Into the Heart of the Alps

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Via Alpina 2011 Completed, June 18, 2013

R128 (Vallouise  Le Monetier-les-Bains)

Le Monetier-les-Bains to Col de l'Eychauda (there-and-back)

4.5 hours hiking, approx. 3200' up (and down)

Go to this map and hover over the triangles to see where the stage we just completed is relative to the entire trail.  (The stage beginning and end locations are probably backwards, as we are doing the trail in the opposite direction).

Our first day of vacation.  Landed in Amsterdam, mmmm European coffee in the airport, quick flight to Lyon, rented a car, drove to Grenoble using GPS (our traveling companion, "Lady TomTom"), and managed to stay awake until European nighttime by riding the cable car up to Grenoble's version of La Bastille and wandering along the ramparts.

Grenoble from cable car
Grenoble from cable car
Les Hautes-Alpes on way to the pass Second day, not feeling much jet lag, we decided to complete what would have been the last leg of 2011 Via Alpina by hiking up to Col de l'Eychauda.  Figured it's OK to count the there-and-back as equal mileage and difficulty as the originally planned point-to-point.  And the hike was right on the route from Grenoble to the castle where we'll spend our anniversary.
Les Hautes-Alpes on way to the pass

Good news ... It felt physically and emotionally great to be walking again with hiking poles in this amazing landscape.  Past cows and their gentle bells, through sweet smelling forest, until we get to the ever more amazing views.  Crossed a melting snow stream (only lower calf deep, but moving fast) and hiked the last half hour to the pass on snow.  Lunch was crispy-on-the-outside soft-on-the-inside French bread with local salami.  My spirit is definitely in "vacation mode" now.

Not bad news ... Uphill is still uphill !  Lots of catch-my-breath breaks.  That said, going back down the same way we came up gives a more realistic perspective on relative steepness.  And it WAS steep.  But, even without adequate training, this hike was enjoyable and doable - something I could no longer even imagine pre-ablation.  (Oh, did I thank Dr. Marrouche yet today?!). 

Back down from the pass, we're talking about different ways to complete our Via Alpina adventure in future years.  Less excited about doing Monaco to Slovenia in a direct path.  May instead cherry-pick the Alpine environments we want to explore and do a different color trail each summer (French Alps, red and blue trail, in 2011 and 2013; Austrian Alps, purple trail?, another summer; Dolomites, yellow trail?, another summer; etc.), and maybe even not stay exclusively on the Via Alpina.  That way I won't be ancient before we're done and this summer still counts (foreshadowing to our Mont Blanc trek in a couple weeks).

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