Tuesday, September 26, 2006

August 27th, 2006 Cabane de Prafleuri to Cabane des Dix

My aplogies for the delay in this post. My excuse...Furious Theatre's Grace.

We woke up at 6:30am, this Sunday morning. We sleep a lot on this trip. Last night we went to bed at 9pm (although lights out are always at 10pm). We got ready-no showers-and enjoyed our no-croissant-again breakfast. Cereal, bread and rasberry jam, hot chocolate, coffee. We always eat as much as we can manage.

This morning we sat with the 3 Brits: Sara, Jo, and Chris. Sara and Jo were from London and they come out to the Alps every year. They had been around for a week already but invited Chris, Sara's brother, to join them for the weekend. Chris' knees were apparently bothering him pretty bad so Shawn offered him a leg wrap, Advil and knee brace (we have 2 of each). He happily accepted the leg/knee support but no Advil. He had never heard of Advil and probably thought it was morphine (we are such drug users, us Americans). We had a nice chat actually and ended up running into them throughout the walk to Cabane des Dix.

The weather was a little better. You could see forty feet in front of you although it was still snowing. We knew we had to be careful but it was --compared to other hikes--an easy walk today. One easy col (Col de Roux), walk 5 level kilometers along a lake and then up and around the Tete Noir (Black Head). Kev said it would only take 4 1/2 hours.

The family went home and the Brits had already left before Shawn and I stepped out into the snow. It was exciting actually. I mean geez, it's August! We were all bundled up in our rain gear. The German Swiss were right behind us on the trail with their cocker spaniel. The dog would race up to us during our ascent to the col and run back down to them (I was exhausted watching him). I'm no a fan of ascents but knowing these tall Swiss people were behind us I pushed it all the way up. Peer pressure. At the top we let them pass us (they WERE really fast). Then we descend. It wasn't as foggy on this side of the col and we could see the Lac de Dix - it's 5 kilometers long and probably a kilometer wide, Rosablanche (the other side from days ago), and a multitude of peaks. Even with the overcast sky and the snow it all looked brilliant.

We descended, crossed some glacier run-off streams and met up with the Brits at The Refuge La Barma. Shawn refilled his 'bladder' with potable water and we were off again (Brits left first). It wasn't long till we were stopped by this Swiss man and his son to show us a marmot nearby. He had sweet binocs and he let us borrow them to get a closer look. Marmots are actually a lot bigger then I thought. For days now we have seen glimpses of them and heard their whistle. This one was so close. It looked like a cross between a ferret and a groundhog. Very cool. Cool for us to see and cool to see a father sharing that with his son.

After that we walked a bit till we were hailed by Jo. He wanted us to see the Col de Reitmatten, the pass we might take the next day on our way to Arolla. Then we just walked with all of the Brits for the rest of the way along the lake. He's an architect and when I tell him I'm an actor he actually says the typical "I should have known since you're from LA." Even in London they think that! He doesn't see theatre in London -maybe Tom Stoppard- because you can always run into shit, so he avoids it. He's never heard of Martin McDonnaugh. A shame. I liked Jo. He was kind of a Hermione know-it-all but it was funny in a way I was familiar with. His girlfriend, Sara, was so genuinely nice-and teased him with grace. We had a good time in their company.

Shawn and I seperated from them on the trail head to Cabane des Dix. We wanted to see the suspension bridge (even though Jo said it '"isn't worth a photo" and Sara said that's because Jo is "an architect snob"). We walked down to where the trial was suppose to be but it was completely sealed off. Strange. Jo and Sara had walked across it the previous week! Maybe some Swiss guy saw the Americans coming and hurried to seal it off.

We turned back around and went up the trail we passed earlier. There was one spot where they were chains because the path was so eroded and you would probably FALL TO YOUR DEATH if you didn't use them. I'm always a little tense at these moments but Shawn goes up like he's just ascending stairs. No problem. Then we run into the Brits again and have lunch. Worst purchased picnic lunch yet. Two pieces of bread, slab of cheese, stick of meat (althought the meat was pretty great), and a MARS bar. A MARS bar? It's kind of annoying to get American products.

It started raining/snowing in earnest during lunch so we hurried and booked it outta there. Again the Brits had already left but we passed them and traveled up to the pass on the Tete Noir. Still snowing a lot and it really made the Tete Noir look cool. It really is a black mini mountain with two man made crosses on the top. When we got to the summit we could see a sweet view of Mont Blanc de Cheilon. Magnificent. Oh, and we could see the rustic Cabane des Dix. Also well situated with a great view of the mountain and the glacier coming from the mountain. It was extremely windy there too -and cold but we were in high spirits. Sights we had never seen and such a long time since we had been in snow like this. It felt epic.

Then down to the Cabane--or rather down, then up because the Cabane was on top of a rocky knoll. Strategic, I'm sure, because if an avalanche happened from Mont Blanc de Cheilon it would knock the Cabane over if it was simply on the base of the mountain. This way it had a fighting chance. The Cabane itself was nice--all polished wood inside and warm. The innkeeper knew French, German, and English and a completely friendly guy. He gave us free drinks because he had to run up the trail to give a traveler his forgotten wallet. So nice. And on a side note, the best whistler I have ever heard! We were shown to our dormitory and now being experts we staked our bed claim by the window. The innkeeper said that only 12 would be staying at the Cabane and he would only put 3 more in our room--turns out the Brits would be our bunk neighbors.

We went downstairs to plan our next days (not before I stuck my head out of the window to comically greet the Brits) journey. The main dining room/hall/rec room was cozy. The Cabane had a heater in the room that looked like a jet thruster--smelled like propane. We spent the next three or four hours chatting with the Brits. Last year Jo and Sara had taken a mountain expedition - a guide had taken them up to Cabane Vignettes and had them climb peaks with full gear. You could tell they were proud of their accomplishment--as well as I would be had I done it--but Jo said hiking in snow is actually quite dull. The guide made them get up at 4am, leave at 5am and climb a peak before 7am. Then their real day of mountaineering began. Chris had gone to Africa for four weeks for a walk-about (my term, not his...probably only a term used in movies). He said he went to see one friend and that friend introduced him to another and he just went from house to house around Africa. I remember he went to the Congo but I can't remember the other countries--there were several. Shawn and I told them about Hawaii and Yosemite. By the time the evening was over we prety much covered every topic of conversation; politics, music, difference between the two countries. I do remember them telling us that last year more people in England were killed by cows then by guns. Jo's point was that they don't have gun problems but I was more interested in how one can get killed by a cow.

Dinner was veg soup, salad, beef, some Swiss polenta-ish patty, and chocolate ice cream. For cabanes it's pretty good food but for Switzerland in general? Good enough, I guess. After dinner we were all counting the minutes until we could go to bed. Everything is a goal. When is dinner? When is bed time? When is breakfast? Those are the daily questions and each an event in its own right. We went to bed around 9pm that night. No showers in Cabane des Dix but this time we would have paid for them. I wasn't feeling good about my state of smell. We slept well except for in the middle of the night I had to go to the bathroom. Normally not a big deal but in this cabane you have to go down the creeky hallway, a flight of stone cold stairs, across the dark main room, down more cold stairs and into the even colder bathrooms. And I didn't know where my glasses were. So of course I woke up Shawn.


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