We arrived to a grey and rainy Geneva. The past 24 hours seemed like a dream of wakeness and sleep and it was hard to keep straight what day it was. Most of this post was written by a jet-lagged, sleepless Hannah, who I’m pretty sure got tipsy off one glass of red wine.
We picked up our bags rather quickly and located the bus we would be taking to Les Houches, the small town outside of Chamonix where our hike would begin. We used a company called Alpy Bus which provides transports from Geneva airport all over the Alps. With a few minutes to spare before our bus departed, we had a rushed and very expensive coffee at the airport (our first hint as to the toll the Swiss portion of the hike would have to our wallets) and then settled into our seats for the 90 minute ride to Les Houches.
Driving to Les Houches we got our first glimpse of the mountains in the distance. Although desperately tired, I couldn't help but keep my eyes pealed on the landscape around us. As we drove closer and closer the mountains grew larger until they completely engulfed us. Taking pictures from the back of a van doesn’t do justice to their beauty and majestic size. Luckily, we'd get many more mountain shots over the next week and a half.
We were dropped off at our hotel, a beautiful building located just above the town of Les Houches with an outdoor terrace that looked out at Mont Blanc. After a quick lie down and shower (rule number one to jet lag is NO nap!) we got dressed and headed out to explore. The rain had cleared by this point but a cool mist remained in the air creating perfect magical mountain vibes. Les Houches is a very small town (and I mean very small) with a unique character and charm to it. We wandered around the one street town, making a stop at the tourist office to buy the official Mont Blanc map.
[Note: The primary guide that we used for the hike was the quite infamous book Tour du Mont Blanc by Kev Reynolds. If you talk to anyone who has done the TMB they have seen and probably used this book. The trek is broken down into 11 stages with exceptionally clear directions throughout each stage. You could, quite easily get by using this book alone. To be honest, I think we only ever took out the map twice, once being on the last stage in the final hour when we got slightly lost coming back into Les Houches (but you’ll have to wait to hear that story). Kev, became a household name for us on the hike. We imagined what he might look like, the master of the TMB, walking the trails at night, scouring for new paths and faulty signs. When we made a slightly wrong turn we blamed Kev for leading us astray, when we arrived at a landmark faster than anticipated we assumed Kev had a few too many beers the night before and was lagging on the trail. When we came back I looked up Kev and was slightly disappointed to find out he was a real man, not a mystical character. But this is all to say if you are planning on doing the TMB, this book is a requirement.
There is an incredible, free, bus service around the Chamonix valley so after exploring Les Houches to our hearts desire we hopped on a 10 minute bus ride to Chamonix. Chamonix was much more bustling than our sleepy town of Les Houches. It had the character of a European Banff; a ski town full of tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. It was busting and yet charming; like a big sister to our small Les Houches. We wandered around the little streets lined with either outdoor activity shops (lots of them!) patisseries or café/bars. Eventually the little sleep the night before and the jet lag started to take its toll on us but it was only 4:30, too early for dinner. Instead we stopped for a drink and to rest our legs at one of the café's in the towns central square. We enjoyed people watching and looking through our Mont Blanc book, anticipating the next few days while trying to enjoy the present moment. The calm before the storm as I now remember it. Just the two of us, with no worries or stress beyond that of enjoying our drink. We had a mix of anticipation brewing within us while trying to live and be present in the current moment.
When it finally hit 5:45 pm we agreed it was just about an appropriate time to start looking for dinner. The problem was most of the restaurants that looked good didn’t open until 7 O'Clock. We contemplated between waiting another hour for food or eating at one of the places open but ultimately jet lag and fatigue won over and we had to settle. The atmosphere in the town made up for the mediocre food and we were so hungry we scarfed it down without another thought. With a glass of red wine I was sleepy enough to fall asleep right there at the table.
We slowly and lazily made our way back to Les Houches, enjoying what would likely be our only night in Chamonix. Back at the hotel, we spent the last few minutes before bed sorting through our bags and making sure we had everything we would need for the 10 days ahead. Going over our checklists one last time, we placed everything we didn't need n a suitcase to be left at the hotel during our hike. At around 9:45 pm we finally finished our organization and fell into bed sleepy/happy and excited for the start of our trek tomorrow!