Il n'a pas les jambes aujourd'hui

Living out here in the Alps, we've been watching the coverage of this fantastic summer of sport in French. Watching TV with subtitles is a great way to try and learn a language, and "il n'a pas les jambes aujourd'hui" is a phrase I saw during the coverage of the Tour de France. It translates directly to the English phrase "He just hasn't got the legs today", and as I climbed Mont de la Grange yesterday I felt it summed up my day.

I was attempting the so-called Chatel 3 Peaks. I'm sure this has been tried by lots of people, but I heard about it from a chap called Darren, who made a little video. The idea is to climb the three largest and most famous peaks in the Chatel area as quickly as possible. The three mountains are Dent D'Oche (2221m), Cornettes du Bise (2432m) and Mont de la Grange (also 2432m). Darren and those before him started from various places near the first summit, but I decided to try to run the route as a loop from Chatel. Here's the plan...

3 peaks (and a "bonus" little one too)
So, after debating whether to go or not, at about 11:30 I set off, hoping to be out for perhaps between 6 to 8 hours. The run to Dent D'Oche was a long and hilly one, after the first 6km down the river to Chapelle d'Abondance. My route took me by the Chalets du Chevenne and up the Refuge du Bise, the to the summit via the Col du Florey and and the Portes D'Oche.

I finally reached the summit after 3hrs 35mins and 22km, and felt surprisingly crap! Perhaps after a long-ish bike ride the previous day this wasn't such a good idea. Still, this is an utterly stunning region, and the mountains, compete with Boquetin, gave me some inspiration to crack on towards the Cornettes du Bise.

The route was now simpler: Back to the Col and Refuge du Bise, then up to the Col de Bosses and over the scrambly track to the summit. The scramble felt tough, I've come down this way before but not up, but that didn't matter - I just felt really really tired. I eventually reached the summit after almost exactly 6 hours, having covered 32km and climbed around 3600m.

It's a long time since I've felt like quitting during a challenge like this, but after the Cornettes I wondered if that would be the sensible option... But I'd still need to drop back down to La Chapelle d'Abondance and run home anyway, so after starting to descend I decided just to get on with it and go home over the top as planned. The route from the Cornettes was the simplest of the day, down to the valley and up the other side, but with the village of Chapelle at 920m and the summit at 2432, there was a lot of climb to do.

An hour from the summit I was back in the valley and starting to climb again, now way off schedule but feeling a bit better now. I managed to jog some of the climb up to the summit ridge, but after mis-reading the map I was disappointed to have to lose and regain 200m of height half way up. Finally I was contouring around the track to L'Etrye, past the track I would eventually use to run home. Past this point there was no shortcut now, a few minutes later I was at the summit ridge at 1900 and on my way to the top. Mont de la Grange seems to be home to lots of Chamois, rather than the Boquetin on the other two, but I was really struggling now.

It's not long since I had to stop and sit down on a trail to avoid collapsing, but it happened twice on the way up Mont de la Grange yesterday. I had eaten all the food I'd taken with me now and it really was time to get this over with. I watched the metres tick up on the altimeter until eventually after just over 9 and a half hours I was at the top (53kms).

Trois (just!)
It was now getting dark so I turned straight around and headed for home. Having felt so rubbish on the climb I felt surprisingly good on the descent and was soon at the bottom of the ridge. By the time I was on the final run down to home the tree cover made things really very dark and I was glad I knew the way, and when to look out for barbed wire fences!

Unfortunately my watch battery died on the descent from the ridge, but I got home pretty much exactly 10 hours after starting. Quite a lot longer than I was expecting, but at 58kms and 5072m of ascent the route had proved quite a lot bigger than I'd predicted. That's the fastest time that I know of, but a fast runner and a good climber could certainly take hours off that, and I did add an additional summit which probably made half an hour's difference.

Dents du Midi and Mont Blanc from Mont de la Grange


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