Friday, November 13, 2009

MBT Stage 3: Croix du Bonhomme to Refugio Elisabetta

Last night it apparently stormed, but exhaustion allowed me to sleep right through it all. We awoke to the clouds hovering in the valley and the mountain peaks poking through. Despite the cloudiness we were pleased that the sky never opened up anymore than to allow a few drops of rain.
In addition, after being burnt for the first two days cloud cover was a welcome change. Before heading out we slurped down large sums of coffee and ate homemade bread with either honey or nutella spread. Then we set out for a 16 km hike into Italy and towards Refuge Elisabetta.

Mt. Pourri at 7am, the clouds were lingering in the valley, providing an mystical atmosphere.

I sadly left the Croix du Bonhomme’s picturesque seclusion in the midst of the Alps, but knew I would soon see more intense scenery as today we’d get closer to glaciers. Once we reached the Col des Fours the highest point of the trek at 8743’ (35 minutes from the refuge) we began a long descent down towards the Ville des Glaciers. It is at this point where the Glaciers of the Glaciers came into sight.

Marc at Tete Nords des Fours

Villes des Glaciers

At the Ville des Glaciers I noticed a small sign stating ‘Vente Fromage et Beurre’ posted outside of the farmhouse. I poked my head into the farm door where I saw a farmer sporting large green rubber boots stoking a fire under a gigantic pot of what I could only conclude to be cheese in the making. I asked him, in French of course, if he sold cheese. After he finished his fire stoking he brought me into his cheese cellar where he cut a large wedge of old Beaufort cheese for me (1 lbs for only 5€). It was an amazing bold tasting cheese that we enjoyed eating for the next two days of our hike.

Cheese Cellar

Stoking the fire.

We continued on past Refuge Les Mottets and began a gradual ascent up towards the Col de La Seigne at 8252’ towards the Mont Blanc Massif and the French-Italian Border. The backdrop as we approached the Col de La Seigne was immense and the colors of the glacier became more prominent with whites, blues and red hues.

We stopped for lunch near a water fall to enjoy our Beaufort cheese, cherry tomatoes, homemade bread, chorizo sausage and wine. We sat there and relaxed while enjoying the views.

Beaufort cheese, crackers, homemade bread, tomatoes, chorizo sausage and red wine.

Cloud cover started to get more dramatic as we approached the Col de la Seigne making for a gloomy yet mystical sort of feeling. At the Col de la Seigne unfortunately the cloud cover was a bit too intense to see the supposedly outstanding view in all directions.

Hiking towards Col de la Seigne.
We then descended into Italy’s Val Veni towards our final destination Refugio Elisabetta at an elevation of 7544’ (2195m).

The official 'TMB' sign of the trail.

Rifugio Elisabetta
Refugio Elisabetta is an old stone refuge which lies less than 90 min below the Col de la Seigne on the Italian side of the Alps. The backdrop of Elisabetta is the Glacier d’Estellette and Glacier de la Lee Blanche and the view from the covered porch is the Vallon de la Lee Blanche leading into Courmayeur.
The refuge was welcoming and cozy. After a very quick shower in the coin operated facilities, we ordered some large pints of Birra Morretti and reviewed what we’d completed in Stage III and prepped for Stage IV.
All the while we could smell the delicious food being prepared in the kitchen. Dinner was delicious and hearty consisting of bean soup, pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, mixed salad, bread, peaches and a nice liter of red wine. We were pleased when the trekkers we dined with also indulged in some delicious red wine. Conversation about the trek and travel was shared between us and many of the other trekkers including a funny Scottish couple and trekkers from Germany, South Africa, France and Italy.

Stage III Summary
Route: Alternative
Total Hours: ~ 6hrs
Total Kilometers: 16-18km
Accommodations: Refuge Elisabetta
Cost: 88€ (for 2 demi-pension)
Dinner: Bean Soup, Homemade Bread
Pork Tenderloin, Mashed Potatoes, Mixed Salad,
Red wine (Chianti).
Breakfast: Coffee, Bread with nutella/honey/jam and cereal.


  1. You know, come to think of it, I cannot find my Swiss army knife. It might be all alone on the trail somewhere. We better go back immediately and start the search...

  2. Invalueable information. Going this summer