gmhTODAY 23 gmhTODAY Dec Jan 2018 - Page 91

L ast summer, Laura Perry added another life- affirming adventure to her travelogue. This time her destination was Europe’s majestic Alps. She booked her 12-day trip with Mountain Travel Sobek and was joined by her good friend, photographer John Thackara. The verdict: five stars. One of the world’s finest hiking treks, the Haute Route (High Road) stretches for 100-120 miles between Chamonix, France, and Zermatt, Switzerland. Trekkers are rewarded with nonstop views of scenic peaks from the lofty Mont Blanc to the legendary Matterhorn. This is not a trip for the “spontaneous” traveler. Like other experienced hikers, Laura trained diligently for six months before going—hiking, swimming, biking, gym workouts, and eating right. “I originally planned to go in 2015, then 2016, then 2017, but ended up doing other trips instead. Then I thought, I’m sixty-seven now. This trip includes a lot of long, steep descents, which are hard on the ankles, knees and hips, even if you’re in good physical condition. There was no more delaying this trip for me.” After landing in Geneva, Switzerland, Laura and John were joined by an attorney from Ohio and a geologist from Colorado. They were transferred by van to the town of Chamonix, France, where they met their guide, Florence Simond, an expert mountain climber from Chamonix. “People from the Alps region are all climbers and double black diamond skiers,” Laura said. “What’s high and steep to us, is not so much to them. Not that they don’t respect mountain terrain, they’ve just grown up in it.” Early the next morning they boarded a funicular to Planpraz (6,000 feet) and got their first glimpse of Mont Blanc (15,781 feet), the highest peak in the Alps. The altitude fluctuates as much as 10 feet or more depending on the summit’s snowpack in any given year. They hiked for six hours, climbing up to Col Cornu, and continued onward to the Black Lakes (8,530 feet). That was considered their “warm up” hike. On the second day, they were driven to the village of Tour at the head of Chamonix Valley, where they hiked through alpine meadows to the Col de Balme (7,000 feet) and crossed the border into Switzerland. They descended along the great Trient Glacier to spend the night at Hotel de la Forclaz (circa 1830), which has been family-owned for six generations. In about seven hours of hiking, they had climbed 3,300 feet and descended 2,900 feet.