Before You Know It, Tomorrow Will Be Yesterday
After decades of outdoor adventuring in North America, we decided to research outdoor adventure trips in Europe. Our friends gave us recommendations for travel companies and we received plenty of catalogs. We were looking for trips with smaller groups and trips that used local guides that to share the culture and history of the area. While researching, one particular trip led by MTS peaked our interest: hiking Mt. Blanc. The trip photos looked exquisite and description seemed like the perfect adventure! Friends had taken trips with MTS and highly recommended them. For a year we discussed the finances and the fact that our knees wouldn’t be forgiving forever. What were we waiting for… finally we signed up.
Our arrival in Chamonix was breathtaking. From the hotel dining room, it looked like Mt. Blanc was in our hotel’s back yard! The group orientation gave us the opportunity to meet the group and the Guides de Chamonix: Stephan Berger and Beatrice Mugnier. The guides gave us a background of the trip and what to expect. They grew up in the area and had a clear LOVE of the land. They knew the flora and fauna, were accomplished, patient and fun. A third guide Seb Tournoud was the driver/guide/food rustler. One issue that was a bit of a worry are my food allergies. Mt. Travel Sobek noted them when I signed up and the guides went through them with me after the group orientation. After that, options for me were always available. What a joy: we were in love with the area, the group was fun, like-minded and the guides were great.
On our first hike, we entered a valley where we enjoyed our packed lunches on picnic tables outside of a small cottage style cafe that had a fabulous view of the Glacier de Miage. This cafe made fresh blueberry pie so of course we enjoyed a delicious slice along with an espresso. After lunch we climbed out of the valley and hiked into the town of Les Contamines. At the edge of town was a home with a sign that was our key takeaway that has become a mantra: “Enjoy today. For before you know it tomorrow will be yesterday”.
The trip was a cultural, stimulating and visually stunning adventure. Every day we had glaciers to view, passes to cross and cultural experiences to learn and enjoy. From day one there were cultural highlights during the hikes. From the start, one of our favorites was hearing bells and seeing cows, with full udders, quickly trot to the milking trucks for relief.
On another day when we stopped for lunch, we saw sheep herded by a shepard and his herding dog ( a Pouli). As we ate we enjoyed listening to the bells on sheep as they grazed. Over the past day or so hiking we noticed that both sheep and cows wore large bells around their necks. The guides explained to us that each herd had their own unique bell, with its own special tone. This allowed a farmer/shepard to distinguish his herd from others and to determine if an animal was hurt, limping with an altered gate.
One day while striding into a village nestled in a valley, we heard a cacophony of bells echoing off the hills as several herds of sheep and cows were brought down the mountain into the village. The guides heard the group talk about the bells and arranged to have us tour the bell factory on the last day of the trip.
From Ville de Glacier to Courmayeur, Italy, the start of the trail was on a farm where Beaufort cheese was produced and the group was provided with a taste. Each little hillside/valley specialized in their own type of cheese, made from milk generated by cows that ate the grass in that specific area. As a result, there were a lot of small cheese makers throughout the hills and valleys! Once we had sampled the local farm cheese we started up the Vallee de Glaciers on a beautiful brisk morning toward Col de la Seigne at the Italian border. On the way were fantastic views of Mt Blanc. As we trekked toward Col De La Seigne, we saw WWII bunkers strategically placed on either side of the mountain pass and found them to be both a jarring contrast to the beauty of the glorious mountains and a reminder of the region’s history.
On one hike we stumbled upon a solar powered mountain cafe mid hike and enjoyed pastry and expresso. A perfect mid-hike treat! It seemed a bit surreal to be enjoying such luxuries amid such rugged terrain.
Our last day was a hike that viewed the Chamonix Valley. We started at Le Col De Montets (4800’) – to Les Cheserys(7130’) past 3 glaciers: Le Tour, Argentiere and Mer du Glace). The fog came in and out adding to the dramatic views. A spectacular day! We saw the ragged spires of the Aiguilles Rouges. As we traversed toward our final destination at the valley floor, we saw ibex as well as a chamoix sure-footedly race down the mountainside, seemly oblivious to the rugged hillside.
Each day we crossed mountain passes, viewed the spectacle of glaciers and ended with the thought: ‘Could it get any better than this!’ And each day, sated by our days hiking efforts, feeling a bit euphoric, we would head to our local accommodations where comfortable beds, warm showers, plentiful, delicious food and wonderful conversation awaited us. This trip exceeded our expectations in every way: scenery, guides, culture, food, travel companions. This was a trip of a life-time. We truly learned the life lesson that we need to enjoy each day, for before we know it, tomorrow will be yesterday.
Nancy Kemper, MT Sobek Guest
MT Sobek Trip: Tour du Mont Blanc Express, 2010