Rain, Rain, Go Away…
I left with my friend Mary, from Vancouver, from Bonatti. It was raining steadily, but not enough to be disagreeable. At least, not yet.
A few of the bridges had prayer flags over them, and she said the landscape reminded her of Nepal.
No Longer Agreeable
Where it worsened exactly, I don’t remember for sure. Much of the rest of the day is a blur of being cold, wet and trying to keep my iPad and camera dry.
I do remember Mary and I stopped at Rifugio Elena, and I waited forever to use the pit toilet. She then told me to go on. She would catch up later.
We’d talked about taking the Ferret or La Fouly bus to Orsieres, but I told her I’d wait and see what the weather would be like at Col Ferret. At that point, I still clung to the hope of clear weather on the other side of the Col and taking the Col des Chevaux trail to Grand Col du St Bernard. She shouldn’t worry if I didn’t make it.
Should I Turn Back?
Soon after I started the climb to the Grand Col Ferret (2537 m), the wind increased, and it felt like someone was pouring water on my head from a bucket. To make it worse, there were groups on the trail who refused to let you pass. I often had to wait to get around them.
I finally managed to get by, but by then my pants were soaked, and I was getting really cold. Most of the other hikers were better prepared with Gore-Tex pants and coats.
I dropped my bag, dug around and pulled out the garbage bag I’d carried for years without using and made a skirt to stop the water leaking off my poncho onto my lower half. This worked really well.
The temperature was dropping and words from Kev’s guidebook, “Never be too proud to turn back,” went round and round my head. I seriously considered it.
You Can Make It!
About then, a Canadian couple came from the top. How far was the Col? How bad was it on the other side? I asked.
About half an hour. And raining.
I pushed on.
Grand Col Ferret
On the other side of the Col, things in Switzerland (below) looked no better than they were in Italy. But now, there was no choice. I had to get down the hill.
I arrived in the small town of Ferret and stopped at the only open restaurant. I had a good 1/2 inch of water in my boots and few dry spots. They fed me soup and coffee while I waited for the bus.
It had rained and snowed for a week, the waiter said. They would close in a few days.
About thirty other hikers soon joined me in the restaurant. It was standing room only, with most looking drenched but happy to have made it. We all piled into the bus to Orsières.
This wasn’t the day I’d imagined for my last on the TMB. But it was memorable. Maybe that’s all that mattered?
Tomorrow, I’d start the Via Francigena.