DAY THREE: LES HOUCHES TO LES CONTAMINES

July 3, Monday:
So we left the hotel, walked down to the cable car and took it up to the top of Bellevue, a climb of 1500 feet and a couple of hours cut off. We were going to over the higher route to the Col du Tricot but took another of many wrong turns and went down to the Col du Vosa instead of turning to the left by the old abandoned hotel on top of Bellevue. So once we realized our mistake none of us wanted to climb back up to Bellevue so we took the “lower, easier” route. Thank God! This “lower, easier” route very nearly killed me. It was hot, fairly beautiful in that kind of Swiss way of long valleys and glimpses of mountains and sweet little villages and houses and cows and dogs, but one hard climb up out of a valley and another of our wrong turns with a steep climb were very very hard for me.
I should say now that Jeff is obsessive about going light. We came on this trip with my pack only weighing about 10 pounds but when you add water that raised it to probably 15-16 pounds. This is way light! Most people hike with packs weighing between 20 and 30 pounds, but we weren’t going to camp and we were taking basically the clothes on our backs with extra underwear and socks. I sneaked in an extra shirt and sports bra and we also had sleeping clothes so we could wash our clothes every night. And of course i had to have binoculars, digital camera, bird book (a real killer), a copy of Trollope’s The American Senator, a little book to write in and keep my bird list. It all adds up and combined to drive me into the dust by the end of the 16 km or so. At the very end, it was threatening to storm, Jeff and Gus had gotten out of my sight, we were very close to Les Contamines, like 10 minutes or so, when it started raining and I saw this hideous steep climb. I wanted to lie down and die. But I put on my raincoat and started up, like five steps at a time, got to the top and Les Contamines just as the sky opened up. Jeff and Gus were there and I burst into tears and said I couldn’t do it.
We got a hotel room in the Grizzli Hotel, pretty nice, I slept thinking I might be dying or having a heart attacks, but woke up feeling like I might live another day but could certainly NOT do the next day of the TMB, which is one of the hardest. So we decided that I would go around somehow to Les Chapieux and meet them at the Auberge de la Nova.
Went next door to a restaurant and had fondu, nearly choked on one nice gob of stringy cheese.
So a pretty dispiriting day. Jeff was very encouraging however, and as Gus said, “You’re here, aren’t you.” Which was true.

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