Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Maritime Alps Tour Day 4: Refuge des Merveilles -> Refuge de Nice

Another blue-sky morning. The only clouds in the sky are in front of the rising sun. This makes for a nice sunrise, but means breakfast is in the shade... ah well.

Underway by about 8:45, past the hut, around the lake, and then we start the climbing. Gentle, but steady climb up into the Valle de Merveilles (valley of wonders). Once again, we're not going to be having any problems with loneliness here. The path leads us into the narrow valley, past the remains of some carvings, past several areas that are closed to preserve the carvings, past lakes both full and dried out, and ever upwards. The valley is really impressive and makes for nice walking, but it does eventually come to an end after we climb up to the Baisse de Valmasque (2549m).

We do a quick energy bar break enjoying the views: look at all those mountains! look at all those people! look at the beautiful valley we just came up!
Valley of wonders from the Baisse de Valmasque
look at that beautiful valley on the other side!
look at the wall at the other side of that valley we're going to have to climb!
From the Baisse de Valmasque towards the Lac and Baisse du Basto

Then we head down the other side, descending, descending a couple hundred meters and then immediately starting back up the other side. Climbing, climbing. At first we're on a normal path, but as we go we get steadily more block and shifty rocks.
On the way up to the Baisse du Basto, the pass is visible ahead
Up, up, past some more dried up lakes and an almost dried up lake. The last bit is steep and then we're at the Baisse du Basto (2693m). At the top we encounter a young steinbock who is really not particularly concerned about us being there. We look at her, she looks at us, we look at her, she looks at us, ignores us for a bit, then slowly saunters off. We do a lunch break while enjoying the fantastic views then we descend the steep other side into the Vallon du Mt. Chamineye.
Heading down the Vallon du Mt. Chamineye from the Baisse du Basto 
More nice block scrambling, more nice weaving through rocks, past dried up lakes (and almost dried up lakes), past a good sized group of chamoix, ever downwards through a group of horses (WTF?) and then to the Ref. de Nice. We take stock of the state of our legs (three more hours to the next reasonable camping spot? after yesterday? no way!), think of the paucity of decent campsites we've seen above the hut (everything right beside the path), and make the brave decision to stay at the hut.
We eat very well and sleep reasonably well (the hut is a bit more than half full and the rooms aren't too big, so the snoring isn't too bad).

Approximate stats: 9.0 km, 730m up, 659m down

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