Day 1- Ibex steal the show

Tuesday July 25, 2017

Verbier (La Chaux) to Cabane de Louvie

Miles: 5.95 mi

Elevation gain / loss: +1,827 ft / -1,875 ft

We woke up to the sound of cars driving on a wet road. Andy, who is still adjusting to this time zone, was wide awake at 4 am. Laurie groaned as she opened her eyes to a dark grey sky and rain at 7 am. 

As Laurie slowly peeled herself away from beneath her down comforter, Andy stood on the balcony happily watching cars come up and down the tortuous mountain road. 

He was like a little kid, mesmerized and amused, calling out all the different makes and models we don’t have in the States.

It continued to pour as we went downstairs for breakfast. We were in no hurry to walk into the wet outside world.

After a simple but tasty breakfast, our hotel gave us complimentary day passes for transportation around Verbier which included the gondolas and buses.

As the weather continued to change, we devised 3 plans. 

A) hike 9 miles from Verbier via Clambin and Les Shlerondes to Col Termin and down to Cabane de Louvie.

B) take the bus to Fionnay and walk 2.5 miles and 2800 feet up to Cabane de Louvie.

C) take the gondola from Verbier to La Chaux and hike 6 miles via Col Termin to Cabane de Louvie.

Given the rain and fog we opted to take advantage of our day passes. We figured we could take the gondola up to the top of the mountain, wander around and if the weather looked crappy we could come down and take the bus.

Unfortunately the top portion of the gondola was closed due to inclement weather. We took 2 separate gondolas (opting for a gondola rather than a chairlift because of the intermittent rain and wind) up to La Chaux. 

The clouds rolled in and out bringing moments of sunshine followed by sprinkling rain. The hillsides were green and covered in wildflowers.

Dressed in raincoats we wandered down the road. Once breathing the fresh mountain air and watching how quickly the clouds came and went, we decided to go with option C. 

We didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to see the surrounding mountains. And it looked like the worst of the rain had passed.

After about a kilometer down the road we noticed a foot path with red and white painted stripes on rocks. This is a signature marking on the Haute Route. 

We traversed the green hillsides, carefully looking at our feet to avoid stepping off the narrow trail. Views of the valley below and snow dusted rocks above drifted in and out with the clouds. 

Unfortunately due to the low lying clouds, we never got the expansive snow capped mountain panoramas that good weather would provide, but we were content to be hiking without rain.

A very nice man in a gear shop in Verbier described the trail today as flat. Thus, we were surprised when our “flat” trail made a sharp left and went straight up a ridge. “If this is what they consider flat I can’t wait to see what inclines look like” Andy said jokingly. 

After 2 hours and 15 minutes of walking, (in Europe they speak of trails in hours and minutes rather than distance), we reached Col Termin. One side was socked in but the other offered views of the small valley towns and their surrounding green fields.

“Everything in Switzerland is so organized” remarked Andy, “even the town layout and roads!”

We met another couple (Phil and Laura) at the Col. They were out for 3.5 weeks hiking a combination of the Tour de Mt Blanc and the Haute Route. Ironically, they were from Santa Cruz – a mere 90 minutes from our home in Oakland.

We both opted for the slightly longer but less steep trail down to the Cabane de Louvie. Shortly after leaving the Col the fog thinned and we could see Lake de Louvie and a small building on the southern end. 

We had spotted our destination but now had to descend 1000 feet to reach it’s warmth. Small piles of wet snowed lined the trail and the surrounding game trails. 

We took our time, gingerly placing our feet to avoid slipping on the wet rocks. We walked through a field of wild flowers and around the west side of the lake.

Within 200 meters of the hut Andy spotted a group do Ibex. Initially he counted 5 but as we got closer there were 14 of them! We watched in delight as these magnificent creatures grazed on grass.

Ibex are the size of dear with bodies more like cows. They are incredibly muscular and solid yet move gracefully up and down steep mountain slopes. They have long beautiful horns which we witnessed being used to scratch a leg and to defend territory.

As we walked away from the ibex it started to spit. We had arrived just in time!

We exchanged our shoes for the cabane crocs and settled into our private room with 2 twin beds.

Not sure what to do with ourselves since it was only 3 pm, we ate a snack and then went back outside to explore, hoping to catch glimpses of the majestic views that our guidebook says this hut affords. 

Unfortunately, soonafter the rain picked up and once again we retreated to the warmth of the hut. 

On days like today we feel grateful to not be camping. It is nice to have space to spread out without touching wet tent walls.

We played cards, chatted with hikers from Singapore, worked on the blog and read about tomorrow’s route until dinner at 7pm. 

We opted for the half board option at the huts which includes dinner and breakfast. Lunch we do on our own. We enjoyed a 4 course meal while sharing stories and plans  with 2 other couples at our table.

Andy nearly fell asleep sitting upright so we chose to retire early. By 8:45pm we were cozily nestled in our beds listening to the rain and wind outside.

Tonight we are grateful for another walking adventure together and our ability to be flexible in ever changing weather conditions. 

Bye bye Verbier

Hills covered in Fireweed

Einstein flowers?

The Haute Route blaze

Reached our first Col (or pass)

Can you see Cabane de Louvie?

Ibex!!

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