Day 7 – Val Ferret to La Fouly: This was the coldest and windiest day. I put on my Under Armour cold gear, a beanie and wool gloves before we set off down to Arp Nouva and then on a steep climb up across the Grand Col Ferret (2537m). The moon was still out in the morning.
The one thing that kept me going through the cold winds was the promise of an Italian hot chocolate at Rifugio Elena (2061m), a refuge where we would take a break to thaw out. An Italian hot chocolate is much thicker in consistency, almost like the chocolate you dip Spanish-style churros into but, a little more liquidy that it’s drinkable.
After about 1-2 hours, we finally reached the refuge. HAAAAALLELUJAH! HAAAAALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH! HALLEEEEE-LU-JAH! And, guess what? Yup, it was the best damn hot chocolate I ever tasted. My body felt frozen and my nose was a leaky faucet so, the first sip of freshly made hot chocolate felt like a revival. It was also the last chance we could drink an Italian hot chocolate before we headed down to Switzerland. Every last drop was savored to the very maximum.
The view of the glacier was spectacular. Clare admitted that we were the fastest group of hikers she’s ever led so, even with Nabeel stopping to smell the roses, we were usually ahead of schedule. Whoop. Whoop.
Before descending into Switzerland and into the hamlet of Ferret (1705m), we stopped for our lunch break. The refuge we stayed at the night before sold lunch so, most of us bought from there out of convenience, meaning we didn’t have much choice. We thought it sounded like a good deal when we heard we were getting 2 ham & cheese sandwiches (or 2 cheese if you were vegetarian) for I think EUR 4-5. But, when they gave us the packed lunches, we saw that it consisted of bread that was slightly larger than your palm and about one slice each of ham and cheese per sandwich.
As we sat here, the wind was at its strongest and our need to keep our frozen fingers inside our pockets trumped our need to address our hunger. We quickly ate whatever we could manage and began to make our way down. There was another group huddled here for lunch who actually opened up a bottle of wine and poured them into cups for each person. I guess that could’ve kept them a little warmer although I think some whiskey or vodka would’ve done a much better job.
Wasim: “Hey guys! I have another group photo idea! How about 6 of us line up on one side of the path and the other 6 line up on the opposite side, the 2 lines parallel, and we all hold up our hiking poles like this…with one pole touching the pole on the opposite side, creating an arch?”
No one even turned to look at him or even commented or laughed out of sheer courtesy. No one reacted in the least bit. Everyone just kept on walking.
We eventually made it to another refuge, La Peule, for a break and since we were now in Switzerland, Clare suggested that we try this soda called Rivella. Apparently, there’s an ingredient in it that none of us would guess but, Clare wouldn’t reveal it until we tried. So, a few of us tried it at the refuge. It tasted kind of like Red Bull..or kind of like Inca Cola in Peru. Not something I’d ever really crave. So, what was this mysterious ingredient? Milk whey. Hm.
Finally, we made it to La Fouly where we were to stay for the night at the Auberge des Glaciers. La Fouly is a very small ski village and at the time we were there, 90% was closed down/vacant. We did our usual pick a bunk, drop off our stuff and run for the shower bit. These showers were great since there was an actual knob (not a button you had to press every few minutes) and the hot water never ran out. However, the 2 showers on the main floor were in the same small bathroom, meaning 2 people had to shower at the same time with a good chance of seeing each other naked or, 1 person showered at a time but at the expense of creating a longer wait time for others. Luckily, the couples and the girls went together. We later found out that there were more showers downstairs.
After the bodily cleansing came the grocery shopping for the next day’s lunch. We hit up the small grocery shop underneath the auberge (the only food mart open in town) and picked our usual spread. Once my eyes laid upon the buckets of Haribo gummy candy, I grabbed a plastic bag, a set of tongs and went to town. Then, one by one, we all lined up at the cash register and paid for our things. All of us had some sort of bread, cheese, meat and bag of junk food.
Yuko and I walked out of the grocery store together, and our hands went into our respective bags and pulled out the gummy candy simultaneously. We looked at each other to talk about something but, as we caught each other eagerly pulling out the candy, we pointed to each other and broke out into laughter. “You, too??” Nothing can stand between us and a bag of Haribo.
With all our duties completed, all we had left to do was drink in the lounge, eat dinner and drink some more. This night, other than me, Yuko and Nabeel, Jackie and David also stayed up. In our drunken stupor we talked about our past and gossiped about the present. Jackie and David told us how they met and finally got together and, although I don’t remember the details, I remember it being one of the cutest stories. When he first pursued her, he had sent over flowers to her house and she responded with something like “Thanks but, I’m not looking for a boyfriend right now. I’m quite happy with where my life is and I’m concentrating on my sports activities.” And, so she did. And, they finally started dating maybe a year or two later. What’s meant to be will be. (Photo credit for the above 2 photos: Nabeel)
Estimated Hiking Time: 8hr
Approximate Distance Hiked: 20 km
Elevation: Start 2025m; Highest 2537m; Finish 1456m
Day 8 – La Fouly to Trient: In the morning, we actually rode a bus through the Swiss Val Ferret, through small cute towns and the gorgeous countryside, until we reached the lakeside town of Champex. The ride was about 30 glorious minutes. We took a coffee/hot chocolate break before continuing on our hike.
Clare: “If you guys want to pick up some more food or snacks, there’s a boulangerie up the block.”
Nabeel: “Is someone doing laundry here?”
Me: “Um, what are you talking about?”
Nabeel: “Didn’t Clare just say something about laundry?”
Wasim: “I think she said ‘lingerie’?”
Me: “I have no idea what you guys are talking about.”
We walked up the block.
Clare: “So, here’s the boulangerie. Last chance to get something.”
Nabeel & Wasim: “Ohhhh, ‘boulangerie’!”
We took the Bovine Way, an old path that was used to access the cow pastures high above the valley, and passed the Col de la Forclaz (1526m).
The Bovine Way living up to its name. Moo. Moo. Moo. And, moo. Moo? (Photo credit: Nabeel)
I loved lunchtime. We stopped at another refuge which was closed for the season but, had picnic tables with an awesome view of the massif and…a cross. When we arrived, a British group of hikers laid out on the tabletops of the other picnic tables, one to each person, and took a nap in the warm sun. The sun felt so, so nice.
We set off after lunch toward Trient (1297m) where we were to stay for the night. We hiked another 2 or so hours before we reached a small town where we stopped for drinks. Some of us thought we already reached Trient and so, the panaché that some of us drank felt extra refreshing. Unfortunately, we were still another hour or two away from our final destination.
Aline and Ellen stopped at a small souvenir shop to browse around. Upon seeing the cashier, they both said “Bonjour!” out of courtesy, albeit with an American accent. The cashier was one of the grumpy kind and insulted both of them for saying the greeting incorrectly. The man did not get any business from us.
Soon enough, Nabeel wasn’t the only one lagging behind. It was also me, Yuko and Alex. A bull had gone rogue and was running away from the herd with the farmer and his wife running after him. The 4 of us watched with the greatest amusement and I secretly was rooting for the bull. It ran down the hill, then up another, and the farmer/wife were panting with exhaustion. Eventually, the bull realized it had nowhere to go and it slowed down enough for the farmer to catch up to it. You can’t hate him for trying.
We reached Trient (above) and stayed overnight at the Auberge du Mont-Blanc.
Estimated Hiking Time: 8hr
Approximate Distance Hiked: 16 km
Elevation: Start 1466m; Highest 1987m; Finish 1297m