August 22nd, 2018
17.3km | ascent 1171m | descent 950m
Accommodation in Argentiere: Hotel de la Couronne (booking.com, €90, room only)
We were up at 6am and at the cable car station when it opened at 6:30am but there were still at least 200 people in front of us. It’s not a cheap ticket – €61.50 for me and €52.30 for dad – but it was absolutely the highlight of the trip so far.
We did and saw everything there was to do at the top, before dad told me he was dizzy and thought he might faint! In the initial planning stages of the TMB hike, we were both worried how he would be at altitude because he’d had trouble breathing a few years earlier at altitude in Canada. It had been weighing on my mind everyday as we climbed to ~2,500m, but now we were at 3,842m, the highest he’d ever been without being in a plane. So now my anxious and worry-thirsty mind was thinking about dad having altitude sickness or a brain aneurysm and all I wanted to do was get him down off the mountain! We left straight away and he felt better as soon as we got down. We also made it back to the hotel in time for the included breakfast.
As the morning had taken a big chunk of time out of our day, we caught the bus along the valley to Les Praz (the driver didn’t charge us) and took the cable car up to Refuge de la Flegere.
After an initial descent to rejoin the TMB, we began climbing, and looking back for views of Mont Blanc. We filled our bottles at a waterfall shortly before passing the small building of Chalet des Cheserys.
We knew there were two options today; either the steepest descent of the entire TMB along a section of steel ladders and ropes, or a longer / easier section which was recommended in bad weather. Initially the bad weather was due to hit at 2pm, and we arrived at the junction at 1:30pm. I was nervous about taking the ladders and even more nervous about the steep trail, as this was the first time the guidebook had said it would be steep (but plenty of other days were steep to me when terms like ‘gentle’ or ‘steady’ were used!) Dad was up for the challenge, and before we could even have another conversation about it, he was bounding downhill towards the steep option.
Just as we arrived at the first vertical steel ladder, a clap of thunder erupted and a part of me wanted to cry and retreat! Dad trundled down the first one (actually on his knees – you’ll have to wait for the video), but I didn’t find the first one too difficult – they got more difficult for me with each one, as the ladders overhung the cliff and you couldn’t see where your foot was going to land… It was heart-raising and nerve-wracking, and it was the very first time on the entire trail that I wished we were walking in the opposite direction so we could be climbing up these ladders and not falling down them.
Dad was invigorated when he reached the bottom of the ladders, and I’m so glad he convinced me to do it. We both overcame the challenge. From Tre-le-Champ, we left the TMB and took a side-trail to descend to Argentiere (there is a bus but we wanted to walk). It was a lovely trail and took ~40 minutes.
Argentiere is a perfect hiker-town, compact with everything you need. After checking in, we walked around to explore, then went to the recommended Pizzeria called Stone Bar. I ate an amazing pizza for dinner, and dad had a duck salad which he thoroughly enjoyed.
I wouldn’t have taken the ladders if I’d been hiking by myself, so I owe dad a big thank you for pushing me outside of my comfort zone and making more memories together that I’ll cherish forever.