So our journey continued and we were back to flying solo for a while. From Lake Como we drove west to Courmayeur in the Valle D’Aosta. After a visit to the Tourist Information office we found a fantastic campsite just outside the town in Val Veny and set up camp in the shadow of Mont Blanc and its glacier. Our first full day there was a Sunday, so Marcello, having done the tour of Mont Blanc (TMB) a few years back, planned our first walk to tie in with lunch at one of the refuges nearby. Off we set on our ascent … and boy could we tell we hadn’t been doing any regular exercise for a while! However, it was well worth the effort to enjoy a traditional plate of polenta with fabulous views of the mountains all around.
Having got our walking legs back (?!), a longer hike was planned, with an overnight stay in a refuge along the TMB route. We started off in Courmayeur (1,226m) and began the climb to Rifugio Bertone at 1,989m. As we were there in good time – much to the surprise of Karen as it felt like she was going at a snail’s pace – rather than stopping for long, we continued on to Rifugio Bonatti (2,025m), a further 2.5 hours walk, where we staying for the night. This section of the walk was, for the most part, a lot gentler and it was a bit easier to take in the beautiful surroundings. The contrast of the green sections of mountain against the grey of the slate ones topped with white snow was stunning. And if this wasn’t enough, the slopes around us were covered in alpine flowers –blues, purples, pinks, whites, yellows of bluebells, primroses, forget-me-nots, buttercups … the list goes on (and beyond my knowledge of the names unfortunately!).
Having arrived at the refuge just before lunch finished, we were relieved to be able to replenish our energy levels with a hearty bowl of vegetable soup, complete with croutons and cheese. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, playing cards and chatting with some of those doing the whole TMB. Not to forget just staring at the view, which we never tired of.
The next morning we were up early – as with everyone else, we wanted to make an early start before it got too hot. Here we broke from the TMB route to head back down to Courmayeur. This was obviously a less trodden path as we only saw three other people the entire route until we got close to town. The early start and solitude rewarded us with some fairly close up sightings of marmots, which are a bit like a beaver but without the tail. But most spectacular of all, on rounding a corner we disturbed a Golden Eagle from topping up its water supplies at a small pond and watched as it took off and flew away. A first for both of us and we were amazed at the size and beauty of it.
The rest of the walk was pretty much downhill and the views never failed to impress. We stopped in a forest about half an hour from town for a rustic lunch of local cheese and salami and then rewarded ourselves with … you guessed it, gelati, when we reached Courmayeur.
The next day was a rest day and we caught up on a few jobs, had a wander around town and enjoyed the sunshine and our last day in the area. In the evening we joined the Dutch couple opposite us for a few drinks and a natter. A very impressive older couple (the gentleman was 70, his wife about ten years younger) who were not only hiking in the mountains, but also spent a couple of days climbing Via Ferrata. We certainly hope to be as active at their age!
And so we bid goodbye to our campsite “La Sorgente” and Mont Blanc and head further south towards Torino …