TMB Day 4 Courmayeur, IT to Refuge Elizabetta, IT

Daily Log

Day 4 Hike from Courmayeur to Refuge Elizabetta

Read all the way to the bottom to see the video footage for the day.

8.30 Breakfast at the Hotel Walser was probably the best meal we had there. Jörn got a surprise when he bit into a croissant to find it filled with jam. Apparently it wasn't a tasty jam because Jörn proceeded to scrap it out and replace it with Nutella *forehead slap. 

For those American's traveling to Europe, please note that when you have a little bucket on the table it's meant to put all your little breakfast scraps into it to keep the table nice and tidy. 

 For a tidy table... insert butter wrappers etc. here.

For a tidy table... insert butter wrappers etc. here.

We had decided the night before to use the gondola to cut out approximately 710m of elevation gain. The hike would be mostly in the woods with no views of the Mont Blanc. The gondola didn't start running until 9.30 so this was the reason for the later start today. 

9.30 We were first in line for the Dolonne gondola that would take us to Col Chérouit. Actually it was one gondola up to Plan Chérouit then a ski lift to the Col. This was hilarious since neither of us are skiers and we had our packs to also consider. Fortunately there were people on the bottom and top ready for unknowing hikers and were ready to help us get on and off easily. The 5 minute ride on the ski lift was awesome!

Now that we have arrived at the start of the hike we of course had to stop to have a coffee :) There is a refuge at the Col with tables overlooking the valley. I successfully ordered 3 Americano's when I asked for 2, coffee never is wasted so Jörn and I split the third between us. A quick stop to the restroom and we were ready to start the day, at 10.15 (I guess you can call this our 'lazy' day).

10.15 We took off from the refuge and from there to the Alpe supérieure de l'Arp Vieille, a big Spur, was a leisurely panoramic hike with views to the Mont Blanc masiff the whole way. Already we could see a difference on this mountain from previous days because there was lots of skiing infrastructure here. I also believe this is the best hike to see the Mont Blanc. 

On our way we passed a herd of cattle out grazing. It's super funny to watch people try to get around the cows that are standing on the path. First of all, these cows are so used to people they just don't care that you are walking though there space. Second, if they do approach it's because they think you might have something to eat. Either way it's awesome to watch as a girl who grew up on a farm with cows.

12.20 Arriving at the spur several people had already the idea to have a nice break there. Fortunately there was plenty of room for everyone to have some space. While Jörn took panorama photos I did some short videos, one was a Facebook Live video you can find here. We stayed here for about an hour, waiting for the Mont Blanc to come out from behind the clouds that seemed to be pinned to the summit. There would be no luck for us today!

We saw this hand-drawn picture the next day and really had a good laugh.

On the way down from the spur we passed really lush green pastures with creeks running through. Then as we got lower (in altitude) more trees started to appear and different vegetation made for a very interesting walk. 

Up on the spur you can see the Glacier du Miage spilling out into the valley. It doesn't look like a glacier since it's covered with stone. As we neared the valley it was incredible to see the same glacier from below, again, most people walking by it never realize it's a glacier!

We stopped briefly at Lac Combal hut for a drink. It was quite crowded with tourists since it's an easy walk to get there. Many people take the extra step and hike up to see the lake, Lac du Miage, but we saw it already from above so we continued on to where we would spend the night.

16.18 You can see the Refuge Elizabetta long before arriving there. Actually you can see it from Lac Combal! First you need to cross what used to be a huge glacial lake (Lac Combal), now it's only a few small ponds. Then wind up switch-backs to an old army base, Alpe inferieure de la Lee Blanche, which sits just below the Refuge Elizabetta. When we arrived the staff was eating their lunch/dinner before getting started on the dinner for the guests. We waited some time until the manager, Marta, was finished and showed us to our space.

This place was packed! They used every square centimetre possible to sleep people. They had also two shifts for dinner since there wasn't enough room to seat everyone at once. Our sleeping space was next to a group of South Africans, 3 ladies and a gent. They checked in just before us so they were seated at first dinner.

After dinner it's customary to pay for the room and board before going to bed, that way you can leave as early as you like in the morning. They told us a 2 bed room was free since another couple did not show up. We paid 5 bucks more per person and slept in comfort! Our original space was 6 mattresses bumped up against each other so not a lot of wiggle room. Our new beds were awesome and in our own room so we could spread out a bit. When we went to get our stuff the South African's had a mix of 'yeah we get more space to sleep' and 'why did they offer it to you'? I don't know why they offered it to us but I'm glad!

The showers in this place, even when started correctly, were super cold. I can handle the cold but this was like, straight from the glacier cold. Also the space to change is quite small. Keep in mind you need to undress, and redress in the shower cabin since there is no other private space. It's wet, often moldy and small, really small. 

We had SO. MUCH. FUN. on this hike. We chose to start in Switzerland and hike the opposite direction from the norm. This meant that we rarely saw the same people twice. I love long distance hiking and it's a passion of mine to do more of these, soon!