A few observations taken from my journal notes written on the last night of the journey:
- I reek.
- Everyone else who has been on the trail for 12 days reeks too.
- I challenged myself physically and mentally, and I rose to the challenge – and it felt great!
- I lived every minute of the trip, and it was a wonderful feeling.
- I felt like I celebrated my half-century on earth in a satisfying way.
- I don’t want to wait another decade to take another trip that leaves me breathless.
- I was looking forward to being home.
We hiked six miles to Planpraz where we had started a little more than a week before. It was exciting to come to where we had started, and to see it with new eyes. We took the telepherique down to Chamonix, then had lunch at a restaurant called Monkey and took our bags to the Hotel Vallee Blanche. We unpacked our bags and piles up our dirty clothes. We took turns enjoying long showers. Very long showers, in a large space with unlimited hot water. They clearly catered to people at the end of their Mont Blanc journey, because they had huge tubs of liquid soap in the shower. We did a little research and discovered that there was a nearby launderette that would wash, dry and fold all of our clothes for 13 euros, a small price to pay to alleviate the stench of our unwashed clothing.
Our room overlooked the Arne River, and the view to the south revealed Planpraz and Le Brevent where we had started and ended our journey. On the last morning I watched the parasailers gliding by, colorful chutes on their way to nearby targets, as I listened to the water rushing by.
I realized as I finally climbed in the van to ride to Geneva that I hadn’t been in a moving vehicle for 13 days, and that I hadn’t missed it one bit.
Hiking around the mountain taught me that with perseverance, I can overcome the hurdles that lie before me, both on the trail and off. I didn’t let a total hip replacement or deep vein thrombosis with post-phlebitic syndrome stop me from achieving my goal of circumnavigating Mont Blanc. I hiked 108 miles and more than 30,000 feet of vertical up and down with 25 pounds on my back. I triumphed over the physical and psychological demands of the trail.
It was a peak experience.