251m) – Col de Balme (2204m) – Trient, Switzerland (1279m)
The clouds were hanging low in the morning. After having a wonderful breakfast at our pleasant Le Dahu Hotel, we decided to go for the lazy option and take a bus from Argentière to Le Tour and from Le Tour a tele-cabin to Col de Balme. In this way, we will save an almost 1000m uphill climb :- )
A bus driver kindly gave us a free ride to Le Tour and from there we hopped on the tele-cabin. It was not exactly cheap (€22 per person) but it was worth it. We could see other hikers walking up and felt a bit sheepish. Yesterday we lost a bit of confidence in climbing up 1000m with our heavy backpacks : ( In any case, we had to go down another 1000m to the other side of the valley to Switzerland.
Once we went up to the Col de Balme (2204m), the sun showed its friendly face for a moment reflecting on the Mont Blanc mountain range. It was magical. Despite the cold we hanged out there for a while, admiring the mountains, taking photos and talking about potential future hiking routes in the Chamonix area. An endless topic.
Finally, we started heading for the Col de Balme passing the mountain hut. From there our path was going straight down. Sano suggested that we go left around Tête de Balme instead and I jumped at his idea right away.
The weather did not look favorable and it would take more time, but seemed more interesting than to just walk down to Trient. Soon it started raining, our complete rain gear got its first show. In the heavy mist we could still see the Lac d’Emosson and the valley dropping into the abyss (kind of), which we saw from the train yesterday. It was scenic with a mysterious-feel to it. On the way we only met a couple of people, French hikers and two more. After a while the rain stopped and we started serious downhill.
Once we went down to Trient, we headed for our hotel, La Grande Ourse. While we were drying our rain gear outside, two Japanese hikers and their two guides came out after lunch and we started chatting. These older Japanese women were also doing the Haute Route, but in a short and luxurious version, escorted by the guides and a car for hard parts. They were skipping 3 stages and going directly to Lac des Dix afterwards. The Japanese guide who is based in Chamonix told us that we had better not take the Fenetre d’Arpette tomorrow, if there is a thunderstorm warning. He told us that one Japanese hiker was seriously injured recently and helicoptered out from the Arpette path. Now he had me worried.
Sano and I intensively debated tomorrow’s hiking route over late lunch on the terrace. In the meantime, more and more hikers in wet rain gear were arriving a the hotel, with a couple of big groups which seem to be doing the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB). The first two or three days of our route are overlapping with the TMB so there were a lot of people in this small village of Trient where only two hotel/dormitories exist! By the dinner time, the hotel was completely packed with hikers.
After dinner I walked around this small village. Trient is a quiet and sleepy village but somehow charming.
Setting our alarm clock at 6 am to catch 6:50am bus next morning, we went to bed a bit concerned about tomorrow’s weather…