Tuesday, September 19, 2006

August 25th, 2006 Verbier to Cabanne de Louvie
Verbier is actually quite empty for a tourist town but unfortunately in the same building as our hotel is a discoteque. We hear people all thru the night laughing it up below our window. So I guess we can excuse ourselves for getting up at the late hour of 8am. Oops. But no matter. The clothes we washed the night before are dry and it's another beautiful day.

We dress and go down to breakfast (apparently we are the only ones in the hotel). No croissants. I almost cried. Good cereal and hot chocolate but geez! I know it isn't France but NO CROISSANTS? Anyway, after petit dejeuner (breakfast) we requested a picnic lunch for the road. She looked at us like we were speaking another language (Groan laugh). So even better we went to the patisserie (haven't we learned?) and bought sandwiches and treats. I did buy some brioche sucre but I have come to terms with the fact that only the French can do it right.

The gondola ride was lovely. Over trees and a great view of Sembrancher, La Chable, and Verbier. A the top we were happy to see many signs to Cabane de Louvie. Good gamble. Bless the Swiss! Our first stop is the Col Termin. Col means pass so we knew this was a mountain top saddle-ish pass to another view. We were told by Kev AND Olivier that we would most likely see ibex today. Ibex are deer/ram like animals that roam free in the mountains. In fact, they are protected by the government. We were excited.

The trail started out casually. We walked under two gondola cable ways; one to Le Chaux and one to Col de Mont Fort. Then we left the ski path areas and found ourselves crossing boulder fields. Essentially the boulder field is a cascade of boulders with a sometimes you see it, sometimes you don't path. The waymarks are consistent even if you can't see an actual trail. A waymark, if I haven't explained before, is a slash of paint on a rock or tree, usually red and white but sometimes other colors depending on the dominant trail (i.e Mont Blanc circuit). After the boulders the path climbs up on the edge of the mountains. These trails are the kind of lean a little to the right and you will roll to your death trails of which I have seen pictures. Exhilarating mostly but every now and again I would have to go really really slow. I wanted to take a picture every five minutes because I couldn't believe I was accomplishing such dangerous feats. How can this be normal for people? I count the times Shawn would say 'be careful' (I would usually reply 'seriously'). It was absolutely beautiful though. The valleys and the Grand Combin (another intimidating peak). When we walked a dozen grasshoppers would jump out of our path or INTO our path (some casualties). At least ten butterflies were always around (maybe the same stalker butterflies). The higher we got the colder it got but it felt great.

We saw two ibex above us at one point and Shawn tried to get some good pictures but they were just too far away (he would delete these attempts later). Then we reached the Col Termin (2648 meters) and have our lunch -the best ham and cheese sandwiches yet. Awesome. We could see the tip of the Lac du Louvie, green as an emerald (cliche metaphor, sorry---green as my eyes in 7th grade when I wore colored contacts--better?). There were two routes from the Col to the Cabanne. We took the shorter one of course. A familiar pasture switchback descent with our friends the grasshoppers and the butterflies. The descent was steep (see picture above). Then, oh my goodness, ibex! Closer, much closer then before and definitely watching us. I think one ibex even did a proud pose for Shawn's pictures (on a side note--and I'm sorry to be semi graphic here--their poop is everywhere on the trail. It looks like pine cones. Yes, pine cones of poop.).

When I finally drag Shawn away we arrive at the Lac du Louvie. Probably the size of Silver Lake and all green. At the south end is our cabanne (we arrive from the east) so we walk along the lake to get to it. We arrive early. 3pm. The caretaker, a girl in her 20's (we interrupted her on a date apparently), showed us around. Dormitories, one bathroom, and dinner was at 7pm (long wait, we think). We made a mistake by not claiming out beds straightaway. We had left our packs on the porch when four guys from the Netherlands arrived and snagged the best beds. C'est la vie. We talked to them a bit. They were climbing the peaks in the area. Climb not hike. Actually they were done and returning to their normal lives the next day. Crampons, ice aces, the whole thrill deal. They showed us on our map where they had been and we showed them where we came from. I want to say they were impressed but maybe I'm just projecting. I'm impressed.

We hung out outside but when you aren't doing strenuous things it's cold. We are still in a high elevation. It's 45 degrees or so (just guessing). Then five Swiss people arrive. Their leader (and I say this because he really seemed to be) asks me in French if I'm cold. I say 'very', etc., brief chat in French but somehow I knew HE knew English and he was testing my French. I just started speaking English. Who needs a test? I'm on vacation. He was probably in his late 50's and a Swiss man but I felt like I had met him before or someone like him. Sounds weird, doesn't it? Later, before dinner, he introduces himself officially to Shawn and I and invites us to have some of his REGIONAL white wine. How nice. We end up sitting at the same table with him and his four companions (also all in their 50's). His friends don't speak English as well as he does and therefore I think shy to try. He does most of the talking and when I understand some of the French I translate for Shawn. Jean-Marie is his name. It turns out that the five of them take a walking tour the last weekend of every August since they were kids together (15 years old, I think). So cool.

Sinner is soup, veggie medley (peas and I ate them too! Shocked, Mom?), cooked ham, and potatoes au gratin. I wasn't very good but both Shawn and I were so hungry we totally ate it all - actually Shawn had third helpings. We chatted with the Swiss but after dinner I wanted to leave them alone. I felt that they needed time to enjoy one another and Jean-Marie was paying us a lot of attention.

We went up to the rec room but it was no use. 9pm and we couldn't stay up any longer. The lovely Netherland guys were getting up at 6am so we arranged to have our breakfast at the same time. We put our ipods on and went to sleep.

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