My life has been changed by the many mountains that I have climbed on my bicycle, chasing my husband up to the peak. Or, sometimes, simply surviving, one painful pedal stroke at a time. A little over two years ago, my husband had a grand vision to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc. As things in life sometimes go, this dream did not come true. The recap of this adventure can be seen here. However, as you can always do, if you choose to, we turned the disappointment into an entirely unexpected adventure.
This year, life has brought us some very unexpected, and challenging, things. It hasn’t been easy, at times. But, as my husband always does, he lead us in a path of finding peace and happiness in even the most challenging and heart breaking times. As the year progressed, things were settling back into a new normal. I will admit, I was craving something really challenging. I think we both needed an adventure. So, when he presented the idea of returning to France for a second go at Tour du Mont Blanc, my heart soared with excitement.
The Tour du Mont Blanc is a 170 km circular hiking route around Mont Blanc. My husband’s version ended up being 200 km with about 10,000 metres of ascent throughout. The route takes you through France, Italy and Switzerland. You can book spots in refuges to enable you to hike with only one day of food and water and no tent. The refuges aren’t glamorous, but, the mountains make you forget every cramped little dormitory you wedged yourself into or three minute cold shower you had.
Before this trip, I didn’t know if I could climb multiple peaks in one day by foot. I didn’t know if I could hike for nine days in a row. I didn’t know what it would be like to be out there on foot following my husband through the mountains. But I wanted to know. I didn’t want anxious, nervous energy. I wanted to believe myself. My training period wasn’t very long as this was a bit spontaneous, but my training for life approach of keeping myself healthy and strong on a consistent basis paid off. I added in a mental aspect to my training regiment. That really paid off.
To sum it all up, I listed the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. The good won by a long shot. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Or…maybe a different multiple day hiking trip. Who knows what’s around the corner?
- Learning that an extra strap on the outside of my hiking backpack is a must have in order to properly carry a baguette up a mountain.
- Never getting tired of the same reward each day: patios, beers and mountain views
- Staying in the most romantic little hut on the side of a mountain, more than once!!!
- Completing my longest day of hiking ever, and feeling ready to go again the next morning – simply amazed at what my body can do!
- Maintaining a mental focus and a positive attitude…a couple of slips that were easily remedied…
- Gazing up at a blanket of stars against a midnight sky and feeling complete awe and wonder for the beauty of nature.
- Feeling my entire being infused with the energy of the mountain.
- Getting up the next morning after the longest day in my hiking career, and being amazed at how my body had healed itself over night. Being so grateful for my body’s ability to bounce back and my mind’s eagerness to continue on.
The breathtaking climb out of Les Champieux. The early morning air was crisp. We were surrounded by green hills, leading up to a magnificent snow capped peak, glowing a brialliant yellow as the sun rose up behind it. We were alone most of the climb, just us and the peace of the mountains.
- The fountains capturing the mountain snow run off, and providing us with an abundance of the clearest, coldest water in the world!! De l’eau de la Montagne!
- Watching my husband direct a herd of cows off the path into a pasture. Who knew he had such a hidden talent.
- The mornings. The air would was crisp. The sun peeked over the mountainside. Everything about the mornings was delicious.
- The bridges over the many waterfalls that provided a first hand view of the flowing mountain snow runoff. One bridge remains in my mind. I walked halfway across and turned to look up the mountain. The snow at the top was melting into crystal clear water, running down the mountainside in falls. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. The crystal clear water mist mixed with fresh air infused my nostrils and wove into my soul. I could have stood in that moment forever.
- All the dogs I met along the way. I think my favourite was Phillipe, a 6 month old German Shepherd. We fell in love with each other in an instant. I will cherish his kisses forever. And the fact that he didn’t care how I smelled.
- On the second climb of the day, trudging along at a snails pace, looking up the mountainside. I saw James, trooping along one step at a time, a silouhette against a mountain background. I thought to myself that sometimes you just follow your hero up the side of a mountain. As hard as it was, my heart was full. Getting to the top, and sitting in silence, taking in a view that cannot be described in full. Not in words. Golden rays of sunshine hitting grey rock peaks. A perfect emerald lake nestled in a crook. Spots of white snow contrasting against dark, lush green. Feeling nothing less than complete awe.
- The most delectable patisserie filled with rich chocolate, complimented by a sugary, frothy cappuccino. A treat on the fourth day as we passed through one of the few towns on the route.
- An expected cold ham, cheese and bread plate turning into a baked, bubbling, gooey cheesy delight. The Swiss way. What a treat, and a very welcome surprise as we took a break at a refuge near the end of a very long day.
- Being with my husband on our 15 year anniversary on a peak we hiked up. It turned out that it was a climb we had done very close to our ten year anniversary, on our bikes. It was nothing less than magical.
- After a really rough end to our second last day as my mind and body were quite depleted, bouncing back and absolutely crushing the last day! We did two big climbs, including scrambling and ladders up the sides of some rocky sections. I didn’t back down. I didn’t second guess. I believed in my physical strength. I told myself not to overthink it, to just do it. So I did. The rewards were amazing. At the first peak we had our picture together (lovely French man that we had met the night before was up there too) and a cappuccino. At the final peak of this entire journey, we found ourselves almost entirely alone at the top of the world. Or at least it felt like it. All we could hear was what I call the sound of the mountain. That sound of nothing but the mountain air surrounding you.
- The LONGEST day that I have ever hiked. My toes throbbed. Every step was painful. Lingering close to 40 km after climbing about 2000 metres of climbing, I really wanted to stop. BUT I didn’t. I found a mental space that was infused with peace and positivity.
- Dorm style sleeping. Lying away on the top bunk, the ceiling closing in on me, every time I shuffled the bed creaked. Fear of having to pee, and thus waking up the whole room with my descent down the tiny ladder onto the creaky floor. BUT, I found a mental space of peace, and relaxed my physical being. I lay away thinking about all the things I was grateful for. Including a bed every night that allowed me access to the abundance of beauty I was seeing every day.
- Shared shower and toilet facilities. Sometimes less than clean. Sometimes barely enough room to move within them. Three minute maximum showers after a long day, and smelling like a barnyard animal. BUT, I was so grateful for how clean I felt after and that I could enjoy the evening in a clean set of clothes (I didn’t care that it was the one set of clothes I would wear the whole time).
After meticulously combing all the days of hiking and all the resulting images in my mind and feelings in my soul, I can only come up with this very short list of what was challenging. Honestly, I love how these challenges have impacted me. I love that I was able to live with very little, to wear the same set of clothes every day, to walk around barefoot after taking my hiking boots off for the night, to have a minimum amount of stuff with me, and to be with my soul mate every step up every mountain and through every part of this journey.
When we came off the the last peak, and descended into the town of Chamonix, we were both numb. Physically we were more tired than we realized. Mentally we were in some sort of alternate world. For days on end we were surrounded by nothing but mountains and peace, focusing on one step at a time. Suddenly finding ourselves in a whirlwind of activity, staring at two large, cold, Belgian beers, our minds needed time to process that we had actually done the Tour du Mont Blanc.
After a couple of beers and some much needed food, we checked into our hotel. My husband had booked a suite (WAY cheaper in Chamonix than Banff…) equipped with a beautiful patio and view of the river, and a bath tub (not always the case in Europe). When I slipped my toes into the bubbles and warm water, I was transformed to another world. I lay completely submersed, except for my eyes and nose, and sunk into the most luxurious moment I think I had ever experienced (at least that is what my mind was telling me). I love that this simple thing had become the most luxurious treat ever. Of course, fondue and champagne were in order. And a couple of days of our bodies crying out in general discomfort. But we had conquered the Tour du Mont Blanc!!!
My posts on our first, unfinished, attempt at Tour du Mont Blanc: