August 18th, 2018
24.9km | ascent 1851m* | descent 1226m
Accommodation: Refuge des Mottets (booked through www.montourdumontblanc.com, €154 for a private room including dinner and breakfast)
When we spoke to the tourist office yesterday and told them our plan for today, they recommended either taking the bus along the valley to La Visaille (for the shortest option) or to take the cable car and chair lift from the nearby town of Dolonne up to Rifugio Maison Vielle and start walking from there. The only issue with the cable car option was that it didn’t start operating until 9:30am, meaning we wouldn’t start our long-ish day until 10am… not ideal. We talked it over a few times – I was more keen on the cable car, dad more keen on the bus so we decided to sleep on it and see what the weather was like in the morning. We woke to a beautiful clear sky and both agreed to take the cable car and chair lift which would give us more time now to leisurely eat breakfast and pack up. Breakfast was fantastic, one of the best so far.
After checking out and on the way to Dolonne to catch the cable car, we stopped by a sports shop for dad to buy some gloves for his very sunburnt hands (from day 2). We couldn’t find any sun gloves like my Patagonia fingerless ones, so he bought thin glove liners instead.
The ticket for both the cable car and chair lift from Dolonne all the way to Maison Vielle was €15 for me and €9 for dad with his senior’s discount – cheap and very worthwhile!
We continued to climb steeply before rejoining the TMB and the balcony route and passed a few art installations and small tarns.
As we began to descend, we were surprised to come across a herd of cows on the trail and near a stream (at over 2,000m elevation) and actually had to make our way around them as they stood in the middle of the trail. As we continued descending we pointed out to a few people who were climbing uphill and collecting water from the stream that there were cows up higher – I really don’t think you would expect to see them at that altitude anywhere else!
We reached the valley bottom beside the Lac Combal stream and followed a dirt road.
Getting hungry, we stopped before the next climb for a quick lunch.
It was a very scenic climb up to Rifugio Elisabetta, and if it wasn’t for the fact that we needed to refill our water bottles, we wouldn’t have taken those few extra steps uphill (the trail passes below the refuge). It was almost 3pm when we arrived, and worried about the afternoon storms hitting us, we filled our bottles and marched onwards. The scenery was ever-changing as we continued to climb up to the high point of the day at the Col de la Seigne (2516m).
We reached Col de la Seigne (2516m) at 4pm and after a quick photo, we continued straight on and downhill through the cloud, now really hoping the afternoon thunderstorms that were forecast would miss us all together.
We could see what we thought was the Refuge we were staying at long before arriving, as we descended deep into the valley, passing herds of grazing sheep.
We arrived at Refuge des Mottets just after 5:30pm and soon after checking in, the rain come down, in buckets! I’m sure we got lucky because of the number of rocks dad has been placing on cairns each day! We saw our first Marmots on the rocks today just behind Refuge des Mottets but never got close enough to take a photo (with my wide angle lens!)
Dinner was served at 7pm and we were sat next to two American brothers called Roy and Randy and we laughed the night away. They were terrific company. Everyone on our table was walking the opposite direction to us, I don’t think we’ve met anyone at the refuges yet who’s walking our direction. Dinner was hearty and warming and the atmosphere in the hut was very lively. During dinner one of the staff played an old wind-up music box, and it was a lovely touch.
Although we took the cable car and chair lift to shorten the stage, we did feel we were racing against time all day today (due to the 10am start). A shorter stage, or maybe taking the bus to La Visaille to start would be a better option in hindsight.