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.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Day 4 - Chamonix to Plan de Lai

Distance: 42km, Ascent: 2480m, Descent: 1730m, Time: 10h50m
GR5 - Day 4
I set my alarm for 5am with a view to reaching Les Houches by 7am and getting back on Schedule. I was hiking by 5:50am along the Route des Gaillands away from Chamonix. It was still fairly dark, damp and dreich with light rain falling.

I reached Les Houches at 7am and found a boulangerie-pâtisserie serving fresh pastries and coffee, and bought a copy of Le Dauphine to read about yesterday's football, Wimbledon and the Chamonix Marathon. I faffed around a bit in Les Houches trying to make sense of the GR5 signs, which pointed in the opposite direction of the route, sending me on a bit of a detour. But eventually picked up the obvious trail to Col de Voza (1650m) on the Tour du Mont Blanc. I caught up a French couple on the col and jogged down the other side with them for a while, before pressing on towards Les Contamines and not seeing them again.

I stopped briefly at Les Contamines for a few provisions before embarking on the long flog up to Col du Bonhomme in fairly murky weather. On the traverse after the col there suddenly seemed to be loads of people around, especially British and Japanese. I reached a crowded Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme early afternoon and decided to cancel my reservation and keep going to Plan de la Lai.

There was nice airy ridge along the Crete des Gittes, but when I reached Col de la Sauce the weather was turning very rainy and misty. Strangely hanging around in the mist were around 30 or 40 armed soldiers obviously practising some sort of military operation that involves standing around on a hill in the rain.

The descent was rather tortuous since the GR5 markers insisted on cutting all the corners, which took you down steep muddy overgrown little trails which were much more awkward than staying on the main track.

Luckily there was room at the Refuge Plan de la Lai, and I had social evening chatting with French and Dutch hikers.

View GR5 - Stage 4 in a larger map

Stage 4 - Chamonix to Plan de la Lai

View Refuge Plan de la Lai in a larger map

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