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!
OMG!!! This trip looks amazing!!!!! Great pics and makes me want to take this same trip!!
Wonderful photos – such a pleasure to follow your hike! More inspiration for more hikes…
Difficult with all the rocks Erin but that is the price of entry to walking as high as 3,000m up, nearly 10,000ft .. and it looks awesome!
Hope the weather front sorts itself out soon..
Beautiful day, and I think all the rocks and ice definitely earned you entering the vortex and that cozy room!
By the way..West Coast of N. America three in an 8.0 quake for Mexico! And Easy coast being pummeled by hurricanes.
I wonder if the ibex curl up at night (where DO ibex sleep?) And count up sightings of oddly shaped quadropeds with two skinny legs that seem to be detachable.. when they become bipeds.
That knotty-pined lined dorm rooms looks pretty cool. Hope you have a nice zero out of the rain and getting fully warm-n-cozy.
Oh so wonderful! A great place to land in wintery conditions.
Hi Wired–Patsy here. Richard and I met you in Lescun on the HRP. We successfully finished that (awesome trip) and are now hiking the Alta Via 2 in the Dolomites plus climbing some via ferratas, now about half way through. The hotels in Italy are fabulous and we can’t believe how affordable compared to the refuges. Rain and snow are coming the next few days for us too and we’ll need to come up with an alternate plan if the trails get icy. Really enjoy reading your blog–best wishes.
Patsy, hi! I just sent you an email:)
This could be my fave post from you so far. Annoying walking on rocks I’m sure, but I love the barren and stark scenery of it all. Just amazing, and what a gorgeous weather day to do it in!
Someone hiked up the Angels Rest trail yesterday (9/9) and uploaded a very well made video to YouTube. The Gorge is not as badly damaged as might be thought although the Angels Rest trail itself is one of the badly burned areas. The fire was spotty and left a lot of trees unharmed.
I heard it was something called a mosaic burn where some areas were somehow not damaged. My friend joked that maybe now people will hike Devil’s Rest and get a view! I had a thru-hike of the Gorge planned for October and I do wonder if we will find a way to still make that happen…we’ll see how long it takes to stop burning and what the reports are. Glad there was rain today!
I hope you are able to go.
The pictures ? you capture may illustrate the damage done to a precious resource by human carelessness.
But it also, hopefully will capture beauty that escaped the fire.
But of course circumstances have to be right.
I’m still following you each day. I’m speechless viewing your photos. What an unbelievable experience. Your resilience and toughness show through on every blog, I’m so proud and excited for you. Miss you, stay safe.