Day 3: Col de la Croix du Bonhomme to Rifugio Elisabetta

Onward to Italy

See our video recap of Day 3 here.

In keeping with our experience at Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme, breakfast consisted of stale bread and jam.  Needless to say, this was less than sufficient to fortify me for what lay ahead.

At this point, TMB hikers have two choices:  to continue along the classic route to Les Chapieux or bypass the village by taking a variante across Col des Fours.  The variante is shorter, and as we were told it’s more scenic, if steeper, we opted to go for it.

The top of the col was ice-covered, which provided an exciting variation we enjoyed with some of our new-found friends.  The views were outstanding and the path was less challenging than I had expected, but despite this, I had a difficult morning.  This leg of the journey took far longer than we anticipated, and my spirits were low.  When we reached Refuge des Mottets, where we stopped for lunch, we caught up with some of our friends and realized we weren’t as far behind as we had thought.  (Of course, it isn’t a race and there is no prize for arriving first at your refuge.  It is, however, dispiriting to lose sight of all those with whom you initially began the day.)

We had a nice lunch of salami and cheese, including Beaufort cheese made in the adjacent La Ville des Glaciers.  After lunch, we had a switchback ascent up to Col de la Seigne, which provides the first look into Italy.  We sheltered ourselves from the wind behind a stone placemarker and enjoyed the view before descending into the valley.

Situated below a dramatic glacier, Rifugio Elisabetta was a welcome sight.  The refuge was warm and inviting.  We were escorted to our beds at the far end of the dortoir and immediately freshened up.  Hot showers are available, though you must purchase a token to activate the hot water and only 35 liters are provided.  Having no concept of how much 35 liters is, I was terrified of running out before my shower was complete and opted to turn off the water as I washed.  Ultimately, I had plenty of hot water to finish my shower and wash my hair.

Afterward, we rewarded ourselves with a pre-dinner snack of our leftover salami and a bottle of wine.  We reconnected with a friend we had met the night before, only to learn he had arrived at the refuge nearly four hours before us!

Living up to our expectations for Italy, Rifugio Elisabetta provided our best dinner on the TMB.  We began with two small pizza squares, followed by a mild Gorgonzola risotto, pork with wine sauce, zucchini and potatoes.  A brownie with whipped cream was served for dessert.

Day 3 involved some mental struggles but ended on a high note.  All in, we hiked for more than 8 hours (8:20 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.).



5 thoughts on “Day 3: Col de la Croix du Bonhomme to Rifugio Elisabetta

  1. Hi Kim! We are in the midst of planning our TMB; we are doing it clockwise instead, but also planning for September (about a week earlier than you did it). I was looking at the Col Des Fours option in the guidebook and figuring out if we should do it; in part it will depend on the weather but I also have a bit of a fear of heights, eek! Were there any spots where it was fairly snowy/slick on an exposed area, or otherwise spots w a narrow path and steep drop below? Also if you have any other thoughts on areas to avoid (we are already planning on avoiding the ladder section) I would be happy for any other tips! Really enjoyed reading through your posts!

    • Hi, Heidi! Thanks for reading! I have no hesitation in recommending the Col des Fours option. It was no more or less challenging than any other portion of the trek. In fact, I had been almost scared into thinking that it was much more challenging, so in that regard, it actually seemed easier! There was a small snow/ice patch at the highest point, but it really wasn’t very big or difficult to navigate. I seem to recall it was quite flat and wide, as well, so even if you slipped, it wouldn’t be a big deal.

      I don’t personally have a fear of heights, so sections of the trek that may stick out in the mind of someone who does probably wouldn’t have a lasting impact on me, so I’m not sure how helpful I can be with regard to this issue. I don’t want to say you will have no problems with it because I just don’t know. You are climbing up and down a col/saddle almost every day, but generally speaking, you’ll be along wide, switchback-like trails. I think there is one small section on the stretch between La Fouly – Champex Lac where you walk along the trail with a sheer drop, but I don’t recall it being particularly daunting. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos to refresh my memory or to share with you.

      I hope this helps! It really is an amazing trek and I’m sure you will love it!

  2. Hello Kim ! Thank you so much for all your blog posts and videos – they have been really useful ! I have managed to book all the accommodation on our TMB trip in July, EXCEPT for the Rifugio Elisabetta, who have not replied to my email, and are not answering their phone. As this stop is quite a critical one, I was wondering whether you can remember how, and in which month, you booked that refuge, and whether they replied very quickly. I am wondering whether they may be closed at the moment and therefore not responding.

    • Hi, Kate! I’m so glad to hear you’ve found the blog useful; I know you’ll have a wonderful trip! I booked Rifugio Elisabetta by sending an inquiry through the contact page of its website. I booked accommodations in early May for our September trip and received confirmation from Elisabetta within two days. The refuge is definitely closed this time of year. According to its website, it won’t open full-time until June but begins weekend operations in May. As it’s quite early yet, I wouldn’t worry too much at this point and follow-up as it gets a bit closer. Let me know if I can help with anything else!

      • Thank you Kim ! I will take your advice then and stop worrying for now ! If I think of any further questions I’ll know where to come !

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