Sunday, September 11, 2011

Maritime Alps Tour Day 8: La Madone de Fenestre -> Les Lacs Bessons

We start by taking hte once-daily-now-weekend-only bus from St. Martin to Madone de Finestre (1909m). The bus is fed by a special "Rando Bus" from Nice that makes sure it and its twin going to Boreone are good and full. Still, we're early and get seats. After an adventurous drive (no way the Swiss would let this guy drive a bus!), we get to the hut, church, and cloister (or whatever it is). Our path, along with that of just about everyone on the bus, leads up towards the Col de Finestre and Pas de Ladres. Up we go, getting used again tot he heavy packs (now full weight again after resupply), up up in the sun under a cloudless blue sky with a cool breeze to keep the temperatures sane, perfect walking weather. Greg even manages to climb 500m without soaking his shirt through... unimaginable!
Up towards the Col de Finestre
Great views back towards days four and five. From the Pas de Ladres (2448m) we head a bit up to the side to find some quiet (loads of folks in the pass), appreciate the views, and do a quick energy bar break.

During the descent we encounter lots of people coming up, lots of people wearing what seem like the wrong clothes (tennis shoes? here?). Down we head to the Lac de Trecolpas (2150m), where madness rules (loads of people), cannot imagine what this place must be like in the high season. We flee quickly. The first bit of descent is almost comical with the number of Sunday day-trippers coming to the beautiful lake. We turn off towards the Refuge du Cougorde and all is quiet. After some traversal and nice block walking, we arrive at the refuge about three hours after our start from Madone de Finestre. We enjoy a lunch break in the shade near the river. There's a special treat for Greg: a cold beer from the hut to accompany lunch... what luxury! There are less people here than at the Lac de Trecolpass, but it's still plenty busy.

After lunch we head up, past the hut, to the Lac de Sagnes (2198m). There's not much lake left, but it's in a really nice setting surrounded by towering mountains.
Stone landscape above the Lac de Sagnes. A Caire de Cougourde in the back. 
We search for a while for the starting point of our route forward: an unofficial, but frequently used trail up to the Lacs de Besson. The start point is not so easy to find, but once we're on the trail it's simple to follow. Up, up we go, almost completely alone, quiet, beautiful views. Very nice climbing. The path is steep and tricky enough that at least Greg is able to achieve that meditation-like state where the brain is wandering but still concentrated on path finding and foot placement and the legs seem to set the correct pace automatically. Great stuff!

Towards the top (2516m) we pass one small, mostly dried up lake and then ditch the packs to search for the other lakes and a good camping spot near the middle of the upper lakes (2545m). With the packs off we both feel weightless and we run around like goats nit he granite landscape. The real goats (chamoix) are not impressed with our antics. Andrea locates a good spot, we grab our bags, slog to the spot (no more goat action with the packs on!), pitch the tent, get settled in, rest for a bit, and then make dinner.
Tent site between the lakes
It's a bit windy and cool and the clouds are doing crazy things and threatening to engulf us at any moment, so we retire tot he tent for cards and log writing after finishing dinner and cleanup.

Nice day of hiking with great weather (until the very end). Perfect backpacking experience with the tent site surrounded by granite between two alpine lakes. Nice!

Dinner: Soup: potato leek with dumpling enrichment. Main: "Chile non carne with cornbread" (see day 3).

Approximate stats: 7.9 km, 1063m up, 423m down

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