Alps log: day 5

First day hiking with the light pack.

Stage 5: Le Châble – Clambin – Cabane du Mont Fort
Dist: 9km
Height gain: 1636m

My first trail landmark, Cafe La Ruinette, doesn’t exist anymore. It’s become Foodmorp, a neon cafe with a Comic Cans awning. Thankfully the parking lot sign still says “parking for customers of cafe la ruinette only”. I wind my way through Villette, where every building is old and wooden in a highly flammeable way. This would be a quaint neighborhood, but the BMWs out front paint a different picture.

A bald canadian passes me in the first 30 min, but I use him as my pace car. Hit my hour milestone in only 50 minutes! I am beating guidebook time. Hot dog. I celebrate by taking a 10 minute break, and lose my Canadian rabbit. The ascent is steep, but well marked, and I plod plod plod along. That’s the key. I hit Le Clambin (guidebook 3 hr and 45 min) in 3 hr 15 minutes! I relax at a restaurant, order a coca cola, consider flirting with the pretty waitress. Now I am in vacation.

Last high point hit at 4hr 30min. People are jumping off the mountain and paragliding (?). Lunch: nuts, bread, banana.

Google: “is it still littering if it’s biodegradable?”

I bump into Paul and Kate, the brit campers from day 2, trudging their way up, still in full packs. We chat. They’re my favorite people on this trip to chat with. His patient sunshine melts her steady frump.

We walk together to Cabane du Mont Fort, which actually a ski chalet with lodging in the attic. Ski lifts are everywhere, spoiling the illusion of isolation. We’re to close to Verbier, the alps skiing capital. Earlier arrivals have been sunning themselves on the deck when we pull up in late afternoon. We get a once-over by the crowd in shades. Someone wolf whistles the size of my pack. The bald canadian is there. “I was wondering what happened to you,” he says. He’s Dan, is Swiss/Canadian, and a deadpan. He also winds up being my bunkmate.

I say hi to another young couple. She’s Dutch, her name starts with Marg-, ends with -ette, and does somehing french in the middle. Frankie is her scruffy boyfriend. He squints and talks into the sun, in a low drone. Nonchalent. Yeah, climb a mountain, no worries. He says, with nary an expression, “your pack’s quite big there, eh?” He’s a Kiwi. Is every experenced hiker a tool? I tell them how I got sick on the third day, and how I used the bus to get to champex. Their faces remain expressionless. I can tell I’ve dropped 10 notches in their regard. I am rookie superplus apparently.

Aside: I realize people, notably couples, flock to Paris, even for mere weekends (“getaways”), huffed up on romance, and eager from love. (disclosure: never been to Paris, though given above, is that a surprise). Readers, i ask you, where is the City of Enmity? That destination where tourists travel to employ that city’s natural drear and lack of charm to bespoil a relationship. One day, a woman turns to her boyfriend, “honey, you know what would be nice? Why don’t we take a weekend trip to Liverpool? Just the two of us.” I suppose after a while, no one will bother going. They already know what’s on the menu. Like with “honey, we need to talk.” There’s no talk needed after that. All the talking’s done. (Author’s note: I just tried looking up the antonym of ‘romance’ and my dictionary app said “what the fuck is wrong with you? Go outside, get some fresh air. Maybe meet somebody nice.”)

A group of old Japanese men show up. They carry SLRs and are soon drinking scotch in the patio. 2 hours later, a complete matching group of old Japanese women arrive, with their guide. Of course.

Dinner: tomato soup, salad, spaghetti bolognese. Delicious, though I can only slowly pack it in. Still not 100% yet. I sit with the aforementioned group because they seem like the only ones that speak English. Everyone eventually warms up after Swiss wine. Margerette is a mechanical engineer doing environmental technology. Lots of engineers or scientists around here. The Brit I met in Trient was a nuclear engineer! I don’t remember what Frankie does; I’m sure it’s nothing useful. The general consensus of what I’m now going to call “my poor showing on day 3” is exhaustion. I landed on an overnight flight and started hiking the same day. Too much too soon.

Bedtime. I try to get along with my no-smile Canadian rommate. I offer him some soap. These gestures can go a long way. No dice. A good night sleep, nonetheless.

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