By the time I wake up in the yurt, one of the friends I met on the trail last night has already hit the road, having quite a distance to cover today on his bike, and my other new hiking friend, Noam, heads off shortly after while I’m still sitting outside, enjoying the beautiful sunny morning, and trying to catch up on some of my writing. My French friends Phillip & Co. from day 2 come past around 1030am while I’m still sitting and relaxing, so I figure it’s probably time to get a move on myself.
Still, it’s 11am before I’m actually fully packed, with my bloody feet bandaged, and on the trail. The first hour and a half of the day is just downhill to La Fouly, where stage 6 ends, and it’s a pretty comfortable start to what should be an easy day, many thanks to the extra distance I covered last night. My blisters appear to have dried out overnight and I’m in less pain than usual as I gallop down the hill, so spirits are quite high.
After descending the hill into La Fouly, the trail follows along the road for a few hours, which is unpleasant on the feet, but the towns I pass through are actually super cute and so Swiss that it distracts me from my pain (mostly).
Finally, the route turns up into a wooded area, and the remaining few hours are through trees, across rivers, and along a rolling dirt trail. Despite being the easiest stage of the whole TMB, I am still struggling a bit up the hills. The primary culprit is the blister farm on my feet, so I try to push on by envisioning the comfort of sandals that I’ll get to enjoy at the campsite in Champex.
I cross paths for a few minutes with an older Belgian man, who asks questions about my hike and shares some stories of his own. He is hiking alone after his wife had to go to hospital to have holes drilled in several toenails because of blisters, something I didn’t even know was possible. Certainly puts my own blisters, however awful they are, in perspective!
The last hour to Champex is fairly steep and seems to go on forever, especially to someone who already wants to saw their feet off. The uphill climb is lightened by a collection of animal wood carvings every 10 minutes or so, but the pain in my boots has magnified and I am struggling to carry on. Thank goodness I had the foresight to do the bulk of the extra walking yesterday, because I genuinely don’t think my feet could do 3 more hours today.
I am so excited to come over a hill and emerge into Champex-Lac! The route winds for another 10 minutes along a dirt trail before I pop out in earnest, but the sight of the gorgeous Lac de Champex is a delightful surprise. I would hop in immediately if I weren’t so hungry, having foolishly not eaten since breakfast in an effort to power through. Just as I sit down on a bench by the lake to pull out my book and navigate to the campsite, Ryan, the English guy that hiked with me and the Canadian girls on the afternoon of our descent into Corumayeur, appears. Turns out he took a much-needed rest day in Champex today, which is how our schedules have matched up again after my (accidental) day off in Courmayeur a few days ago.
We walk together to the campsite, passing by the supermarket for me to buy baguettes, fromage de chèvre (you better believe I learned how to say goat cheese in every language), nectarines, and some sausage. After paying the 15sfr for camping, I pitch my tent next to a lovely Korean girl, Pudem (which is probably an atrocious spelling, but you get the gist of it), and whip my hiking boots off to survey the damage. I am not prepared for what I find.
Not only have all the existing blisters dramatically worsened, I have actually developed a monster blister under my toenail. The timing is absolutely ridiculous. I can’t believe that just hours ago I heard about this exact thing and said “I didn’t even know that could happen!”. My life is like an incredibly well-planned novel, the foreshadowing was almost too obvious..
Pudem offers me bandages, but I don’t think anything can help this situation. The blister has lifted the whole toenail away from my toe and I’m honestly surprised the nail hasn’t come off yet. Surely it’s only a matter of time.. After a lot of staring at it (I just can’t look away, I’m mesmerised by how disgusting it is), and a fair bit of forcing other people to stare at it (“Hey, Ryan, wanna see something fucked up?”), I set up the tent and walk down to the office to see if Katy has arrived. Sure enough, she’s just paying and we walk back to the tent together, where I also (surprise) force her to sit and inspect the blister at length. She is amazed I am still walking, which makes me feel heaps better about the struggle I’ve had today, like maybe it wasn’t just me being a baby.
After a shower, I pop all my blisters (including the toenail blister, which deflates at alarming speed and shoots fluid in all directions― you’re welcome for that mental image) and then get into the tent barefoot to let them dry out overnight, as per Eileen’s recommendation. I have a second dinner of baguette, sausage, and cheese before passing out and dreaming of blister-free feet and a short hike tomorrow.
TMB Day 5 stats
Distance covered: 24km
Elevation gain & loss: 465m & 1465m
Trail time: 5.5hrs
Variations: combined part of stage 6 & stage 7 into one day
Campsite: Camping Les Rocailles in Champex (15sfr)