After two weeks in Aberdeen, we returned to find a valley in the throes of spring. Restaurants have moved tables outdoors, the trees have come to life in verdant glory, and (much to the cats’ excitement) we have a lawn. If I wasn’t so delighted by the sunshine and blue skies, I might feel slightly sad looking across at the Les Houches pistes and seeing the snow reduced to a couple of sparse patches, but then I remember that, a few evenings ago, we climbed at a local crag in shorts and t-shirts until suppertime.
I’ve finally managed to convince Ben that walking can be a worthy enterprise, and we have enjoyed a couple of local hikes over the last few days. Yesterday morning, we decided on a route that would take us to the top of the Bellevue – our nearest telepherique – which we could take down and thus save our knees from the pain of a long downhill slog.
One thing that made this hike so special was that we literally walked out of our back door to reach the trail, and thence followed some beautiful woodland trails; last autumn’s leaves crunched satisfyingly underfoot, while rustling in the undergrowth and tracks in the mud alerted us to the occasional presence of chamois. When we broke out from the tree line, all of the valley lay before us; lakes and tennis courts and tidy houses and flashes of sunshine on the cars’ windscreens as they zipped up and down the autoroute.
A warm breeze blew up from the valley, heavy with pine, that scent that simultaneously takes me back to two very different places, and two very conflicting emotions; cross country practice at Macomb State Park, when I first moved to Morrisonville, and the days were long and hot and the year stretched before me like a novel you can’t wait to read; and the final walk out of the backcountry on my North Cascades mountaineering trip, when, after thirty days with no shower, no contact with the outside world, and constant physical struggle, I had attained the greatest sense of peace that I have ever felt in my life, and it was glorious to smell how sweet the air was in the forest, but devastating to leave the solitude and sanctity of the high mountains.
The high mountains in this part of the world are much less solitary, of course, and our hike really ended at the Col du Mont Lachat, from where we followed the tracks of the little train that carries prospective climbers of Mt Blanc up to the Eagle’s Nest, down to the Bellevue. It might have been a little early in the season for this walk – the path was often covered by deep snow and we both had instances of a leg going in up to the waist – but those chilly moments were quickly forgotten as we sat in the sun, waiting for the cable car to carry us down to Les Houches and a well deserved lunch.