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Report 1047: Mt. Blanc Summer 2006

By Robert Rainey from California, Summer 2006

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Page 8 of 15: Refugio Bonatti to Courmayeur

photo by Robert Rainey

Refugio Bonatti, as well as most of the other Refugio’s, seems to be placed in an ideal position. In this case the Glacier de Frebouze and the peaks of the Jorass.

We had a private room; in this case it does not mean a private bathroom, which is down the hall. The showers were downstairs. The showers were coin operated and last less than two minutes. These minor inconveniences did not bother us; Peg was a trooper even through the two-minute lukewarm shower! We were the only Americans. I assume most of the others were French or Swiss as they spoke French to each other, maybe a few Italians, which seemed strange as we were in Italy!

We were seated next to an English couple (assigned seating) at a dinner that was okay by normal Italian dining standards. We had rigatoni with tomato sauce and mozzarella, sausages with tomato sauce, and vegetable antipasto.

Refugio Bonatti to Courmayeur - I thought that this was going to be an easy day with two "small passes" to climb and a "little scramble" up Tête de la Tranche. We chose this standard route rather than the much easier Val Sapain for two reasons, the promised views of Mt. Blanc and the refuge Bertone which was bypassed on the easier route.

For me this was one of the harder stages, I suppose partly as I had too much weight (twice as much as most trekkers we encountered) and partly as these climbs were underrated! From the refuge, the climb was fairly gradual; I stopped to take close-ups of some of the beautiful flowers, which were carpeting the majority of today’s route. It gradually got steeper as we approached the Pas entre-deux Sauts. We then descended all the height we had gained into the next valley and then ascended another "easy 500 meters" to the Col Sapain. Then the 20 degree slope up to the Tête de la Tranche. I sure hoped that those Mt. Blanc views were as good a promised in the guidebook! Finally we reached the top and dropped our packs. Wow, the views were incredible. Then a long descent across a nicely graded flower lined path with continuous views of Mt. Blanc, which was one of the highlights of the trip. It looked so close it was hard to believe it was over 2000 meters higher than us to the peak.

Refugio Berone soon came into view and we, by this time, were expecting another great lunch. We ordered almost everything on the menu, salad, antipasto, cheese and both of us the pasta, which was a spaghetti with a tomato based sauce. The cook gave us a huge portion, big enough normally for four people in a aluminum foil bird shaped presentation. Also beer and mineral water.

I had asked if they took Swiss Francs and was told yes but when we went to pay the bill there was major confusion. The bill was 41 euro. We waited as they made several calls to what I can only assume was their bank? Anyway their answer was that 100 CHF was worth 160 euro!! They multiplied when they should have divided. I told them that it was worth no more than 75 euro. I hope they appreciated it; they seemed really confused. I left a few Euros in tip as well.

A long descent switch backed into Courmayeur. Just after we reached the outskirts on an asphalt road, it began to rain. We stopped at the mountain guide office to ask directions and five minutes later arrived at Hotel Berthod.

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