Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bourg-St Pierre to Col du Gran San Bernardo June 25

                                                                        Current Day                       Trip to Date

Distance walked- miles.                                      9.4.                                     572.5

Gross Climb-feet.                                              3960                                   48,704

Song of the Day:  the Weight by the Band

I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin' about half past dead

"Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?"

He just grinned and shook my hand, "no" was all he said

Once again, the weather gods are looking down upon us!  It rained last night.  A lot.  When we left our hotel this morning, it was overcast and relatively cool at 50 degrees, but not raining.  And once again, within 30 minutes of arriving at our destination, it was raining. Cold, hard rain, temperature in the high 30's.  But, we are safely ensconced in the Hospice du San Bernardo.  More about that later. 

Today was a very, very challenging walk.  Aside from the climb of almost 4000 feet over 9 miles at an altitude of 8000 feet, the footing was a real problem.  Much of the time we were walking over very rocky, uneven and wet surfaces.  Toward the end, some of the walk was up the side of a mountain on snow.  We are probably lucky neither one of us suffered a heart attack today!

Another interesting experience today was the number of "alpages" that we encountered.  Alpages are temporary pastures used in the summertime.  In the winter, the cows graze at the lower altitudes, but in the summer, they are taken to higher altitudes.  The farmers then establish a temporary fence, often electric.  These alpages often encompass the trail, and so we sometimes found ourselves in this situation:

One challenge is when you need to exit the alpage.  Usually we just crawled over or under the fence.  However, one time I decided to lift it up for Linda to give her more room....a mistake for both of us!  It was electric and as soon as I picked it up, I dropped it...on Linda's neck!  Fortunately, it was a mild shock for us.  As they say in sports, no harm, no foul.

The landscape for the first two hours was similar to the past few days- very green, lots of trees, etc.  and then, we rose above the tree line and the lansdscape was almost lunar like.  

There was water everywhere, as the snow continues to melt and streams poured off the mountain.  We are very glad that we have waterproof hiking shoes.  Our shoes have a gortex lining which gives them protection from water.  It also makes them a little heavier, and also much hotter on warm days.  But today, they were a godsend.

A few notes about where we are staying tonight. The Grand-Saint-Bernard Hospice was formed in 1050 by Bernard, the Archdeacon of Aosta.  Its purpose was to protect travelers crossing the Alps.  It is believed to be the longest continuous serving hospice in the world and is run today by a group of Monks and Priests.  The hospice includes the lodging facilities, a church, a museum and a few shops.  There are something like 140 beds in the hospice, with most rooms having beds.  Linda and I are fortunate- we are in a room with 4 beds and have no roommates.  There are a couple of common shower and bathroom areas.  I just took a shower, and amazingly enough, it was one of the best showers we have had on the trip!  However, you have to bring your own towels.  Linda had bought us a couple of traveler towels that are about the size of a dish towel, but made out of a chamois like material (I can hear that Billy whatever his name is on the informercials - "call today, get the Chamwaw towel!")  We have not had to use them so far, but they came in very handy today!  At 6:15, we went to a mass in the church- it was packed!   We suffered on two counts- we don't understand the Catholic mass process and the ceremony was in French. But it was interesting for us to experience this.

This area is also famous for a couple of other things.  Napolean brought an army of 40,000 soldiers through here in 1810.  And, it is famous for the St Bernard rescue dogs.  We went to the museum here and they had a few St Bernard's  on display (this is actually a live dog, just sitting very still):

Here is a photo of the area toward Italy from the hospice.  The other end of this lake is the Italian border:

A couple of catch up items that I forgot over the past few days.  Two days ago, we tried our first Swiss fondue.  It was actually quite good.  I hope to have it again before we leave. Another item on the food front.  You might recall that I described a certain, peculiar hot dog machine when we attended the music festival in Monthey last Saturday.  Yesterday, we walked by a restaurant near where we were staying, and they were so proud of their machine that they put a photo of it in their window.  Now you all can see why I was so excited about this machine last week!

Tomorrow we have a 19 mile walk, with a drop almost 6000 feet in elevation, which will be a record for us.   These kinds of walking days can be difficult on the feet and knees, so we will have to be careful. I'm hoping the trail is not as rough as it was today.  It will probably be 35 degrees when we leave, but likely will be in the high 70's by the time we reach Aosta, our destination.  The walk over the Alps has really been a treat for us, and we are very glad we took this extra time to do this portion of the trip.  


  1. Yeah congrats on reaching the peak

  2. Wow! What an incredible journey. I am stunned by the distance, altitude, and terrain. You guys are awesome!!