Shortly before we left Lisbon, Kilian and Marta, climbing, camping, slackline, picnic and overall adventure buddies, left Lisbon to live in Germany. A cross-Europe connection was made and a pin point was placed on our route map.
As soon as we told them about our plans, we all had set in our minds that we would meet at one point along our way. Initially the plan had been to meet them in their new home in the centre of Germany. However, our pace and the pace of planet Earth around the sun (aka seasons) pushed us to meet further South, in France.
The plan: to explore the region of Annecy and Chamonix with climbing, hiking and of course some good picnics and home made cooking. In the end we even managed to squeeze in some sailing!
To start off things appropriately, we met by the lake near Aix-le-Bains with a proper picnic and swim. It was the first time we had met after some months and emotions were at high, so a bottle of cidra also had to be present.
As the sun started to descend behind the mountains we headed up to what would be our headquarters for fun and rest for the next few days. A house rented in the countryside in-between Aix-le-Bains and Annecy in a town called Cusy became our cosy base and home.
Again, the outside table became the hub of the house, and we spent several delicious meals concocting what to do next…
We started by heading to the amazing mountain surrounded Annecy lake, where Captain Kilian took the helm of our small rented sailing boat. Everyone had their tasks and a turn at the helm, after quite some wiggles around the lake and surprisingly no sea sickness from Sarah, we headed back to our healthy picnic lunch of crêpes and ice-cream…
The day after we felt prepared for climbing and headed off to a high cliff with amazing views of Mont Blanc. It was exciting and breathe taking. Unwillingly we ended up doing some sort-of-multipitch climbing when we realised the pitches were longer than we thought…. We returned home with a satisfied yet simultaneously growing desire for climbing.
After such emotions we thought we needed some time to relax (it was holidays time after all!) and headed again to the lake to splash and plan the next adventures. As we had yet another picnic, we decided to dedicate the next day again to climbing and this time to do a multipitch, intentionally.
The next day, perhaps still in a relaxed holiday mode, we did not leave as early as we should have, but eventually headed off in a new direction which provided us new views over new mountains. The road to reach the climbing spot was the most steep and winding road that I think any of us had ever taken. Finally at the top we took a hiking path that proved to be as steep and winding, to the rock we were meant to climb.
However, after several hours scrambling upwards through the rocks we reached, what seemed at a time, a point where we could go no further… And the questions in the air: did we take a wrong turn?? where is this rock-face ?? Which one is it?? There were so many around…Eventually, despite thinking that we had identified the right place, none of us were happy about the path (or lack of it..) to get there… And so in the end we decided the wisest thing to do was to return home and… buy some cheese to have a picnic…
Back at the Cusy base again, it was time to prepare to the next days… Chamonix is a place that is somehow in every climber or mountianeers imagination. Being so close was too tempting not to make the trip and contemplate Mont Blanc a bit closer. We found and decided to do a hike that would allow us to have such views and… treat, sleep at a mountain refuge…!
We left the next morning anxious to be in this iconic town and to see the snow covered peaks of the highest mountain in Europe (Ebrus aside…). After the most expensive coffee of our trip, we eventually found the start of our hike and began heading up the mountains… The first part of the hike proved itself easy and that was probably a good thing as it started to rain just as we started our lunch… picnic…
Luckily the refuge was just around the corner and we took shelter there next to the fire with hot choco in our hands… We cozied down next to the fireplace, drying our cloths and writing postcards…
We eagerly waited for dinner, that we eventually shared with a group of paragliders also spending the night there, before hopping off the next morning. The dinner was worth the wait, as it proved to be one of the best refuge dinners ever!
Even, or especially for Sarah… Although the vegetarian-classic cheese omelette, it was super tasty and they even prepared gluten-free chestnut muffins. It felt curious that it had been easier to find gluten-free food in a refugee 2000m up in the mountains than in the rest of France…
The refugee was run by a young friendly couple who were not shy to share the recipe and they even taught us how to play one of the board games they had there. A bunch of cyclists/climbers/hikers in a mountain refuge ended up pretending to be train runners until late at night…
The next morning we woke up to amazing views over the snow covered peaks that the rain and clouds had hidden the previous day.
We had our fulfilling breakfast and left early(ish) as mountain rules dictate. We headed off to the hike the refuge owner had suggested to us, taking us unexpectedly across into Switzerland and to the highest point any of us had ever hiked…
As we went up the clouds followed us and eventually surrounded us, hiking up loose rock to the very top. As we summited, the clouds cleared enough to treat us to amazing views over the lake and cliffs on the Swiss side… as we had yet another picnic and Kilian brewed a coffee!
Maybe from the amazing views and all the photos we could not help but take, or the emotions of being in such a place, but when we ended up getting back to the car the sunlight was already gone and so we had dinner in the restaurant just there.
We returned tired and in need of another rest day at the house, which we promptly did. It was an opportunity for us cyclists to maintain our bicycles and to prepare a bit for the upcoming cycling days.
In our final day before having to leave the Cusy house, we had just the energies to head up to a local climbing spot and for us, a last chance experience this contact with nature through one of its hardest elements.
The week was full but yet felt short and too quick as it was time to say farewell once again. But with the certainty to keep the connection no matter the distance…
As treat, the gluten-free mountain chestnut muffins recipe for any picnic ;p yo might want to have:
500g chestnut spread
100g of butter
zest of half a lemon
Beat together all of the ingredients
Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases
Bake at 180°C for 20-25 minutes until golden