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.).