Day 8 - Rain, Rain, Go Away

We’re last to leave the hotel, and the sun is shining on us. The high route, we’ve all concluded, is for the birds. Our walk takes us straight into the forests, and immediately we hear thunder. Clouds gather, the first drops fall, and we pull on our waterproofs. Down it comes, straight as stair-rods. We’re going to sweat inside the Goretex, and all we can do is plod along.

The rumbles continue in the distance. We wonder how the Party of Five are enjoying the high route. We rise steadily out of the forest, through scrubby woodland and azalea bushes that clothe the rugged slopes, and up to the rocky and turbulent crossings of the steep tributary streams of the Durnand de la Jure. The final climb to the 1900m contour is steep and irregular, muddy and arduous, but we have attained the fitness to complete it with little more than a puff, a pant and a curse.

The path levels out and passes through beautiful meadows of wild flowers. Across the valley through breaks in the mist we see the lower mountains to the north east. Martin takes a photo of Alec in his waterproofs for transmitting to drought-stricken Australia. A farmer strides through his field, sensibly clad in boots, shorts, vest and open cape. The chalet of Bovine appears, and the heavens open with a vengeance. Picnic eaters dive for shelter, and we find some respite under the eaves.

When the rain eases and walkers emerge to continue their progress, we go inside. It is a remarkable place. In the far corner, a family group sit at a table enjoying a knife-and-fork meal. Elsewhere, walkers eat their packed lunches, supplemented or not by drinks and food ordered from the two young people who are slaving hard to satisfy their customers. We cram ourselves behind a table and consume café au lait and chocolate cake. Mark and Robyn join us. She isn’t the happiest bunny on the mountain: the climb and the weather seem to have got to her.

We soon feel that the decent thing to do is move on and let others take our seats. It’s a short uphill walk to the high point of our day at Portalo (2049m) where the rain redoubles its efforts to wash us off the mountain. We descend steadily through the forests. The path is awash, and everybody is intent on getting the walk finished. We brush with the main road at Col de la Forclaz and follow an irrigation ditch before a steep zigzag takes us down into the valley at Trient, where the Relais de Mont Blanc awaits our arrival.

Now you can say what you will, but, at the end of a wet day, nothing beats a dry clean bedroom, a hot shower and good drying facilities. Give me that, and I’ll not draw attention to any shortcomings. The Relais is a glorified youth hostel, and our party probably has the best rooms, others being allocated dormitory beds. The common room serves good beer and shows the Wimbledon Men’s Final on TV. Dinner is nourishing, and even Bill and Martin eat their fill. From this unusual paragraph you will guess that not every member of the Sherpa party is satisfied with this overnight stop, but I notice that some of the pack mules standing outside are displaying very healthy erections, so at least somebody/something felt happy.

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