Sunday, 7th September

Today we woke up, looked out of the window, and guess what? Wrong! It was not raining! There were even some patches of hopeful blue sky. We set off after Mass and cycled along Lac Leman, which is beautiful (when you can see anything other than the clouds that formed the whole panorama yesterday) and flat, and then went up the Rhône valley to Martigny (which Google persists in calling Martinach) and the valley of the Dranse, which is beautiful and less flat.

As we had not managed to go very far yesterday I never thought we would be able to get up the Grand St. Bernard (at 2469 meters a.s.l.) today, but that is what we did – langsam und gemütlich. So, dear readers, admire me: an ascent of 2230 m in one day! With luggage! Although on this point I had the benefit of travelling with a gentleman who not only carries most of the things both of us need, like medicine, maps, and tools, but also, for the last 500 m of the ascent, took the sack containing my roll mat and sleeping bag, too.

This last part of our tour also finally brought us into the clouds which had been lurking around the mountains all day. We finally arrived at the Grand St. Bernard and the hospice built there by St. Bernard de Menthon in 1050. Since then it has been open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, to be a refuge for pilgrims on the way over this Alpine pass, where, before, there had been a distance of 25 kilometers between the highest up settlements on either side.

We, too, received a very friendly welcome, a hot tee (for it was freezing cold up there) and a good dinner, shared with an Italian cook working in Switzerland and at the moment going to Sizily by bike with luggage literally as heavy as himself, a French pensioner who started to walk the Via Francigena close to Calais and a German student who left from Lausanne and hopes to arrive in Rome (about 950 km to go) within twenty days.

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