In early September, my spouse and I accomplished the Mont Blanc to the Mediterranean mountaineering journey—our twelfth journey with Wilderness Journey. We had accomplished a number of journeys within the mountains of Europe, together with the Nice Alpine Traverse. Nevertheless, this was the primary journey that required a permission slip from our physician to take part. We questioned why… now we all know. It’s a fantastic journey, stuffed with nice sights and large surroundings of the French Alps. However it is usually a really demanding journey, mountaineering 8 to 10 hours nearly day-after-day and at all times requiring a major uphill climb within the morning, adopted by an equal descent within the afternoon. It’s an important journey that may get you into form.
We had been amazed within the change in surroundings because the journey progressed over 12 days mountaineering by three nationwide parks. In the beginning, we had been surrounded by snow-capped peaks with deep inexperienced valleys. The nearer we bought to the Mediterranean, nonetheless, the land turned extra arid and the hills had been dotted with olive bushes. Throughout our hikes, we handed by quite a few hovering peaks, mountain lakes, dashing streams and waterfalls. Every day gave us many stunning views!
Our journey was headed by two very skilled guides—Stephan Renard and Clive Roberts. We had by no means traveled with both of them, however rapidly grew keen on their guiding type. Stephan is a fun-loving Frenchman and Clive is an equally enjoyable Irishman. They seem to get alongside effectively with one another and had an incredible rapport with us. We realized lots from these two “characters”, together with a few of the historical past of the Alps, together with the ever-changing border with Italy and the defenses arrange and battles fought through the conflict.
We at all times pay shut consideration to the advisable packing listing earlier than we begin a visit, as we desire to not over-pack. However on this case, we had been glad we paid consideration as a result of I believe we wore/used nearly every thing in our suitcases.
The climate within the Alps may be excessive, so sure, we would have liked our raincoats and fleece jackets, however we additionally wanted our shorts, bandanas, and t-shirts. Of the 12 mountaineering days, we had excellent, sunny climate for 9 of them. The opposite 3 days had been a bit of “iffier”, however we solely wanted our mountaineering umbrella for certainly one of them. Stephan and Clive indicated that you simply by no means know in regards to the climate, however they’ve run the journeys many occasions with none climate points.
One morning, we did try to drive over the Col de La Bonette, the best paved highway within the Alps (8,907 ft), however the guides correctly determined to not end the try because it began snowing close to the highest and the roads had been getting a bit slick. We rapidly headed in the direction of decrease floor.
The meals and wine all through the journey was superb. As a result of we had been primarily in small cities and villages, we ate easy and hearty meals – beef, lamb, rooster, and trout. Generally we ordered off the menu and different occasions the meal was primarily based on what the restaurant was cooking that day. Most had been very quaint locations, however all had been superb. Two of our favourite meals had been a raclette dinner in Pralognan-La-Vanoise (a wedge of cheese is steadily melted at your desk and poured over your plate of potatoes, onions and prosciutto), and a pizza dinner at Le Vieux 4 in St-Martin-Vesubie. The pizza restaurant was in a slender, stone-walled constructing in a bit of village. We had been instantly greeted by Alain, the very gregarious proprietor, as if we had been lengthy misplaced family. He made nice particular person pizzas in a wood-fired oven—smiling, laughing and speaking the entire time.
The meals on the hikes was additionally superb. Relying on the day, we both stopped at a refuge (often close to the highest of one of many passes) or carried picnic lunches.
At one refuge, 4 of us ordered the identical “home” omelette. As a substitute of 4 omelettes, they introduced out one big omelette—it needed to be the world’s largest! I’m positive it was 36” throughout and 4” tall—made with a minimum of 20 eggs. They will need to have been hiding an enormous frying pan within the again! We had been so shocked by the scale that nobody thought to take a photograph.
We had been fortunate sufficient to view a small Beaufort cheese-making operation earlier than certainly one of our morning hikes.
We simply occurred to park proper subsequent to the constructing and Stephan and Clive observed that they had been simply separating the curds from the whey and shaping a cheese wheel. Nice timing!
As you could know, there’s not a lot wildlife on this a part of Europe. Certain, we handed many cows and sheep on our hikes (typically proper on the path), and heard and noticed many marmots, however only a few different animals.
However in the direction of the tip of the journey we did run throughout a gaggle of six male ibex with their giant, curved horns. Later, we noticed a number of chamoix within the Vallee des Merveilles within the Mercantour Nationwide Park.
On the finish of the final hike as we approached the Mediterranean, we had been greeted by Clive, who was driving the van that day. He pulled out a bottle of champagne as a celebration.
It was a pleasant conclusion to an important journey.
In fact, that was adopted shortly thereafter by a plunge into the ocean—proper throughout the road from our lodge in Menton.