|Goodbye, Valle d'Aosta|
Sunday marked the last full day of a long, sometimes exhausting, but incredibly rewarding trip to Europe. During the last week I had grown particularly attached to Courmayeur, and bid my personal goodbyes to all of the things I was going to miss — the light-hearted and friendly locals, the delicious thin-crust pizzas, and of course all of the mountains. So many mountains, so little time and energy in life to visit them all. But I felt like I had a good run during this trip.
Afterward, Beat and I met Ana for our promised gelato celebration. Ana succeeded in finishing the 2012 Tor des Geants despite multiple setbacks, including her sprained ankle before the event. She stoically kept at it, and arrived at the finish line on Saturday morning. Although Ana and I vowed to each eat a liter of gelato together if she finished the TDG, in the end we both chickened out. I was about to head out for an afternoon hike that 33 ounces of heavy cream and sugar would have likely sidelined, and I think Ana was just too tired to eat more than a normal portion. But the gelato was delicious. I had cherry and Nutella-flavored scoops on a cone. This is another thing I will miss about Courmayeur.
Because I was still dealing with frequent leg cramps, I told Beat I wanted to do something "short and easy" for my afternoon outing. The problem with climbing mountains in Courmayeur is the complete absence of anything resembling "short and easy." But it was my last day in Italy, and I just had to visit one more mountain. I chose Mont Cormet, an 8,200-foot peak that towers directly over town. I set up this timed photo to illustrate what hiking above the Aosta Valley usually entails — the "trail" shoots straight up the mountain slope on a 50-percent grade. Even at a snail's pace, my leg muscles were on fire. No wonder they've been cramping so much. As I climbed closer to the peak, I encountered some difficult terrain including traverses of extremely steep avalanche gullies, scrambles beside cliff bands, and navigating around a maze of large metal "nets" presumably constructed to prevent rockslides from tumbling all the way into town. During that section I had one mile that my Garmin registered as a 57-minute-mile. So much for short and easy.
Courmayeur to Mont Cormet, round-trip distance: 9.4 miles
Total climbing: 4,377 feet
Total time: 3:48