Alps log: day 6

The day of glory has arrived. Three cols in one day.

Stage 6: Cbn du mont fort – col de termin – col de louvie – col de prafleuri -cbn du prafleuri
Dist: 14km
Height gain: 885m
Time: 6.5 hrs
Key stern guidebook language: “long and tiring stage… could be the toughest say of the walk so far.”

Head out at 8:15. Everyone else seems to havei gone already. I tend to linger, like a musty foot odor. My foot odor tends to linger too, now that we are on the subject.

The walk around Sentier de Chamois is breathtaking. It’s a high ledge walk around to the Col de Termin, with naked sheer views of mountains just south. The path is dangerously lovely; you cannot take your eyes off the view. Three old frenchmen ahead stop, look upwards. We have our first chamois sighting, a female, bounding off the rocks high above.

The first mountain pass, Col de Termin, is the prettiest of the three, a true dividing line between two worlds, one lush, one rough. There I meet an elderly couple, day hiking to Lac du Louvie. They’ve lived in Switzerland for 30 years, and have the deeply tanned skin to prove it. And before that? Berlin, they say with a sort of veiled hesitation that invokes a myth of a buried past, of subterfuge of some degree, of flight from men in trenchcoats, and, somehow, fascism. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were carrying gold bullion, wrapped in silk hankerchiefs, in their packs.

I linger at the Col. Hear click clack, slow plodding pole strikes. It can only mean Paul and Kate again. We chat. They share some sweets with me. Kate mentions their last trip to New York. They couldn’t believe how big everything is. She goes off on about restaurants found on nymag.com, Dallas BBQ, and 2 lbs rib platters. Awesome, now I’m hungry AND homesick.

The next pass, Col de Louvie, is a wasteland. Scenic like a landfill. The land beyond reveals a gash of a valley, raked by the Grand Dèsert glacier. I have certainly seen my fill of glaciers this year. Yeah, they can be poignant and beautiful (e.g. deep blue Perito Moreno Glacier). But they are a violent, geological bully, dragging boulders everywhere, reshaping at their will.

Col de Plafeuri. Another haul, but at least a cloud spares me the sun. The land beyond has been used as a quarry a few times, and looks the worst for it. Descending, I turn a corner, and surprise, 10m away, an large male ibex is taking a shit. I might join it. It voices a shrill bark, brandishes its large scimitar horns, and tells me to fuck off. I instead think : photo-op.

Down a hill finally to the Cabane de Prafleuri. In total, all in, it took me 9 hrs. Not bad. Not even wiped. Just a long day. Bald Canadian is sitting on a patio chair again. Spotting me, he ironically applauds for me. Or earnestly. A mixture, let’s call it.

Dinner, served at 6:30 sharp: barley soup, salad, and pork with squash gravy. I have four bowls of soup. Soup is an amazing thing. Hell, after hiking 9 hrs, any hot salty water with flavor is pure genius. The same table mates as past night. Frankie grills me about New York. I try to give him the skinny on a non tourist tour of duty. To me, its all about neighborhood walks, people watching, and food. Traveling always makes me feel fortunate to live in NYC. It is a privilege really.

I just reread my entry from day 3. What a wuss I was. See, that’s why we do not hang out with Big Pack Crab anymore. That guy is a loser.

The Cabane says their water is non potable, but like hell I’m paying 8 francs for bottled water while sitting on top of a glacier. I ask them for boiled water, put it in my aluminum canteen, and employ an old science trick: spinning the hot cylinder under running cold water. In three minutes, it’s room temperature and drinkable.

I sleep in a room with a large row of 10 beds. Ear plugs muffle out whatever the hell that couple in corner thinks they’re getting away with.

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