Reaching The Limits

Definite highlight yesterday was when I reached the top of Le Grand Colombier at 1’534 m altitude… and spotted the Rhone river for the first time. Those trails were not made for people with heavy backpacks. As I worked my way up slowly with the help of my hiking sticks, I felt like some extra-terrestrial spider conquering Earth. Totally exhausted, I flopped down in this very spot on the photo after, took off my sweaty t-shirt and settled in for a while. Swallows were hunting all around me, zipping past at insane speeds. With no other sounds to distract me, I realized for the first time that they actually sound like mini jet fighters as they accelerate towards their prey. How they’re even able to spot and grab tiny insects at high speed is a mystery to me…

After a while, I wandered onwards towards Culoz, yet again encountering paths that needed the skill of a mountain goat.

To be honest, yesterday I almost gave up. These last two days were tough. Water was the biggest problem. All small mountain restaurants were closed because of Covid19, and all river and creek beds were dried out. There was simply nowhere to re-fill. Also, the day before, I had walked a good 20 km. Not because I wanted to, but because there was nowhere to set up my tent. Either the trail went through an extreme slope, or it went through a cow pasture. I finally found a spot at 8pm at night, after 9 hours of walking. My water was almost gone and I had to force myself to keep some of it for the next day.

Then, yesterday morning, I set off at 8 am, feeling quite cold after a humid night in the forest.

I had a little less than half a liter of water left. Almost immediately, the ascent to Le Grand Colombier began.

Resting on top, from where I was sitting here in this picture, I could see lots of cars and a few huts, and I thought, “Yay, finally, a place to refill my water.” I was parched, so I drank what I had left. When I arrived at the huts, I could see that they were all closed, too. Nothing to do but hope for the best and keep on walking. My saliva was growing so thick, I began to understand how Mr. Anderson must have felt in The Matrix when the agents were gluing his mouth shut. With every minute, I felt more like exactly the same was happening to me, too.

Luckily, about an hour later, I came upon an open restaurant. I ate a real meal and drank 2 liters of water. Took another two liters with me. By then, I had already been 6 hours on the trail. Only 3 more hours to Culoz. With a freshly filled stomach, I felt optimistic. Plus, there was nowhere else to go if I wanted to refill my water supply again at the end of the day. Everything else was just forests and the dried out Jura mountain range.

So, I pressed on. The trail began to go downhill and was horrible. Have I told you how much I’ve come to hate gravel? Almost every hiking trail is fortified with gravel. Not the small pebbly kind either, but large, sharp pieces of rock. I try to avoid them as much as I can. I always watch my step. But still, these trails are killing my feet. After about the 8th hour of walking I felt like crying. “Who had this great idea of going hiking? Oh yeah, me.”

Thankfully, I could see Culoz from above. A trail sign told me it was only 1 1/2 hours more. At that moment though, 1 1/2 hours felt like an eternity. All my water was gone again and I was completely exhausted. I pep-talked myself all the way down, running a constant string of dialogue with myself (with the intermittent “ouch” and a lot of swearing). Finally, after an insane 10 hours of ascents and descents, and approx. 25 km, I reached Culoz. Where I found a fountain to refill my water supply and found a secluded spot to set up my tent.

This morning I feel a lot better again. Heading out towards Chanaz along the Rhone river.

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