Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Tuesday 8 September 2009 - Col de Balme

The memory of Col de Balme (2451 metres) rests in the minds of many folk walking the Tour of Mont Blanc for the wrong reason.

The views are superb on a good day like today, but on a bad day the weather can be grim.

The col is however notorious for the (un)welcome given by the guardian of the Refuge du Col de Balme. We experienced this nine years ago; Pete and Trish were there a few days ago. The guardian had not changed and nor had her welcome. The hut is cold, with damp in the air; there is a menu; one selects one's preferred meal; it's not available; a second choice is made; the guardian becomes aggravated - "why can't you choose something that's available?" Eventually you finish up with soup, the only thing she has got around to cooking today.

Pete and Trish found all this particularly tedious as they were recovering from drinking stream water coming off Mont Blanc. They had done this without realising that the numerous high mountain huts dispose of their effluent by chucking it down the mountain!

Today we returned to Kandersteg by an efficient underground route (aka Autoverlad Lötschberg - car transport through a railway tunnel) to discover the affect of 6 days of 6 Belgians on the apartment we have grown so fond of. Our worries were unfounded, as the Belgians had made a good stab at clearing up after themselves despite the sweltering heat. We have already dealt with all their rubbish, have renewed our friendship with 'ginger', and tomorrow will embark on our new careers as laundry attendants.

What it must be like for Annie and Peter, the owners, we hate to think; even as sort of caretaker visitors we find we have become very protective towards this place...

...as indeed we have towards John and Janet's splendid pad in Chamonix from which we reluctantly departed this morning. Rest assured, everything there is spic and span, with not a crumb in sight.

Anyway, we stopped again at the Col de la Forclaz, this time on the brightest and clearest summer's day imaginable. So we paused for a stroll beside the 'Bisse' - a small canal built in 1895 to channel water from the splendid Glacier du Trient to the col, for use in irrigation on the slopes below. The Bisse (it would be called a levada in Madeira) drops 60 metres on its 3 km journey from its source to the col, but from the Path to Col de Balme it looks as if it rises sharply to the Col de la Forclaz - an optical illusion.

There is no such excitement with the view up to the Col de Balme from the Bisse. As you can see from today's postcard there is no illusion regarding the 900 metre ascent to the unfriendly refuge on the col.

The Alpine flowers are mostly on the wane just now. As you can see from the image, even the Rosebay Willowherb has mostly gone to seed.

But summer reigns supreme - it was 31C when we arrived here on today's perfect summer's day.

Next day

2 comments:

Mark Alvarez said...

The guardian of the Refuge du Col de Balme was merely eccentric when H and I were there in 2006. I'd been looking forward to a more dramatic performance.

I'm following your alpine travels full of envy--I imagine everyone is--but I mostly enjoy your joy.

Cheers.

Paul said...

Looks like Martin and I had a close shave on the Walkers' Haute Route last year then! As I recall we had lunch on the col, but not at the refuge. Here's something like the "opposite" of your pic., looking from the col de Barme towards col de Forclaz:

http://tinyurl.com/nngbvf

Enjoying reading about your exploits as ever -- bringing back happy memories.