Chaux Palin-Port d’Arlevé
Daily Mileage: 30.8mi/49.5km
Approx Total Mileage: 56.4mi/90.8km
Campsite Elevation: 5240ft/1597m
I got up early to make-up the missed miles from my zero yesterday. Normally, I wouldn’t feel a need to do that, but I am on a schedule to arrive in Chamonix by lunch tomorrow to meet my friends. Fortunately, their schedule had me on a relaxed pace to Chamonix, and plenty of wiggle room to take the zero. I left at 6:10am and was immediately satisfied with my decision to wait until today when I could hike without cold rain and actually see the views.
This summer I am making a conscious effort to cut back the number of hours I hike each day. I’ve been letting myself have shorter days and I’ve really been enjoying the ~8am-5pm hiking day. Today I was on thru-hiker schedule. Hiking out as the sun rose and giving it at least 12hrs. Basically 6am-6pm. This was routine for me on most my thru-hikes. For the PCT and CDT, it was what was required to complete the trail before snow hit up north. People think thru-hiking looks like a vacation, but those miles don’t hike themselves.
Since I started out hiking those 12hr days, I just didn’t know any different and it became habit. Over the last year, it’s finally sunk in that not all hikes require that many hours each day. Plus, I have been better at allowing myself to do less. Just because I have the ability to hike big days doesn’t mean I have to. I’ve really come to like the feeling of an 8am-5pm day. Maybe it’s maturity or just getting more relaxed in my old age. Anyway, today was the exception to the rule this summer, and I was in the zone. I didn’t count up the totals ahead of time at all. I didn’t want to know what I was hiking. All I knew is that the guidebook said it would take 14hrs and I was hoping to do it in 12hrs including breaks. With a full morning of downhill, it would be a good start. I was quite happy to be able to see all the mountains surrounding the valleys that I’d missed two days ago in the fog. I had most of the morning to myself, which is pretty good for a nice Saturday with blue skies.
I won’t detail too much other than the totals at the end of this post because it was such a long day. Basically, it was downhill to the touristy village of Samöens for lunch. The morning went by pretty fast, and with a fair amount of the downhill on paved road or wide tracks, I was even able to jog some of the downhill and make good time. I did waste a good 20mins taking the wrong fork to town. In my defense, both were labeled to head to town and the one I took had red blazes…no red and white, ugh. Back up the hill it was…
The way the GR5 is designed, I’ve actually met people hiking the whole thing with a day pack. There are so many options for food and lodging a day that there doesn’t seem to be a need for things like a tent, sleeping bag, or stove. If you don’t mind spending the money, there are plenty of options. That means this trail does pass countless refuges, gites, villages, restaurants, and parking lots each day. I knew this coming in, but this area in particular is quite popular, so there’s a greater concentration of these things. When weather is poor, that’s super convenient. So far it hasn’t bothered me, and for a Saturday in such a popular area, it wasn’t too bad. Just something that comes with the territory out here and has its pros and cons.
After lunch on a bench along a recreational trail and stream in Samöens, there was some relaxing level trail, and then the climbing for today began.
I knew the day’s climb was over 6,000ft/1829m, but that it was fairly spread out over 6hrs or so. Many families were out, and able to start at a higher parking lot, but I was impressed by how many were doing the strenuous climb up to Collet d’Anterne and then Col d’Anterne, the highpoint of today at 7405ft/2257m. Ages 7 to 70 were out there.
I have to say my favorite part of the day was the lake between the two, Lac d’Anterne. With the fog moving around the mountains and the size and color of the lake, each view as I walked by was awesome. Many people were setting up tents in that area at the end of the day. The beauty and grandness of all the scenery is tough to capture.
Just before the last part of my climbing for the day around 4:30pm, I saw a woman taking a break along the trail who was totally a thru-hiker. She had the gear and focus. Hardly anyone speaks English much out here, so when I walked by, I commented in English on her pack. The reaction was great because she was so relieved to not only meet another American, but also another thru-hiker. We talked for a bit until we both got cold and needed to move on. She was actually training for that major ultra run around Mt Blanc happening in a few weeks. Shame we weren’t headed the same direction. I just have fun spotting the thru-hikers out here! I purposely didn’t sit while we talked so my legs wouldn’t think they were done for the day, but they weren’t fooled. That was a terrible break in my momentum and my legs felt that final climb.
All that was left was a bit of a drop to where I at least wanted to make it today. It was Refuge de Moëde Anterne. My thought was to camp near it, but as soon as I arrived, I knew I wasn’t staying. It was Saturday night and was packed.
It was 5:30pm, and quite cold up there though it did have nice views that included an often cloud covered Mt. Blanc. I knew the next 45mins was downhill and would lead to a hopefully warmer and less exposed area. I’ve said it before, but I’d much rather have a campsite I can sleep well at than one that looks cool in a photo and is not ideal for sleeping. I hiked on.
I ended up going the full 45mins down to Port d’Arlevé because I passed up earlier spots and hit a marshy overgrown area. Luckily, right at the bottom of the descent, there was a perfect spot and I was done at 6:20pm. It’s a little close to the trail, but was well used with a campfire ring and sitting spots made from wooden boards. I’ll be leaving early tomorrow, so I figured it would be ok. Two guys came by late and were disappointed as they seemed to be aiming for this spot. Luckily, I had noted a possible spot not far away as my backup. They went to check it out and took that one, whew.
I was excited to total up the day knowing I’d done a lot. I hiked 14.75 guidebook hours in 12hrs10mins including breaks. What was fun was that I went over 30mi and was super close to a 50km day. I did 30.8mi/49.5km. There was a good deal of elevation in there too with 7735ft/2358m ascent and 8499ft/2590m descent. Good to know I still have it in me if needed. No, I will not be making a habit of this anymore this summer unless really necessary to meet up with someone or out hike some weather. I have a feeling I’ll sleep well tonight.
One side note, all day yesterday one of my eyes was irritated. It felt sore in the corner like maybe a stye or something, which I’ve never had. I don’t have a mirror and didn’t think to look at it in the bathroom mirror until right before I went to bed. I was surprised that my eyeball was visibly irritated and pink in that corner. Just that half, not the whole eye. Hmm, it kinda itches like a bite, but no gunk at all. It did tear up some this morning as I hiked in the cold. It’s veiny and irritated just in that corner still, but isn’t getting worse…or better. Never had anything like that and hoping it passes. I’ll have two days in Chamonix of relaxed sightseeing, so we’ll see if it goes away. I took photos, but decided that eyeball photos are too squirm inducing to post on the blog, ha.