Friday 31 August 2012

TMB Day 7 - Refugio Elaina

Pissing down today so on with the full gortex. Luckily we had scheduled a really short day so we arrived at Elaine by lunch after a leisurely stroll up a valley with minimal ascent/descent.

Before we left Bonatti we observed the helicopter resupplying of the Refugio. The pilot drops off loads swung under the chopper on a cable. With great speed and precision three loads were dropped then the pilot landed for a coffee and chat in the Italian tradition while the staff hurriedly square away all the supplies.

Thursday 30 August 2012

TMB Day 6 - Refugio Bonatti

A punishing 3hrs climb to col de Sapin from Courmayeur. Half way up and in between gasping for air I was lucky enough to spot an Ibex (mountain goat/deer thingy) briefly before it heard me and buggered off. The trail was decked with wild blueberry looking things but fearing a rerun of "Into the wild" I didn't sample them.

After a quick bite we set of down hill then back up again to col de . For days now I've been trying to see a marmot. You can here them squeaking all around but not easy to spot. That was untill now. The tramp down to Refugio Bonnatti passed through a broad wrinkled meadow that was positively in feared with Marmots going about their Marmot ways. I lost count of how many I saw but I was so absorbed I took us on a little detour to an un mapped hut thinking it was the Refugio. As small
Course correction saw us at Refugio Bonattii soon after. This is reportedly the best Refugio in Europe and was extremely well run, clean, and comfy. Unfortunately we had a dorm room so we received another gentle reminder that we humans are all ultimately selfish beings.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

TMB Day 5 - Rest Day

Pretty knackered today so just chillin in Courmayer. Hit the gear shops, caught up on email, washed clothes (which after 6mths are getting a bit gross) blogged, charged phones kindles etc

Found a good restaraunt and ate there again tonight.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

TMB Day 4 - Courmayeur

Wow the black dog must be off chasing the cows with bells on as today I'm really enjoying the views and just being here. After leaving Refugio Elizabetta we walk as close as we'll get to Mont Blanc just 2000m up a moraine, glacier, rock wall and snow domed peak and we'd be at the top.

A gentle down hill gave way to another grueling 500m ascent followed by a (relatively) even contouring slog past endless photo opps and clanging cow bells untill a spectacular beer garden type Refugio where lunch and a beer was inhaled.

The rest of the day to Courmayer was almost too painfully recall. A very steep descent into the valley with endless switchbacks, steps and dusty chutes. The knees and Achilles were at breaking point but if the pain was ignored the fir tree'd path was cool and tranquil (I think).

At last Courmayeur or at least it's out skirts. A few more meters and some directions from the tourist info place saw us tucked up in our hotel.

Rested and hungry we hobbled back into town for an overpriced dinner. The food options in Courmayer are very limited. I guess most people eat in their hotels.

Oh and as you can see by the bins were in Italy still.

Monday 27 August 2012

TMB Day 3 - Refugio Elizabetta

Today's walk was largely up hill climbing around 1400m. Ouch!

Along a road for an hour to Refuge de Mottets for an early lunch of soup. Then up to Col de la Seigne 2516m which sees us cross into Italy. So it's mt Blanco for a while.

I like climbing but i do find these ascents really taxing more so than I'd expected. I've done a lot of walking and at higher altitudes but I think it's the steepness of the ground (ie inclined not steps) that's the difference.

I'm also still not appreciating the vistas as I should. Don't get me wrong they are spectacular magazine stuff and in my favorite of all settings ie alpine. But, these last days I've lost my "give a shit" and I think the black dog has enthusiastically come along for the ride (it is Europe after all and they all seem to take dogs with them walking or to restaurants)

Refugio Elizabetta is in a beautiful setting below mont Blanc (photo) and served a great meal. The cold shower with blocked drain was a little challenging.

Sunday 26 August 2012

TMB Day 2 - Le Chapeux

Flat and cool along the then up up up 400m ( bloody hot) to Cascade de Combe Noir(photo) then Chalet de Nant Borant for an early lunch (Photo).

The second half of the day was all climbing up to col de la Croix du Bonhomme at 2479m where we past a Refugio that we had chosen not to stay at rather we descended for two hours to les Chapieux and the Refugio de la nova.

Guide Book fuck up no 2.
We arrived at the Refugio de la Nova only to find they didn't have our booking. This is a building in the middle of nowhere with no other options. Turns out the guide book had the number of this Refugio wrong and we had instead booked the Refugio 2hrs back up the hill. There was no way we could climb that. The Refugio people were really helpful. They managed to find us a tiny old caravan in the camp ground that some local owned, gave us blankets and fed us in there lodge.

Saturday 25 August 2012

TMB (Tour Du Mont Blanc) Day 1- les Contamines

Starting from Les Houches we had the first inkling that the guide book may need a little work. The very first instruction was to turn right at a hotel which was close but it was actually supposed to be left... mmm.

We also got a taste of the ascents as first thing we climbed 600m to col de Voza then down via Le Champel to our first night in les Contamines.

All a blur really, it's like I'm not experiencing it, may be its the effort, the black dog or just an unreal sensation of being amongst this coffe table book scenery.

Friday 24 August 2012

Chamonix - Prep

Had a couple of days in Chamonix to get ready for the Tour du Mont Blanc. This is a gear shop paradise so spent hours looking at stuff I didn't need.

There is so much climbing to be do e here both rock and mountain. It deserves a good few weeks.

I did however find maps, hydration gear and book a couple of mountain huts (refugios) etc so ready to go now.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Geneva-Chamonix just

Day of traveling today, very dull until after four trains we arrived at Gatwick only to discover we had tickets from Heathrow, Bugger. It was then far from dull trying to make our flight, but a million pound taxi did the trick and a few hours later we were in Geneva catching a bus to Chamonix.

Check the view from our balcony, that's Mont Blanc, sweet.

Monday 20 August 2012


After a sea day cruising from Bergin to Dover our 3207NM(5940km) floating nursing home tour of Norway has come to an end. A most enjoyable way to see the Norwegian intricate coast and fiords.

We are now settled in folks tone for the night as we fly out of Gatwick tomorrow for Geneva for our Tour Du Mont Blanc adventure.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Norway - Bergen

Bergen was a bit overcast and rainy. So we did not take the train to Voss to see the scenery rather we hung around in the town.

Best coffee so far in Norway in the Little Coffee Company (photo little white shop). The brygen old warf warehouse district was the most interesting with incredibly skewed wooden buildings and narrow ally's. Nestled on one of these ally's we visited the "Theta" group museum a little one room museum actually the secret room where the ww2 Theta resistance group operated radios to inform the allies of the German shipping movements and to supply restance fighters.

Friday 17 August 2012

Norway - Alesund

After cruising all night we spent the day in Alesund.

A small coastal town claiming to be the adventure capital of Norway. This I doubt as all towns seem to have kayaking, fiords, walking, skiing etc. It's a bit like NZ where every duck pond now has jetboat rides and anything taller than a tree now has a bungy. Not much adventure for us as it was raining and oz is pretty good for all that stuff anyway.

Wandered the streets, sat in cafes, etc etc.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Norway - Trondheim

Trondheim today. Spent the day pottering around this little town with a walk up to the fort on the hill that saw the execution of resistance fighters during ww2.

Visited the cathedral, the old town and numerous design shops.This is a bicycle crazy town they're everywhere even the cobbled streets have a little smooth section to make cycling more comfy.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Norway - Sea Days

Just spent two days cruising south through the passages and fiords on our way to Trondheim.

Hours of just watching the scenery go by. Little brightly painted houses on green and rocky land edging down to the pond like water. Basically I just read, slept (hence the photo of our cabin) and worked through the cocktail menu.

At 11:30 the first night we passed into a very narrow fiord (Trollfjiord) which was so narrow there was only about 6 meters clearance either side. Tried to capture it in the attached photo but the scale was way more impressive with vertical walls either side and the snow capped mountains eerily lit by the perpetual sunset glow of midnight sun. Once in the fiord the ship had to turn on its axis using its thrusters to escape back to the passage. Apparently we were fortunate as many ships are too large to enter.

Day two brought more sloth, gluttony and beautiful scenery. Interestingly the mostly glorious sunshine was mixed with the odd bank of fog tha dropped visibility to about 20m for an hour at a time. Very unnerving traveling through such dense fog in narrow waters. At one of the foggy point (about midday) we past back accord the arctic circle (the island with the globe marker bellow). The ship celebrated this with a "crossing the arctic circle party" where they threw the officers into the pool made them kiss fish and (in British tradition) used this as an excuse to frock up and execute an unattractive drag act. What is it with the Poms?Some throw back from the military traditions and there appallingly unfunny music hall I expect.

Monday 13 August 2012

Norway - Honningsvaag - Nordkapp

Traveling up through the Fiords during the evening I enjoyed a cigar on the poop deck whilst watching the world go by in the midnight sun. I even set the GPS alarm to get up around 1pm to watch us travel under a bridge that was soon low the ship had to lower it's mast to fit under.

After not much sleep at all I awoke too the announcement we had docked in Honingsvaag. This town is a bit low key but really it's main business is the port nearest Nordkapp, arguably the furthest most place on the European mainland. I say arguably as of course it's not but there is a big investment in the centre at Nordkapp so why let the truth get in the way of a few bucks.

We all pilled into busses to travel
The 45 min to Nordkapp. On route we saw heards of wild reindeer grazing (very cool) and also got a chance to stop at a touristy "Sami" camp (the indigenous people in these parts) to take photos of this poor old bastard that stands in the one spot all day sporting traditional costume with his pet reindeer so we punters can take photos.

Nordkapp had impressive scenery but the tourist bunker extravaganza is just that.

In the arvo we wandered around town sniffing out wifi and coffee. Then later popped into the "ice bar" (see photos) which sounded crap but was quite fun for a place that didn't serve alcohol.

We left Honningsvaag around 9pm and sailed out and around the Nordkapp so we could see where we had stood earlier today. Sailing around the Northern most point was more impressive than driving there.

The reindeer were by far my favorite bit . Their fur is so soft and dense. No wonder arctic explorers used to sleep on and under it.
Sami Stunt Man
Ice Bar
Reindeer (Obviously)
Nordkapp edge of Europe
Sleigh and antlers on way to Nordkapp
Stylish and wearable sleeping bag
Nordkapp from the Ship as we sailed past