Day 03: 13.08.2011 Champex – Col de Mille
We had breakfast at 07:00 hrs and left for Bourg St. Pierre by van at 07:45 hrs. Our group had been reduced to 6 trekkers and guide Sonia with Beng Eng and Chin Teong staying out for the next two days. We started trekking from Bourg St. Pierre (1615m a.s.l.) at 08:25 hrs., going uphill initially like the past two days.
At 10:20 hrs, we had a 15-minute rest at Boveire d’en Bas (2200m a.s.l.)
At 11:15 hrs, we came to a farmer’s cheese factory at Le Coeur (2238m a.s.l.). Just then a large herd of cattle came back from the pasture and the big bells dangling from their necks made a pleasant melody. A man showed us the cheese-making equipment and gave us a brief run-down on the cheese-making process. He later took us into the cold room which was maintained at 10° C to cure some 1200 round slabs of raclette cheese. In Summer, this factory produces 15 round slabs of cheese from 700 litres of milk from 68 cows everyday. There were about 160 cows in the herd.
We resumed trekking at 12:00 hrs and just 20 minutes later, we stopped for lunch at a place 2315m a.s.l. We had beet root, bread with ham pâté, rabbit pâté and cheese. Mountain views from there were spectacular.
We were back on our feet at 13:30 hrs and in just 22 minutes we reached a place known as La Vuardette (2450m a.s.l.). A sign there indicated that it was another 50 minutes’ walk from there to Col de Mille. We stopped there for about 10 minutes.
At 14:30 hrs, we came to a small mountain lake and stopped there for 15 minutes. There were some other trekkers and children there. Some sheep were grazing nearby.
We reached Cabane du Col de Mille (2473m a.s.l.) at 15:30 hrs, after 7 hours and 5 minutes on the trail. After deducting all the rests, time spent at the cheese factory and lunch break, amounting to 2 hours and 45 minutes, we only trekked for 4 hours and 20 minutes. And the weather was good. It was a most relaxing day. I wondered why Sonia advised Beng Eng and Chin Teong to skip this day’s trek.
Cabane du Col de Mille was a refuge perching on a spur overlooking deep valleys on three sides. Water supply was a problem and because of that it had no bathrooms and there was only one chemical toilet at the edge of a cliff away from the building. The refuge could accommodate 36 trekkers. Some other trekkers were already there when we arrived. We learnt from the refuge staff that we were the first Malaysians to ever stay there. Some people were doing para-gliding beside the refuge. In fact we saw the para-gliders when we were approaching the refuge.
Dinner was served at 18:30 hrs: vegetable soup, salad, rice, beef, and canned pineapple for dessert. As usual, Sonia gave us a briefing after dinner on the next day’s trek. With nothing much to do as I did not have a book to read and it was windy and cold outside, I succumbed to my fellow trekkers’ persuasion and wrote something in English and Chinese in the refuge’s Visitors Book about our group and how I felt about the trek.