Goodbye, Switzerland! Ciao, Italia!

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After 21 days of wandering around the Mont Blanc massif on the Tour du Mont Blanc and then all the way to Zermatt on the Haute Route, it’s finally time to bid a fond farewell to the Alps and make our way south to Italy where we can begin one of the classic treks through the Dolomites known as the Alta Via 2. But first, we have to get there, so today is a travel day with an intentional stopover in fair Verona, as Shakespeare would have it, to rest our feet and soak up some Italian food and culture along the way. (more…)

Haute Route, Day 13: Zermatt or Bust!

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After a fabulous night of sleep, in a super comfortable bed, in a quiet room, that we have all to ourselves—definitely not the norm on the Haute Route if you are trying to travel on a budget—we wander downstairs to the restaurant to discover a fantastic breakfast. Peter, the chef/proprietor of the hotel serves us coffee and tea while running around and greeting all the guests. Man, does he work hard! The coffee is the cleanest, best-tasting cup I’ve had in a long time, and I savor every last sip. (more…)

Haute Route, Day 12: Making Our Way to St. Niklaus

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When the alarm goes off at 6:15, I am ready and waiting for it. We are in a dorm room with about ten other people, and I don’t want to wake up the others, if that’s even possible in such tight quarters. We fold up our sleep sacks, grab our stuff and tiptoe out of the room as quietly as possible. All of our stuff is in a cubby in the hallway, and this makes packing up a little easier. Even though it’s a bit cramped, at least we don’t have to try to be quiet while putting everything into our bags. (more…)

Haute Route, Day 11: Ode to the Baguette

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After yet another beautiful night of sleep (a private room helps!) we wander down to breakfast. Our hostess is a bit surly about where to sit, but the tasty breakfast hits the spot. The coffee (brewed) does me right. We grab our packs and hike back into town to grab fresh baguette and a few croissants for the road. Then we join David, Graham and Simon in town and set off up hill toward the pass at Forcletta. (more…)

Haute Route, Day 10: Clash of the Ibex

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The only downside of a night spent at the Cabane de Moiry is that it is a popular place with climbers, who generally get up a lot earlier in the morning than hikers. We can hear them start packing up around 4:30, and, for the next hour or so, they are banging around all of their gear. Even so, the beds in this Cabane are so cozy that we manage to block it out and enjoy our comfy little spots until 6:30. (more…)

Haute Route, Day 9: Holy Cows and a Hut with a View

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After a pleasant and restful sleep, we hop out of bed at 5:15 and begin the usual tasks to get ready for the day. Our intent is to get going early, for three reasons. First, rain is expected by late morning, and we are hoping to miss some of it. Second, we begin today with an enormous 4700′ climb up to Col du Tsaté, and we want to give ourselves plenty of time to get up to the pass. Third, the Cabane de Moiry is supposed to be quite a swanky hut set in an unbelievable location, and we want as much time as possible to enjoy it! (more…)

Haute Route, Day 8: A Lazy Stroll to La Sage

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We have a short day today, and nobody else in our dorm room, so we decide to sleep in until 7:30. It’s the latest wake up we’ve had so far this summer, and it feels good after our hard day yesterday. We pack up and head to the grocery store to pick up a few supplies for lunch for the next few days and then go to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Tony and Jenny are there, so we join them and partake of the excellent buffet, with local cheeses, fruits, yogurt, granola and breads. We eat as much as possible and settle the bill (71 Swiss francs for half-pension/person) before packing up. (more…)

Haute Route, Day 7: Hiking on Thick Ice

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After scrutinizing the itinerary for tomorrow and opting for the alternate Stage 7 of the Haute Route, we agreed to get going early. The alarm goes off at 5:15, and we start moving right away. I had a solid night of sleep even though the room was a bit on the warm side. All of these bodies packed into a tiny space are bound to raise the room temperature, I guess.  (more…)

Haute Route, Day 6: The Trail of the Mountain Sheep

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Our guidebook describes this as the toughest day of the Haute Route so far, so we are up at 5:30 to have an early breakfast and get on the trail as early as possible. By the time all is said and done, it’s 7:00 by the time we leave the refuge, and we walk out the door just as Tony and Jenny are leaving, too. We have found the most difficult of the route-finding experience is figuring out where to go right out of the gate, so we are grateful to have two extra minds working on which way to head. (more…)