DAY 8, REFUGE DE LA BALME to LA GRANDE BERGE
Ascent: 1246 m
Descent: 917 m
Distance: 18 km
Time on trail: 6:45 – 16:00
I left the camp when the first light of the day illuminated the higher peaks. Behind an interesting “roof of clouds” slid silently along the valley as I was climbing higher.
I climbed through easy snow to Col du Bonhomme (2329m) but right after the col the trail looked scary; a long stretch on an icy slope where falling would mean a long slide who knows until where. To play safe, I waited until other walkers appeared before continuing.
After the scary crossing the scenery turned to be one of the best throughout the whole walk. From the refuge Croix du Bonhomme the trail climbed up to Crete des Gittes seen on the right, a fine ridge walk.
After the ridge I went down to the refuge of Plan de la Lai and walked another 4km close to the ruins of La Grande Berge, where I found grassy slopes for wild camping with a nice view to the artificial lake of Lac de Roselend.
DAY 7, LES HOUCHES to REFUGE DE LA BALME
Ascent: 1539 m
Descent: 844 m
Distance: 27 km
Time on trail: 6:30 – 15:45
Time to begin the second stage, which leads to Landry in three days, covering 70 km. I was eager to move again even though the morning was dull and wet. Visibility was so poor that I soon lost the hope to see Mont Blanc.
When reaching Les Contamines, a busy town along the TMB (Tour du Mont Blanc), persistent mist finally disappeared.
While climbing up along the wooded valley I passed by a pilgrim church, Notre Dame de la Gorge
Refuge de la Balme is located at the end of the valley, just when the ascent begins to get serious, and next to it is a nice meadow for free bivouacing. Only one French TMB-couple arrived late in the evening which surprised me; I was expecting a busier camping spot. After the day of resting the walking had felt strong and as the route didn’t climb higher than this bivouac site (1706m), it was snow free. Things were about to change though as the next two days would lead me back to higher altitudes.