Col de la Forclaz - Refuge la Balme
Waking up to yet another wet tent we decided to set off a little later in order to give it time to dry out. This was going to be a fairly short day in terms of mileage after all, if a little steep. Taking the path opposite the Hotel du Forclaz we set out through the forest on a downhill slope towards La Peuty, the tiniest and quietest of Swiss villages. When you reach La Peuty the path is marked well and signals 2h30m to Col du Balme. The entire section of this trip is on an incline starting off with a gradual road climb which materializes into a steep, rocky, zigzag track through the forest. After lots of climbing, groaning and swearing you emerge above the tree line only to be foiled again and discover that the refuge sits on the top of a distant hill on the horizon. That being said, the path from here until close to the summit is at a steadier level and the open grassland allows you to look around at the great scenery. The two and a half hour trek, whilst a bit of a slog, does its duty and provides you with a fantastic view of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix valley below.
Refuge la Balme - Tré-le-Champ
There are two routes to take here. The first is the route down to La Tour which is a pretty village and from which begins a long line of towns in the Chamonix valley. The second is a route up Anguille des Posettes which increases the view of Mont Blanc on a clear day. We opted for the route to La Tour which meanders through mountain bike tracks and ski lifts all the way down. The walk to Tré-le-Champ from here is another 30 minutes through Montroc (another tiny town). We had planned to camp at Les Frasserands but the campsite was closed for the season so instead we went to the auberge at Tré-le-Champ and stayed in what was the best campsite of the trip. It was good being back on French soil. The campsite costs €8 per person and there is no extra cost for the tent like you find in Switzerland, meaning that for two it only cost us €16. The campsite is next to the auberge by a stream and we had access to all the facilities we needed. You can also stay for an evening meal too which costs €17 each but we decided to walk down to Argentiére (25mins) where we could get pizzas for €11!