Hiking the GR5 from St Gingolph to Menton

15 days. 600 kilometres. A hike across the Alps from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean in July 2012.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Day 3 - Samoens to Chamonix

Distance: 38km, Ascent: 2500m, Descent: 2160m, Time: 11h10m
GR5 - Day 3

I set off from Hotel Le Gai Soleil at 6:42am, and stopped about a minute later to visit the boulangerie patisserie, which amazingly was open at 6:43 in the morning. I was then on my way following the Giffre Torrent. The weather was looking a bit iffy, with low cloud and intermittent rain. After crossing the river, the trail went through a dramatic little gorge - Gorges des Tines - with metal ladders and steps.

Cascade de Rouget, a huge waterfall, was the next dramatic feature. I stopped at Chalet de Lignon (1180m) for a few minutes, for a glass of Coke and to get out of the damp drizzly rain. The next section was into the mist, with a few breaks in the cloud before turning a corner into a wide area of alpage, backed by huge limestone cliffs. It was super-misty when I reached Chalets d'Anterne, and then started chucking it down with cold rain at Lac d'Anterne, just before I reached some long snow patches. This was all fairly grim and unpleasant. I passed over the Col d'Anterne 2257m and dropped down to Refuge de Moede Anterne, hoping to get some shelter and refreshment. However the hut was tiny and jam packed with other hikers, so I just sat outside in the cold and rain in shorts and T-shirt.

I didn't fancy stopping for long, knowing I was supposed to be traversing Le Brevent that afternoon. The descent to Pont d'Arleve was quite rough on a greasy rocky overgrown path. Once over the bridge the climb was at a steady gradient, but the weather suddenly got very unpleasant just as I reached the final snow patches to the Col du Brevent. It was hammering down with freezing cold, such that when I saw the 45 min sign to Le Brevent, I thought there's no way I'm going up there, and instead headed straight down to Planpraz, where in fact the Chamonix Marathon had finished earlier that day.

I was getting really quite cold and wet, so took some time under shelter to get organised. I then realised I had no idea where the trail down to Chamonix started. I'm not sure it was the best idea, but I ended up walking down Piste B10 "Nants", a steep but easy vehicle track that took a rather long-winded route to reach Chamonix.

I found a Gite d'Etape more or less at the trailhead, but lost my patience after waiting for about an hour for the gardien to arrive. The rain had eased off a bit, so I gathered up my stuff and headed down into Chamonix town centre. It was quite atmospheric walking through the start line of the UTMB with nobody around, and all the mountains shrouded in dark cloud. I turned right and headed along the familiar Chamonix main street (Rue du Docteur Paccard) past Snell Sports.

I realised now I'd made the correct decision to keep moving, since I could buy some provisions for the next couple of days, plus I could get a few km further down the road.  I decided to check in at La Chaumiere where I'd stayed before my attempt at the UTMB in 2006. The place at obviously been refurbished to some extent since then. I hung all my wet kit in the room, then thought I might be able to order some food in time to watch some of the first half of the Euro 2012 cup final between Spain and Italy, however the restaurant service seemed to be based on Fawlty Towers, so I ended up missing the football, and was too infuriated to enjoy the food when it finally arrived.

I left the window wide open all night in the attempt at drying out all my wet kit, and could hear the rain as cars drove past.

View GR5 - Stage 3 in a larger map

Stage 3 - Samoens to Chamonix

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