Torrent Louvie below Col de Louvie-Arolla
Daily Mileage: 14.9mi/24km
Approx Total Mileage: 54.3mi/87.5km
I woke to frost covering the bottom third of the tent, but somehow sheltered enough to be toasty overnight. I put on almost every layer I had (except my pjs) and packed up leaving at 8am to go over Col de Louvie. It wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be, maybe because there wasn’t any wind, so the layers came off pretty quickly. It was a completely clear day.
I took a TON of photos today and had trouble keeping the number down that I wanted to post. It wasn’t my favorite hiking terrain with much of the day on rocks, but it was unique, expansive, and quite varied. The whole day remained quite high for where I’ve been, hovering between 8200ft/2500m-9800ft/3000m. Once over Col de Louvie, I came to a barren area aptly named the Grand Désert with the Grand Désert glacier above it.
The sun was glaringly strong right at eye level for me much of the morning. It made both navigation and photography a bit of a pain. The lighting made it tough to differentiate all the rocks and find cairns or painted markers. There were very tall banners at times that seemed to be up from an ultra run. At times there were painted markers the size of huge boulders. I have a feeling this lighting issue and navigation through these rocks are common issues.
Col de Prafleuri, at 9728ft/2965m was the next climb. I have to mention again that rocks are not my favorite terrain, and being on them almost the whole first half of the day wore on my patience. I can appreciate the different terrain, but enjoy having a stride and being able to look up more to take it all in.
I didn’t see anyone until 11:30 today, and that was pretty great to be out here and have it all to myself. I know many are around, but by camping between the shelters, it conveniently spreads me out from their schedule during the day. I also think it helps to see more wildlife as well. Apparently, there’s an ibex loop trail overlapped, and I was happy to get some sightings. They can blend in so well!
I passed a refuge and went over the rocky Col des Roux to come to the grand view of Val des Dix and Lac des Dix. The milky gray color of the lake was quite unique.
It was chilly out, so I was happy to get a chance to eat inside at the empty and possibly unmanned Refuge de la Gentiane La Barma along Lac des Dix. After a long enjoyable walk along the lake for over an hour, there was an option to do an alternate that would make an extra little loop out to Cabane des Dix with an awesome view of Mont Blanc de Cheilon and then cross Glacier de Cheilon and climb some ladders up a steep climb to get back along the main route. The hike leading up to Cabane des Dix was the highlight of the day for me.
The expansive view was impressive, and as I climbed up the cool ridge, the grand Mont Blanc de Cheilon came more and more into view.
As I looked to my left, something caught my eye on the horizon…it was the Matterhorn, near where I’ll end this hike! It can often be tough to get any view of the Matterhorn, so I was excited to see it. I could see it from the high points in Chamonix as well, but this was the clearest I’d seen it so far. I tried to zoom with the camera phone. It’s so much clearer in person.
As if that wasn’t enough, the view looking at the Cabane des Dix was just enchanting and surreal. The photo doesn’t do it justice, and I took a ton trying to capture how it sat up like a castle on a hill with Mont Blanc de Cheilon towering in front of it and the range of jagged mountains in the background behind it.
The next part to reconnect to the main trail was unique, but back on rocks, so not as enjoyable for me. It took about 40mins to cross the plain of Glacier de Cheilon. At first you think you’re just on rocks, but if you pay attention, you see the sections that are crosscut and reveal the huge layer of ice you’re standing on. Then, if the gravely moraine is pushed to the side enough, you find yourself walking on ice with rock frozen into it.
Then it became all ice and snow for awhile. It is well marked with painted rocks and I’m sure is a different route every year. A couple sketchy parts to me where a bit of a leap or few steps across ice could have resulted in a fall, but nothing more than a very cold wet landing if it were to happen.
Next up, was the climb to Pas de Chèvres. Very steep, rocky, and at the top, loose. There was a way to detour further around to another pass on the main route if people are uncomfortable with the climb or ladders. I figured it was something different, so I’d give it a go. I had a guy just ahead of me, so that gave me a break with finding markers to follow the route, but it was well marked.
Once up top of Pas de Chèvres, I finally got my downhill cruise for the day, wheee! It was a 2600ft/800m drop to the ski village of Arolla.
My goal was to get there mid morning tomorrow before the bad weather moved in. I grabbed water to tent before Arolla, but as I got closer, I got pulled into the town vortex mode. I wrestled with the idea of just going all the way into the village tonight. Though, I told myself I wasn’t going to buy dinner and I would do the camping in town. Well, as I dropped down, and the sun got behind the mountains, I was reminded of how cold it was going to get. The rain might start as early as 8am…oh the temptation to be inside. I broke down and asked a place with dorms. They had a full empty room for four I could do for 44F/$47 with breakfast included. I looked down valley at the camping area. Grassy, cold, and for sure wet in the morning. It was 6:30pm, and I was tired. I envisioned sleeping in tomorrow morning and being oh so warm. I took it!
Zero tomorrow while the day of cold rain comes. Weather is not looking good at all, so I have some strategizing and decisions to make over my zero…apparently, it’s skipping fall and going right to winter out here!