Haute Route 2 - Argentiere to Champex
Oct 29, 2010Public
Photo: Early next morning we leave Argentiere (4100 ft.) and head for the village of Le Tour, where we will take a cable-car part way up to the pass. The Glacier du Argentiere looms above.
Photo: We huff and puff up the first steep climb of the trip. It will get a lot steeper than this, but, mercifully, not today.
Photo: We reach Le Tour (4700 ft). From here we plan to take the cable-car up to Charamillon at 6067 ft.
Photo: We buy tickets ...
Photo: ... and arrive minutes later above the treeline with a great view of the Chamonix Valley. We have just avoided a grueling and pointless 1300 ft. climb through the forest---go Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club!!
Photo: As we start up to the pass, the great snow dome of Mont Blanc (15782 ft / 4810 m) towers behind us ...
Photo: ... while the Aigulle Vert (13,524 ft / 4122 m) rises to our right.
Photo: These cyclists have taken a chairlift all the way to the pass. They zoom down the trail as ...
Photo: ... we trudge onward and upward. 
Switzerland lies on the far side of the ridge.
Photo: A  stone pillar and cows mark the French-Swiss border at Col de Balme (7230 ft./2204 m.)
Photo: The view back is magnificent. Sadly, we must say goodbye to Mt. Blanc. We will not see it again.
Photo: The Refuge Col de Balme straddles the border right at the pass. It is run by a sour old woman and her disagreeable son, who chased us from the picnic tables with sweeping gestures as if shooing away flies. ("Pas de pique-nique, pas de pique-nique" he shouted). This in spite of the fact that I had bought a hot chocolate from him minutes before.
Photo: So we cross the pass and head down to Trient.
Photo: Looking back, the Refuge makes a picture-perfect scene.
Photo: We descend about 3000 ft. to Trient, losing almost all the altitude we gained this morning.
Photo: As we descend the Trient Glacier becomes visible off to the right.
Photo: That's Trient up ahead.
Photo: The church occupies a knoll at the highest point in the village.
Photo: It's a charming place ...
Photo: ... perhaps more French in appearance than Swiss.
Photo: The Relais du Mt. Blanc, our lodging for the night ...
Photo: ... features comfortable rooms, good food, and congenial company. The dining hall was full of hikers doing the "Tour de Mt. Blanc," a trail that circles the entire mountain passing through France, Italy, and Switzerland.
Photo: The next morning Debbi charts our course for the day. We head for the resort town of Champex-Lac, crossing the Alp Bovine, the easier of two possible routes.
Photo: The route not taken (8.7 mi.) crosses the Fenetre d'Arpette, a pass next to the Trient Glacier, and requires a demanding, rocky climb of 4500 ft. followed by a 3900-foot descent. Though touted as one of the most spectacular and wild stretches of the Haute Route, we weren't sure we were up to it.