August 19th, 2018
29.5km | ascent 1063m | descent 1740m
Accommodation in Les Contamines: Hotel-Chalet de Tradition La Chemenaz (booking.com, €138, room only)
I slept well, but dad’s getting a cold so he was finding it hard to breathe. We were at breakfast at 6:30am and hit the trail just before 7:30am (my fault, I was chatting too much at breakfast!) It was a cold morning and dad started out with his Patagonia wind jacket. I was a bit worried about today’s stage… my calculations for the distance the past few days had been out by 3-4 kilometres each day, so seeing that we had a 24km day didn’t bode well, especially with dad feeling a bit under the weather. (Although he didn’t want to let on just how bad he was feeling.)
The walk in the morning was an easy descent to Les Chapieux and coupled with the cool temperatures, we made good time, arriving after 1.5 hours.
In Les Chapieux, we passed a shop selling baguettes and as we were only planning on eating snacks from our food bags today, we decided to buy one baguette to share.
Leaving Les Chapieux (1554m), we had a 929m ascent in order to reach the high point of the day at Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2483m). The ascent felt like it was the most direct way, a steep ascent straight up the hillside. Having to stop for the ‘sheep jam’ was a welcome break on my calves as a few hundred sheep ran past, herded by one sheep dog.
We finally reached the Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme at 12:10pm, almost four hours after departing from our accommodation. We went in for a coffee and hot chocolate, then continued slightly further up the hillside before dropping our packs and sharing the baguette we’d bought in the valley at Les Chapieux. I’m still carrying four packs of jerky, a lot of chocolate and lots of dried fruit… it needs to be eaten to lighten my pack!
After our lunch break we continued ascending for a few minutes to reach the high point at Col de la Croix (2483m) and dad placed another stone on a cairn. (I don’t want to jinx our fate with the good weather we’ve been having, but we’ve been very lucky thus far!)
After descending across boulder fields for ~40 minutes and following painted red and white GR stripes, we came to Col Du Bonhomme (2329m).
We could now see along the valley that we were going to be descending forever and ever… In the foreground, was the snow field that dad was very excited to cross, but I couldn’t get him to stop and build a snowman… or a snow angel come to think of it. We knew we still had a long way to go, so like yesterday, today seemed to be another race against time and impending afternoon storms.
From above, the descent looked like it was along a nice smooth sandy trail, but in reality, it was a steep rocky road that took a lot of concentration. I can’t imagine how dad was feeling having such a long hard day with a cold looming over him, but I was in perfect health and was exhausted! It was 4:45pm by the time we arrived at the Church of Notre Dame de la Gorge and we’d now walked 27km.
Finally, we reached the Notre Dame de la Gorge church
Some hikers pointed out there was an irregular but free shuttle bus from the church to Les Contamines so we checked the timetable opposite the church and the bus was due to arrive in a few minutes. We decided to wait and see if it would appear, and shortly after, a small bus drove up, so we got on and told the driver the name of our accommodation. It was a short journey but saved us an extra 2km, and did I mention it was free?! The bus dropped us off at the end of the street of our accommodation, which was 1km before the town of Les Contamines (I didn’t realise this when booking). We checked in and I went across to the small supermarket opposite the hotel to see if I could get any medicine (strepsils, tissues etc) for dad, but although they were well stocked with supermarket supplies, they had nothing in the way of pharmaceuticals.
The receptionist suggested I head into Les Contamines and there was another free shuttle bus departing soon. I tried to convince dad to stay at the hotel and rest, but stubborn as usual, he insisted on coming with me. It was a Sunday and nearing 7pm when the bus dropped us off near the town, so when I saw a man dragging in a sign from outside a pharmacy, I realised he was about to close and made a mad dash to get there. He spoke English and I explained dad had a cold with a chesty cough so he suggested some medicine and dad agreed. I felt slightly more at ease knowing we were now in possession of something that would hopefully relieve his symptoms and help him sleep better. The last thing I want is for him to get really sick on a mountain trail!
We ate a restaurant in town called L’op Traken, a delicious three course dinner which was way too much, but hindsight and all… then walked back to our hotel. Today was way too long, I would definitely try to split this up if I was to walk it again.