HR – Day 1: Champex-Lac to Le Châble
“You really live up to your trail name,” Dave said as we packed today.
We have just finished Tour du Mont Blanc yesterday afternoon and he was hoping for a rest day while I pushed us to start another trek right away.
When we said said good bye to Champex, it was already close to eleven. We have never had a start so late but this stage was said to be a relatively easy downhill walk which can be completed in less than five hours, and so we took our time eating breakfast and packing.
The trail turned out to be just as was promised in the guide book – gentle stroll through meadows overlooking the valley at first. We still had views of mountains, smaller trees peaks, and closer to us bloomed variety of wildflowers, and there was the sound of crickets that unmistakably belongs to summer walks.
Later we descended to the valley floor and proceeded through several communities. We were hoping to grab a lunch at Sembrancher but the trail only skirted the town and we did not feel like making the detour to a store or a restaurant. Instead we found a small meadow just past the town where we sat in the tall soft grass, and we ate some of our own provisions while watching farmers collecting hay.
A small hill had to be climbed after Sembrancher but otherwise there was very little uphill on today’s stage and we made it to Le Châble earlier that the guide book suggested.
Le Châble is a confusing town, or at least it appeared to us that way. Maybe it was due to a fact that we do not have a phone or data coverage here (as Switzerland is not a part of European Community), so we tried to use a pre-loaded map to find our points of interest (information center and a hotel), and it was a lousy one that send us all over the place without letting us reach either of the places we searched.
We bumped into the hotel eventually. Relieved that at least one chore would be off our list, we entered the building searching for reception desk. There was none. Instead there was a note in two languages to call a number and receptionist would arrive shortly. Making a phone call is not a difficult task, if you have a phone service, that is. We sat on the stairs, looking at the notice for about five minutes, that an idea dawned on us to try wi-fi calling. It worked and five minutes later we had a place to stay.
Our next task was to find the information center. It was mere 200 feet from the hotel but with no signed pointing us to the right direction, it was an adventure on its own.
Our questions were answered. We did not like all the answers. For example the fact that it was a national holiday today, and everything including grocery store, pharmacy, bank, and some restaurants were closed caught us completely by surprise. It meant no food was available until 6:30 p.m. when local pizzeria started to serve dinner. Tell two hungry hikers that they’d have to wait three more hours before grab. They won’t be happy.
We also learned that some serious rain is coming next week and if the forecast is correct it would not dissipate within a day or two. We have enough time to make it to the next town before the deluge hits. We will weigh our options.
NOTES: August 15, 2019
Champex is not the starting point of the Haute Route. The trek commenced in Chamonix, France and it shares its first 3 stages with Tour Du Mont Blanc. Since we just finished our TMB trek, we chose not to repeat those stages and start in Champex instead.
If you booked B&B de la Poste in Le Châble, make sure you have a working phone when you arrive to call the receptionist. She lives nearby and does not stay at the hotel, except during breakfast hours. The hotel is reasonably priced, rooms are nice and it’s short distance from stores and restaurants. Breakfast is included. With your stay you get a one day pass for local transportation, gondolas and buses. Super fast wi-fi too.
There is tons of hiking in the area, and with the free pass local hotels give you, you have access to all the gondolas and bus in the valley. This makes Le Châble a good option for a rest day.
Brew dog, pub just across the street from B&B de la Poste, has three good beers on tap and a nice variety of bottled beers and ciders.
Don’t look for restaurant Le Couloir which is #1 on this advisor. It does no longer exist, at least not at the address listed in Trip Advisor.
There are hotels in Le Châble, restaurants, grocery store, pharmacy, and a bank.