Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Chamonix trails 3: Col to Col


You could with not much effort approach the Col des Posettes (1997m) and the Col de Balme (2191m) via the télécabines from either Le Tour - a pretty village spoiled by a massive car park, which we'd walked to on a previous excursion - or our beloved Vallorcine, where torrential rains the day before had driven us to a leisurely lunch in the wonderful L'Arret Bourgnette. Since, however, it was likely that these high pastures above the north-east end of the Chamonix valley would be dotted with more than a few fellow-hikers, I reckoned it might be nice to have a wooded path up from the valley floor at Le Buet more or less to ourselves. We were delighted to be joined on our last full day by Laurence, Bertrand and Ambroise, who'd prised themselves away from their much quieter mountain hideaway near Beaufort (where the most delicious of the Savoie cheeses we tasted comes from).

The way up, after ten days' worth of acclimatisation, was 'pleasant', just as the trail-book described other such forest climbs; in the beginning they'd just been a slog. The reward is always when the vistas open out and the bigger mountains suddenly reveal themselves in greater splendour than from below - or in this case in splendid strangeness, on the track from Vallorcine which our narrow path eventually met. I think this is the Aiguille Verte, at 4122m junior only to the two peaks leading up to Mont-Blanc and, of course, the Alpine king himself. It reminds me of the planet, asteroid, call it what you will, that looms in Lars von Trier's Melancholia.


Passing a lunchtime-dormant télécabine from Vallorcine, we were soon out on the alpages, with residents grazing and clanking


and to my surprise only a sprinkling of other humans in evidence, which made me wonder where all the télécabinistes from Le Tour had gone. So we made ourselves comfortable in the soft turf


and picnicked, as usual, on the excellent rolls from the Boulangerie Saint Hubert in Chamonix's Place Eglise - our local, along with the nearby cafe. Growing lad Ambroise would, he said, be in need of more calories in an hour or so's time, which gave us the pretext to walk on to the refuge at the Col de Balme. Along the exhilarating high way, Bertrand's eagle eye spotted a handful of gentians - the only ones we came across on this trip. As we know from our Italian Apennine jaunts, they should be seen in clusters, but here's at least the ocular proof of a single Gentiana verna.


The refuge seemed to be run by a sour crone, and plastered with prohibitions; I imagine in the mists it could be a rather sinister place. Ambroise had his extra sandwich - sans beurre - and we just about downed some evil coffee, looking across at the bar and a stand stocked, as our absent Chamonix hostess Merrie had told us, with ancient but alas not at all interesting postcards of the slopes in winter.


Anyway, it was an atmospheric, almost deserted change from the swish restaurant descended upon by hordes which I'd for some reason imagined. Then it was back along the Col de Balme, which gave us views towards Switzerland


as well as the Chamonix valley in the opposite direction, and down, at a cracking pace, to Le Buet - a fitting final holiday jaunt.

16 comments:

The LondonJazz site said...

David so great that you're back to blogging!

Susan Scheid said...

How astonishingly beautiful this is! How many miles did you climb to see all this, David--it seems you are both extraordinarily fit! This I love, having been there myself, at least in some small way: "in the beginning they'd just been a slog. The reward is always when the vistas open out and the bigger mountains suddenly reveal themselves in greater splendour than from below." You will see, in the next few weeks, the report of our much smaller climb in The Marches, which reminds me of the truth of what you write here. That hope for the endless vista is what keeps one climbing, and there is certainly no greater reward.

David said...

Greetings, Sebastian, and thank you. All kinds words so much appreciated at what is still a difficult time (but we did it - planned it, and walked, and walked).

As to miles, Sue, curiously we kept no tabs; nor did the useful little trail book. With such steep ascents, time tends to be the measurement; most were around two hours up (the two Cols closer to three. That's a fair time limit on climbing in my books).

And, oh, how I love Shropshire, and look forward to your account - Long Mynd, perchance?

Susan Scheid said...

I believe we saw Long Mynd from another hilltop, but didn't walk it. Yet another reason for more trips to Shropshire . . . (Believe me, our walks were nothing compared to what you did here!)

Laurent said...

I love the sign above the postcards ''Cosommation obligatoire'' in other words no lay abouts here.
The mountains are spectacular and beautiful, but all this walking is for young lads like yourself, at my age I need a sedan chair so does Monsieur W.

David said...

Then you and Monsieur W could do worse than emulate the 18th century English lady who required four porters to carry her over the Scheidegg between Grindelwald and Interlaken. In the end it took no less than eight to do it, at a hugely inflated rate, bearing their burden in shifts.

Susan Scheid said...

Ah, now there's the way to climb a mountain (and Mount Scheidegg, no less, one of my favorites, guess why . . . I saw it once, but haven't climbed it, with porters or without). Over my way, thinking of you, as Elaine Fine has weighed in with the location of the petite phrase. Going way, way above my pay grade now, I've hazarded to put clips of the phrase in the sidebar. I feel confident of the first, but the 4th movement was harder. But it was so much fun to try--I printed out the score, too—thank goodness for the Petrucci music library—and followed along too (as best I could, anyway).

David Damant said...

In one of the Saki stories [The Boar Pig] "consummation obligatoire" is translated as "forced feeding"

Can nothing be done to stop applause after every movement of a symphony/concerto etc? I was listening to Radio 3 yesterday, and this happened during Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. It is as though the people come to enjoy themselves with pretty playing or singing. Just like appauding dove sono or porgi amor

David said...

Sue - Ah, of course, SCHEIDegg (a very good egg!) BTW, I put 'Interlaken' instead of 'Lauterbrunnen' - slip of the brain. Covered that ground on my first ever trip abroad, with the primary school, aged 10.

I've commented Over There, but I think you and Byron are right re the 'petite phrase' being the big tune - second subject - of the first movement, which comes back in the finale. Elaine Fine seems to have been more struck by another theme, but I can't say it sticks with me in the same way. You located it right in your second sidebar clip, but I'd be more inclined to put up the 'petite phrase' recurrence at 7'31.

Sir David - applause after every movement is very much a Proms thing. Norrington always encouraged it as historically correct. But I think there's a time and a place. Vast first movements of concertos, like Beethoven and Brahms Violin Ctos or Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto 1, seem to call for it. I'd rather not hear it in most symphonies, though of course when many were premiered, the movements the audience liked best had to be encored immediately. Most irritating were the Russians at two song recitals by Borodina and Hvorostovsky, who applauded precipitately after EVERY song. At least leave it to the end of a group, for heaven's sake.

David Damant said...

It is interesting to note that in the 19th century (and earlier I suppose)conversation took place during the performance. There is another Saki story where the conversation betwen Reginald and ( I think) the Duchess was interrupted ( ! ) by the loudness of the music (Prince of Rimini ?)

It is said that practices which die out in general society survive for a long time at court. Elizabeth Soderstrom reported that she and others sang at Drottlingholm for the Swedish royals and the visiting Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, but " they didn't listen very nmuch as they were talking amongst themselves"

David said...

But then our dear royals, Charles excepted, hardly have a tolerable good ear for music. Though I like the Queen's precis of Le Nozze di Figaro: 'isn't it the one with the pin in it?'

Susan Scheid said...

From one very good egg to another, then, while I will be soon coming out of hiatus, so will comment "Over There," just had to let you know I've now (if I haven't blown it) posted clips of the two phrases you noted. Please don't hesitate to set me straight if I've erred!

David said...

Exactly right - brava!

Susan Scheid said...

Phew! Now back to the discussion you're having over here, I'm fascinated by the clapping practice, and even more by QE2's precis of Le Nozze di Figaro!

wanderer said...

This is fabulous stuff David with those mighty climbs and simply the most beautiful photographs ever. I've been back and forth repeatedly (and back to that wondrous floriade by the Lake, et le danseur de l'eau) and infused with a feeling of such comraderie and friendship it is all the more beautiful.

I'm glad and relieved, like everyone, that you are back

And I'm clapping after each photo!

David said...

Shucks, wanderer, you're too kind. Long life to blogging friendship.