gmhTODAY 23 gmhTODAY Dec Jan 2018 - Page 92

“The mist, fog, and the alpenglow create this aura that makes the Alps a fantastic place to be,” Laura said. “But weather at higher elevations changes constantly and quite suddenly so you learn to be prepared for anything when hiking the Alps.” The following morning’s thunder- storms meant the group had to forego the 8,760-foot Fenêtre d’Arpette, or “Arpette’s window” and take an alternate pass. It was another full day of hiking, scrambling up a steep trail of steps and boulders, lunching at the top, then descending through forests of fir and larch to the village of Champex (4,890 feet). From there they were transported to the famous ski resort, Verbier, for a night’s rest. Awake and refreshed, they started the next day with a 3,300-foot ascent to the picturesque Val de Bagnes with its vast nature reserve. They saw ibex and chamois foraging, then enjoyed 360-degree views while making their 92 way to the Col Termin (8,740 feet). Unwavering concentration was required to navigate the steep terrain. “The great thing about it is, you have to let go of all the work stuff and every- thing else that fills up your thoughts back home, and just immerse yourself in the hike,” Laura said. “It absolutely restores you.” Carefully they made their way, holding onto chains bolted into the rocky slopes in order to maintain balance and footing on narrow trails. A steep descent brought them to a stunning glacial lake known as Lac de Louvie (7,300 feet). They lodged at the lakeside Cabane de Louvie. “Usually my hiking trips have involved sleeping on the ground in a tent and an absence of hot showers,” Laura said. “This trip was really comfortable and I started out fully refreshed every morning.” A bigger day of hiking followed. Laura’s group traversed two mountain GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN december 2018-january 2019 passes, the Louvie (9,640 feet) and the Prafleuri (9,785 feet). In order to do that, they had to cross the Grand Desert, a mineral-rich glacial area that was not exactly a walk in the park. “The guide called it a ‘lunar land- scape’ because of the appearance cre- ated by slopes of scree and fields of boulders. Footing was always iffy so you couldn’t just zone out like you would on a flat, paved trail, or you’d end up injuring yourself and having to be helicoptered out.” After about nine or ten hours of Alpine conquest, the group arrived at the foot of Le Grande Dixence, the world’s tallest gravity dam (935 feet high), and their destination hotel, Le Ritz. Time to rest their weary feet and recap the day’s hike over a hearty meal followed by a good night’s sleep. At sunrise, the group hiked to the top of the dam and circumnavigated the four-mile lake before setting their sights on Pas du Chat or “pass of the cat”