Le Brevent - Les Houches
Thursday 3 September 2020
1640 kms
Distance (km) 10 kms
Distance (time) 6 hrs
Climb / Descent 100 / 1625m
Hard / Soft surface 30% / 70%
Weather 24° 2 Bft

The next morning we get up on time and drive to Les Houches. The parking at the railway station is full so it needs some creative parking but we manage and wait at the bus stop for the bus to Chamonix. Today there is again no train here.... The bus arrives, late, and half an hour later we're in Chamonix where we walk back to the skilift. Up to Planpraz and further up to the Brevent where we arrive at 11:30. The summit of the Mont Blanc is covered in a few clouds, so no extensive photo shoot today.
Within 50 meters walking we're passed by some mountain bikers (2 French and 2 Americans), but honestly speaking they're polite and cautious. But not very lucky, because just above us in a hairpin one goes gracefully flat on his face and after they passed we see that a few hairpins further down one of them has a flat tire. We just hop down over the large boulders and we reach them again. Ask them how often it happens that within a few hundred meters one falls and another gets a flat tire and they see the humour of the situation. And so a bit later they pass again wishing us a pleasant descent. Likewise, and a safe one too.
The path until Refuge Bel Lachat is stoney but not so steep and actually quite pleasant to walk. The continuous view on the Mont Blanc is very nice. After the refuge the path dives down in a whole serpentine of hairpins and here some sportive young boys and girls feel the need to pass us. One of them comes literally running down and then trips - in my imagination I see here flying passed me into the depth, but miraculously she manages to fall on the path and gets aways with just some bruses. Is this a learning moment? Nope... she gets up and starts running again.
Before the path reaches the first trees we get the first difficult passage. The path is hardly a path here and a chain has been mounted to the rocks to hold on to. Not ideal, but if feels kind of safe. Further on we get some more pieces with chains or cables or some kind of guard rail. The guard rail is more troublesome because in between where a rail ends and the next one starts there is about a meter of nothing and thus nothing to hold on to. It takes a while to pass this part.
Usually when one enters the forest the path becomes better. Less rocky, more soft ground and less steep. Well, the first are true, but the latter is not. It is still steep and instead of jumping down the rocks we're now jumping over tree roots. Just above Merlet we miss the GR5 and end up on the parking rather than to loop around it. Too bad, we'll just follow the tarmac road until we cross the GR5 again. That tarmac, by the way, seriously hurts the soles of our feet after all that descending.
We're now considerably lower but that doesn't mean it gets less steep. When we're back on the GR5 we leave the parking and immediately it descends steeply on a rocky path. Approaching the large statue of Christ the path alternates between nice forest track and steep rocky sections. Just after the statue of Christ we can choose to either follow the direction directly to the railways station of Les Houches or keep following the GR5 to Col de Voza. Since we're afraid that the direct way may follow the tarmac road from Merlet and we're really not into descending on tarmac right now we decide to stick with the GR5. And so we keep descending over forest tracks: wide, steep and full of hand size rocks and boulders. It's quite a relieve when we reach a gravel road and later even tarmac. At 5:30pm we reach the car - a descent of under 10km that according to the guide should be merely 3h10 took us 6 hours. We are clearly not great descenders.

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