The plan had been in place for the last month at least, but for one reason or another it had never happened. Julian and I had been talking about a weekend trek in the mountains with an overnight stay in a refuge, some good food, a bottle of wine and some good clean mountain air.
A couple of weeks ago we found just the place, so this weekend a group of helpers from the two building sites returned and did just that.
We started the weekend with a bbq on Friday night, probably not the best idea as such gatherings usually end in drinking too much and a late finish, this was no exception. We sat chatting round the fire until a good three a.m. before deciding that we really should get an ‘early’ night before heading for the hills.
Saturday morning started slowly with a leisurely breakfast and a long discussion as to what was going to be needed for the excursion. Food, drink, dry wood, as it had been raining for at least a week and the refuge was high high above the tree line, sleeping bags, water, the list went on and on. The party of eight split into two, half back to their accommodation to gather the necessary and the other half to town to shop. Rendez vous in town for a bite to eat and a beer is always the done thing before such an adventure.
We managed to leave the cars and start walking just before four in the afternoon. Not bad as it is nearly mid summer and it only took us two and a half hours to reach the refuge last time. Six thirty should be fine to get settled in to the refuge, check out the lake and surroundings before settling down for a relaxing evening. It was cloudy but pleasant and everyone was in good spirits.
It took four and a half hours to reach the refuge for a multitude of reasons, much heavier back packs, less fit walkers, a different route and a thick fog that enveloped us two thirds of the way up. The fantastic views were non existent and everyone was either wet from the outside in by the fog or by sweat from the inside out. It was great to get a fire lit and a bit of warmth in the cabin.
Three sets of bunks for eight, not bad, apart from the fact that two beds were already reserved, a father and son who had arrived earlier. I was just thankful that it was only two and not another party of eight or more. Imagine.
Two slept on the floor and we pushed the remaining bunks together, three sharing each level, it was only for one night and after a good meal, a few beers and that climb, no one was in a position to complain. We got a glimpse of the mountains, lit by moonlight, as the clouds cleared and a fit of the giggles just before retiring for the night. Getting to sleep has never been so amusing, there was no language barrier, as no one said a word, it was just one of those amusing experiences. You probably had to be there to know.
Sunshine greeted us, we must have slept well as it was gone eight when we stirred. Another fire was lit for coffee, yes, we even took a percolator. Bread sausage and cheese breakfast and for a couple of hardy souls a dip in the lake. It was truly freezing just to wash in, so I have the utmost admiration for those that went further.
A leisurely Sunday ahead of us, most of the group headed further up the valley in search of another lake. We climbed for another hour and a half, much easier without carrying anything and found no additional water. Some late drifts of snow, an amazing array of wild flowers, it taxed my brain somewhat to find their names, but, as ever, fascinating to see plants that I have sold for so many years in pots in garden centres, outside in their wild and natural environment. Signs of Marmots and Isards, but not the real thing and expended enough energy to be hungry again.
We finished but all of the provisions we had hauled up the mountain for lunch before gathering our belongings and heading back off down the hill. There must have been a good twenty people picnicking by the lake when we left. Imagine how crowded that cabin might have been had it not been foggy the afternoon before. Lucky stars and all that......
The descent was beautiful, we profited from lightly clouded blue skies and views of lush high pasture, mountain slopes of scree, rock slides and occasional patches of forest. Lower down, the remains of ancient summer villages that the farmers used back in the day, more frequent hurds of sheep and cattle and the rushing, babbling stream hurrying all that melted snow quickly down the mountain to be used again. (If you need help with that one, google “water cycle”) Somewhere within the group a discussion started, and although almost everyone is leaving for pastures new during the coming week, it was decided that next time we will start on Friday evening and spend the whole weekend in the hills. But that is for next time....