TMB Day 5, Rifugio Elisabetta to Courmayeur

July 23, 2019

With no curtains on our window the sun shone in at 6:30 am, so we decided to get up. We packed up our bags and headed down for breakfast. The breakfast was the worst we had had so far, Melba toast and jam and pre-packaged cakes. After some time the staff brought out a basket of bread, which was a vast improvement. So we were on our way by 8 am.

Sunrise at Rifugio Elisabetta
Sunrise at Rifugio Elisabetta

Just below the rifugio were the ruins of an old army post. While we were looking at the buildings a curious marmot came out, quite close to us. It obviously didn’t mind people nearby.

The curious marmot
The curious marmot

We strode down the military road down the valley, making great time all the way to Lac Combal, which we had visited three years ago. The views to our left, of the Mont Blanc massif, were sensational and there was not a cloud in the sky. Then our trail turned uphill towards Col Chécrouit, through grassy meadows full of flowers. Such a variety of flowers! We passed more ruins at L’Arp Vieille and then not much farther along we came to the high point of our day, at 2430 meters.

Marsh flowers in Val Veni
Marsh flowers in Val Veni

We sat down for a rest there and pretty soon a mule arrived, with its handler. We’d seen it outside the rifugio but now it was heavily loaded with people’s hiking gear. It didn’t look all that happy.

Pink succulents near Col Chécrouit
Pink succulents near Col Chécrouit

We carried on downhill towards Maison Vieille, a restaurant where we planned to get lunch. The whole area was covered with ski resorts serving Courmayeur, so we crossed several ski runs on the way down. Finally reaching Maison Vieille we found no tables available outside in the shade, so we sat inside where it was actually cooler. Rosemary had spaghetti Bolognese and Paul had gnocchi Valdostano, a local recipe with cheese sauce. Both were really good.

Maison Vieille restaurant
Maison Vieille restaurant

We could have taken the telecabine down to Courmayeur, but we decided to walk instead. That was probably another dumb mistake, because now the descent to the valley really kicked in. We descended 750 meters in 4.5 kilometers down the unrelentingly steep trail. It was also very hot today, at least 30°C, and it was frustrating walking below the telecabine and seeing how quickly it descended compared to us.

Old streets in Dolonne
Old streets in Dolonne

Finally we got down to Dolonne, which is a beautiful village in the old Italian style with narrow curving streets. But fortunately the TMB route was marked on the stone walls and it led us to a bridge which crossed a rushing river. On the other side of the river we climbed up a bit, right into the Courmayeur town centre. That was lucky for us because we were both exhausted.

Our hotel, the Bouton d’Or, was really close by and easy to find. What a beautiful hotel! It is a family-run business and everything was immaculate. Our room was a corner room so we had two little balconies, and it was very large and really lovely. We turned on the TV and watched the end of the Tour de France stage, while doing a lot of laundry and hanging it out on the balconies. Both of us were dehydrated so we drank some electrolyte replacer, which helped a bit.

At 7 pm we were hungry so we went out for dinner. We asked at the front desk for suggestions but in the end we went to Pizzeria du Parc because it was open and quite busy. We both ordered large pizzas and actually ate all of them!

It had been an exhausting day because of the heat, so we were both hoping we felt better in the morning.

Next: TMB Day 6, Courmayeur to Rifugio Bonatti