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Our Tour du Mont Blanc

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S: Our Tour du Mont Blanc 2010

FC: Our Tour du Mont Blanc 2010

1: To Mom, our inspiration, with love | Nancy on the summit of Mont Blanc, 1950

3: 8/28/10 We land in Geneva after almost 24 hours of traveling. We arrive at our hotel and run into our companion Chris Hamilton, who is just sitting down to breakfast. After a brief rest in our rooms, we walk out into the city to see the sights. | Opposite: Views of Lac Leman from the tower of St. Pierre Cathedral. Street scenes from the Old City. Above right: The Rive Gauche from the water. Right: Using Mom's map, we search for the sports store where her friend and guide Raymond Lambert used to work. It's still there! Below: We admire the offerings in a patisserie close to the one Mom used to frequent.

5: 8/29/10 We enjoy the lakeside parks and the U.N. Plaza. In the afternoon we go paddle-boating and eat ice cream. A beautiful day.

6: Our last night in Geneva, we have dinner at a creperie in the Old Town. Narrow cobbled streets beckon. We find outdoor cafes and a tea shop. We wish we had time to come back in the daylight.

7: 8/30/10 Our trip with REI begins! We meet our group at the airport and are driven by bus to Chamonix. The view from our balcony is stunning. We wander around town, then meet our trip mates for dinner. Tonight we will meet our guides and hear about the trip to come.

8: 8/31/10 Our first hike starts at Les Praz-de Chamonix. We hike up through the trees to Chalet La Floria, where we have a beautiful view of Mont Blanc from the patio. The guides are getting a sense of the group and our hiking abilities - or lack thereof in some cases.

9: Toward the cable car at Planpraz | Flag of the Haute Savoy | Guides Patricia and Francoise

10: 9/1/10 We take the telepherique from Les Houches to Bellevue. Today we climb to our first pass - the Col de Tricot. Head guide Francoise talks about history and geology along the way. Opposite: Though the climb was fun, the way down was brutal. We descend to the Chalet de Miage, where we are met by friendly locals. Patricia performs surgery on Elaine's blisters. Lori poses with the Domes de Miage behind. In the afternoon we pass by the Auberge du Truc. | This page: Lisa; Francoise; Lori, Lisa, Anne, and Chris at the pass

12: After a long descent through the forest, we arrive in les Contamine-Montjoie. The group gathers in the courtyard of a beautiful church, but my eyes are always drawn up to the mountains. Our hotel for the night is the Christiania, which has it's own small ski hill. We dine in the Stem restaurant on hairy chicken and bare noodles. Anne leads some after-hike yoga.

13: 9/2/10 Today is our biggest day, over the Col du Bonhomme - 11 miles and 4500' elevation gain. This is the day we've been training for, and despite having food poisoning, I'm excited about the challenge. Lori stays with me in the "gentle walkers" group, while Anne and Chris scamper ahead. Lunch at the pass is our just reward.It's all downhill now.

14: 9/3/10 We leave from Refuge de la Nova in Les Chapieux after packing lunch. On the trail we meet another guide with his mule Charle. We're approching the border.

15: Goodbye to France, hello Italy. Lisa, Anne, Lori and Chris pose in front of Monte Bianco. It's France vs. Italy in the finals. Lori gets some language tips from an Italian mountain biker.

16: Anne shows off the Italian side of Mt. Blanc; Lisa with Rifugio Elisabetta; View from the hotel in Courmayeur. Below left: Looking back to the France and the Col de la Seigne.

17: 9/4/10 Tea time at Rifugio Bertone; Patricia shows us our route for the rest of the day; Patricia practices her English by telling jokes. | Chris and Lori enjoy the view back down toward Courmayeur; Suzanne and Dave take to the trail; a trailmarker tells us it's only another 4 hours to our rifugio.

18: The landscape is so vast; Patricia on foot; looking down the valley to Courmayeur; the group heads toward the rifugio; Elaine stands tall.

19: We made it to Rifugio Bonatti where we will spend the night in the dormitory - very cozy. Everyone enjoys some down-time in the afternoon. The eager ones wait for dinner to be served at our group table. Anne, Suzanne, Dave and Elaine toast the day's accomplishments. Francoise and Patricia take a break from the group.

20: 9/5/10 We start off on the shadow side of the Val Ferret. Lisa takes a break from the climb on the patio of Rifugio Elena which serves excellent hot chocolate. Anne leaves her mark on the cairn at the summit. | It's a steep climb up to the Italian border; Mont Dolent, which is shared by three countries is the peak on the right.

21: Anne and Lisa stand on the border of Italy and Switzerland at the Grand Col Ferret. | Francoise tries to ignore some jovial Swiss. | We wait at the summit for the gentle walkers to join us. | There's a lot of traffic at the border.

22: We stop for lunch just over the Swiss border. When Francoise folds her bubble wrap, it's time to get going. Taking a break at La Peule. A long down-hill makes for tired feet.

23: 9/6/10 Ready to go at La Fouly | Back row: Francoise Mantel, Fred Ball, Dave Uvelli, Ed Villines, Chris Hamilton, Johnny Hodges, Dick Dieckman, Lisa. Front row: Kathy Ball, Suzanne Spencer, Anne, Elaine Foss, Jonna Villines, Ellen Louise Hodges. Right: Guides Patricia Corbiller, Francoise Mantel, Karin Cabelduc

24: Karine prepares a special lunch for us in Issert, complete with yodeling. Dick, Chris, and Johnny sleep it off. Some houses are closed up for the season. Our ride. Everywhere, geraniums.

25: We climb out of the Val Ferret(the Swiss one) along the Route des Champignons. Someone has made wood carvings from tree stumps all along the trail. Apparently, Lori thinks they are very realistic. Finally, in the late afternoon we arrive at Lac de Champex and our hotel for the night.

26: 9/7/10 Rain all day today. The Alpage de Bovine, where we planned to have our picnic, is packed with other wet hikers. We store our packs in the cow barn to keep them out of the rain, and wait our turn to eat inside.

27: Packs wait outside. Inside the Alpage de Bovine it's warm and dry. We have to wait our turn for a table. After lunch a rainbow appears. Our hotel in Bovine.

28: 9/8/10 Leaving Col de la Forclaz, we have an early view of the Glacier du Trient. Looking back down the valley to la Peutry; hiking up to the Col de Balme. | Anne introduces herself to some Swiss "fighting cows." The queen gets to wear the hat. The refuge and the border with France is visible through the swirling mists.

29: We reach the Refuge du Col de Balme right on the border between Switzerland and France. We have to wait to go inside. It is blowing out here. Johnny gets lift off. After lunch we descend into Vallorcine where we find our hotel.

30: 9/9/10 We enter the Reserve Naturelle Des Aiguilles Rouges with a view of Le Tour. During the day we see an Ibex, and a Chamois with her baby. Tea time is always welcome. Francoise skirts one of the Lacs des Cheserys. It's rain-ing higher up on the mountain.

31: It's our last full day hiking as a group, so there are lots of snapshots taken. Tonight we close the loop back to Chamonix. | Patricia and Francoise get happy. Dick, a forester from Colorado is our oldest member, and one of the most fit. Anne, Chris, Lisa and Lori represent California. | Anne at Lacs des Cheserys. Anne and Lisa. Dave and Suzanne from Seattle have become our good friends.

32: Tea time takes place on a plateau of cairns. | 9/10/10 Our last hiking day starts with another beautiful view of Mont Blanc from our balcony. We take the cog railway up to the Montenvers, where we could see Le Mer de Glace.

33: Francoise and Anne head toward the Plan de l'Aiguille. | Francoise points out the peaks. | Patricia during a rest stop. | The restaurant at the base of the tram.

34: On top of the Aiguille du Midi. The tram arrives out of the clouds. Lisa, Chris and Suzanne smile for the camera. | Mountaineers cross the glacier. Anne looks pretty happy. A view of Chamonix valley through the clouds.

35: Climbers in an ice cave wait to rope up and descend the ridge. | A view of the glacier. Gondolas will take you all the way across the mountain range to Courmayeur in Italy.

36: On our last evening with the group, we receive our diplomas from the Guide Companie de Chamonix, along with a piece of granite from Mont Blanc. The girls show some creativity with bandanas. We spend one more day in Chamonix after the group leaves to do some shopping and visit the Farmer's Market. Finally, we must bid adieu to Mont Blanc.

37: 9/12/10 We travel by train to Bern, where we stay in the Old Town. We watch a track meet in the central square, and find a place that loans out free electric-assist bicycles. We tour the Old Town by bike, rattling over the cobblestones, and visit the bears in the Bear Garden alongside the river.

38: 9/13/10 Zurich:View from our hotel balcony; Gothic guild buildings along the river; we find the Lindt Sprungli store; Lori caught in the act.

39: We spend a rainy afternoon wandering the streets of the Old Town.

41: And so we say "Adieu, Europe" and we hope "Au revoir." | Opposite: Our outing on free bicycles leads miraculously to the Lindt Chocolate factory outlet.

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