11:18PM | Chamonix-Mont-Blanc | France
We bid farewell to the sparkling Lake Como this morning, after a last minute coffee and some sugar cookies for the road. Our route takes us south toward Milan, then northwest toward the mountains. We’ve decided to cross the Alps via the Simplon Pass, a crossing in use since the Stone Age, but made famous during the reign of Napoleon.
On this crystal clear day, the pass is simply spectacular. Gently winding roads weave between jagged mountains and across alpine fields dotted with grazing cows and ancient stone cottages. We pull off the main road into the sleepy and immaculate Swiss town of Simplon, where we grab a coffee in a sunny window seat. Just after Simplon, the gentle uphill grade reverses, and we slowly wind down a dramatic valley.
We break for lunch in Brig, then head west across the Vallais canton along the Rhône River. At the end of the valley, we climb rapidly over the Mont de l’Arpile, and cross into France as we descend into the Chamonix Valley. The valley feels like Colorado — unpaved roads, wooden roadside buildings, massive mountains covered in pines below and snow above.
The town of Chamonix isn’t quite empty, but it’s unmistakable off-season here; the Mont Blanc towers unimaginably tall above the town. After a weather report from the hotel’s front desk, we plan our hikes for the rest of the week. Soup a l’Oignon for dinner on a square in the centre ville; up the northern wall of the valley tomorrow.