Yesterday was so pleasantly warm and sunny here in the Tarentaise that I decided a little hike in the mountains with Finn the Hound from Outer Space was in order.

So we took ourselves up into the hills for what I thought might be a two-hour amble, setting off up the Vallon de Mercuel towards la Motte, which involved a mere 250-metres or so of ascent. On getting there, however, I was tempted to continue up to the Col de la Montseti a further 550-metres higher and do a round trip via Refuge de Ruitor back to the car.

By ‘eck, it were a bit of a slog up to the col at 2571-metres – either I’m not fully acclimatised or I’m fat and old. I fear ‘tis the latter…

Anyway, we got there in the end, and my slight concern that the north facing slopes down which we must descend to Refuge de Ruitor would be a little snowy proved well founded. After last winter’s heavy snowfall I found myself up to my knees in soft, slushy snow at times.

Which isn’t great when you’re wearing shorts and trainers. Even Gore-tex lined trainers are ineffective when the snow is coming in from above, but so what – yes, I’m a buffoon for being so unprepared, but the views towards the Italian border of 3128-metre Pointe de l’Invernet, 3147-metre Pointe du Grand and 3173-metre Grand Assaly were worth it; and in the distance I could see Mont Blanc, whilst over my shoulder Mont Pourri (3779-metres) stood proud and aloof above my present residence in Le Pré.

As Finn and myself made our way down from the col and past the refuge, damp, tired but happy, I came across a rather poignant sight. You pass a group of large roche moutonée – glacier smoothed rocks – on which I noticed earlier mountain travellers had carved their initials and names.

One set, which were rather hard to decipher, were accompanied by a more prominent set of dates, inscribed thus: ’36, 37, 38, ?’. These presumably referred to the dates that the person who carved them had enjoyed visiting this lovely spot.

But why the question mark? Did they sense the impending disaster that was about to sweep across Europe the following year? Did they wonder if they would be caught up in it and be unable to return to the mountains?

It seems they never did return since there are no more dates after the question mark. I wonder why…?

 

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