Not only did the impending storm not arrive yesterday afternoon, it also doesn’t arrive overnight as everyone was saying (on further investigation, it was basically just Noam saying this to every single person on the trail and those people repeating it). We wake up to amazing sunshine and clear views of the mountains all around us. Any consideration for the shortcut through the valley to Chamonix is immediately dismissed, and we all ready ourselves for the aggressive climb promised by stage 10.
I’m still walking with Ryan from the UK and Noam from Israel, as yesterday, but we are also joined today by Omer from Israel, so the four of us strike off towards the trail and basically start climbing the second we reach it. I know from yesterday that I struggle to keep up with Ryan, who is nearly a foot taller than me but also just more fit, so I let the guys all charge on and tire themselves out while I just continue at my slow and steady pace.
I eventually pull ahead when we reach the famed ladder section, where a number of metal railings, stairs, and even completely vertical ladders have been installed in the rock to continue the upward climb. All my rock climbing must finally be coming in handy, because I am loving this part of the hike and easily speed past the group. I know they’ll catch me as soon as we are back to a section of steep trail, so I enjoy it while it lasts.
All while climbing up ladders and hopping up metal steps, I’m practically splitting in half I’m smiling so hard at the view of Mont Blanc. I truly can’t believe how phenomenal these final stages are shaping up to be, but also how lucky we got with the weather. Nothing but blue skies and sunshine cheering me through the finish line!
We make phenomenal time to the high point, easily shaving a half hour off the estimated 2.5 hours given on the sign. Here, the path forks, either towards La Flégère, as with the main stage 10 route, or detouring towards the majestic Lac Blanc. The lake only adds about 40 minutes to the trail time, so it’s well worth it in my option—I have every intention of swimming in an alpine lake while I’m here, and Katy and I have already made plans to meet there today, so I actually have no choice (she is taking a cable car from Chamonix, an actual ski lift, and then walking for just a few minutes to reach the lake).
Without much effort, I convince the rest of the group to carry on to the lake as well, and we all set off for another steep climb with more steps and ladders that tires everyone out. That is, until we see the first of the lower lakes, Lac de Cheserys. It’s like we are all brought back to life, buzzing around the lake, snapping photos, crying tears of pure joy (ok, that was just me). We all agree that it’s one of the best views, possibly even the best, we’ve had so far on the whole TMB and the slight detour is immediately worthwhile.
After another 15 minutes of steep climbing, we reach the actual Lac Blanc and sit down to a delicious feast of whatever each person has leftover from yesterday afternoon’s supermarket run. We find Katy pretty quickly and she joins us in time to watch everyone dive into the lake, although she’s not quite sweaty and desperate enough to go in herself. Surprisingly, no one else is swimming, so we attract quite a bit of attention (basically every Asian tourist at Lac Blanc this morning now has a photo of me in the water), but the swim is life changing. Freezing, yes, but I’m already crunchy from dried sweat mixed with dirt, so very needed. It’s been a long time since I swam in an alpine lake, and I miss that crystal clear, subarctic water so much.
We don’t swim for too long before running back out and attempting to dry off. I have to leave my feet out in the sun to dry my blisters back out, and everything needs to be re-bandaged, but it was well worth it.
After more snacking, we all pack up, Katy in tow, and head downhill towards La Flégère, the end of stage 10. Here, we lose Omer, as he decides to take the cable car down to Chamonix, while the rest of the group opts for the 90 minute walk downhill into town. It’s unsurprisingly very steep and really kills my knees and feet, but the promise of finishing the trek keeps me in very high spirits.
When we finally hit Chamonix, I practically shove people aside to get to an ice cream cart and buy a heaping cone of blood orange sorbet. Noam has his heart set on a cheeseburger, so Katy and I agree to meet the guys at Maccas in a few minutes and duck inside a shop to quickly book paragliding, something we’ve been talking about all day. For only 110€, it seems rude not to. We will be setting sail tomorrow afternoon – so stay tuned!
We eventually meet back up with Ryan and Noam, chat for a few minutes, and then we all go our separate ways—Ryan to his campsite in Chamonix, Noam to the bus station to get to Les Houches (he began his hike in Courmayeur, so he still has another few days), and us to find dinner.
Too hungry to be picky, we sit down at the first place we pass and I order fondue. (I fondue, do you? No fondue for you.) It’s everything I ever wanted, and we are soon walking across town to our hostel for that shower I’ve been dreaming about. It feels so good to whip off my boots and peel off my socks for the last time. Well, not entirely, since I’ll be putting the boots back on for paragliding tomorrow, but after that I have every intention of living in my Tevas until my blisters recover.
All day, I have been totally overwhelmed. High on life. This experience has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever undertaken, never having hiked alone or for longer than a few days, but it has been infinitely rewarding. I met the most wonderful people on the trail, saw the most postcard worthy views from my tent, and proved to myself that I really can do anything I set my mind to. This hike is all the more special because I suffered through it and I earned every single second of those views through blood, sweat, and a fair bit of skin. Nothing worth doing is easy! But boy oh boy is the TMB worth doing.
TMB Day 8 stats
Distance covered: 17km
Elevation gain & loss: 760m & 1257m
Trail time: 5.5hrs
Variations: combined stage 10 & 11 into one day, included Lac Blanc variante