I’ve been hearing from several people that a thunderstorm is supposed to roll in around 4pm this afternoon, so I’m up and active earlier than usual today. The two hiking friends I camped with last night, Noam and Ryan, are planning to leave early as well, so we all set off just past 9am to try and get to camp in Tré-Le-Champ well before the rain starts.
Since we are getting on the trail at Le Peuty, the route begins climbing quite quickly and is immediately exhausting. We walk for about 1.5 hours basically straight up through the forest to reach the Col de Balme, which marks the border between Switzerland and France, and then enjoy a lengthy rest chatting to people we recognise from our camp last night.
Most of the walk up to the Col, I am trailing behind by about 10m because my legs are simply not as long as the boys’ and I’m also aching from my feet blisters, so I am happy for the breather at the top of the pass. I’m also excited that the hike today is quite short since we are only aiming to get to Tré-Le-Champ for the night. Despite their fast pace, it’s still nice to be walking with people, as I’ve been on my own for a few days and hiking chatter makes the time pass quicker.
Once we decide to continue on from the pass, we have about 20 minutes of downhill and then a brief stint of up and down before even steeper downhill all the way to our camp. The whole time, from when we arrive at the Col and all the way down the mountain, we are treated to incredible views of Mont Blanc as the clouds shift to the side.
The day is still quite young when we arrive at Tré-le-champ and start searching for a campsite. Fairly quickly, we find a gorgeous spot in the garden at the Auberge la Boerne for 8€, but we drop our things and sprint off to the supermarket in Argentière before we even set up the tents. The walk is about 15 minutes down a steep forest track and then we bee-line to the supermarket in town, where we go absolutely nuts. No one has eaten since breakfast, and even that was quite light, so we are all famished. I buy a baguette, goat cheese, sausage, and some sort of tomato salsa to make a tasty sandwich, plus a couple of peanut butter cups for my sugar craving, chocolate bread rolls, some Orangina, and a bottle of red wine. The whole spree comes to 19€, but I’m so happy to have all these treats that it’s worthwhile.
Before we even ascend back up the hill, I wolf down the chocolate and drink a good portion of my Orangina. The walk back to the campsite is positively exhausting, straight up this narrow trail with a heavy shopping bag, but we eventually arrive and just throw ourselves into the grass to devour our lunches.
After my feast, I have a much-needed shower and then get into the red wine as the group gathers around to discuss our countries, our travels, and all sorts of world issues. There are 3 Israelis, 1 Brit, an American couple, and me, representing Australia. Even in such a diverse group, it’s incredible to recognise the similarities between people from all over the world, especially as we are all struggling towards a common goal and are sharing so many of the same magical experiences.
What strikes me most is the willingness to help one another. Tackling a relatively hard hike like the TMB, you feel an immediate kinship with everyone you pass on the trail, like we all understand and respect one another even if we’re complete strangers. The American couple, whom I had only just met hours before, gave me a huge handful of blister bandages earlier today, as well as their entire tube of antiseptic, and it’s little kindnesses like this that really make me appreciate mountain people. They are not like ordinarily people. They say “hello” (or “bonjour”, as it may be) to everyone they pass, they happily give away their own things just to help someone else, they offer to share their food even when they have little.. If only we could all be mountain people.