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Alpine Crossing 2013 – Day 43: Refuge de Nice – L’Estive

Actually we planned to walk to Ref. Marveille and stay there for one night – but things came very different…

According to a leaflet we should need about 3:30 from Ref. Nice to Ref. Marveille. From the past days we were a little sceptical about those estimations. So we planned to be there in 5 hours instead of 3:30 – to have some backup. In the end we needed all 5 hours!

From Ref. Nice a very nice path led us upwards to the first pass on about 2600m. At the final ascent the path became little steep but it was fun to climb up :) At the top we saw two ibexes hanging around – they just ignored us :P

From here we climbed down about 200m and followed a narrow path up to another pass. When we arrived at the top there were already a lot of clouds hanging around. We were quite glad to be at the Marveille hut within the next 1:30 hours.

On our way down to the hut we passed a “historical area” where 5000 years old engravings were found. Quite a lot of people were in this area. Unfortunately all the signs were just in French… One could have bought a guided tour…the leaflet which described the tour unfortunately was also just in French. We saw some groups of people with a person explaining something…but also just in French… We finally found the first engraving …then someone told us that this is not the original one…just a replication. The original one is somewhere in the museum. Then we decided to continue walking to the Marveille hut.

At 13:30 we finally arrived at the Marveille hut and directly asked for a place to sleep. Luckily there was one person speaking a little English. I think in French it actually would have been possible as well but the conversation turned out to be more complicated than expected.

In short – they had no place for us to stay. We told them that we want to walk the GR52 path to Sospel the next morning – which is a 9-10 hour tour – and that there is no other accommodation close to this hut. They did not care. We said that we don’t need any food and that we would also sleep under the table and that we can share a bed if required. They still did not care. Then we told them that we are walking for almost 7 weeks and that we only need a few more days to reach our destination. What can I say…they just repeated: “There is no place for you. We are already booked for the whole August.”

We argued that we were not able to reserve the hut so many days in advance – because we did not know if we can make it to this hut in time (simply because of the weather). Second we did not have internet access the last days because there was simply no mobile signal (one needs to know that French huts – at least in the Alps Maritime – can only be reserved online – not by phone – btw. the website to do this is in French only of course). They did not care and still sent us away. Actually mountain huts are not allowed to send you away when you want to stay there.

We further argued that we are quite tired from this and the last days and said again that we really want to stay at the hut. We also said that we both are members of the German Alpine Club. They did not care and proposed we can descent to a Gite d’Etape about 4-5 hours ago. Meanwhile it was 2pm and the weather situation – at least from our perspective was quite unclear. We said that we do not want to walk another 5 hours at this weather. Actually we read multiple times – and we think this is true from the last weeks – that it is recommended to plan to be at the hut between 1pm and 2pm.

The hut owner just looked out of the window for a second and then said the words we already heard so many times before: “Weather is good. No storm. Maybe a little rain in the afternoon.” And then he added: “If there is a storm – we will hear it.”

We looked at each other and could not believe it. Then he turned around and walked away. So it seemed to be impossible to stay here. We thought about alternatives which would correspond with our plan to walk further to the south but there was only this one hut about 5 hours away. The hut owner told us there are also 3-4 hotels all much bigger than the Marveille hut…but those were also not on the map. So we asked if they can show us on the map where exactly we have to go… They painted something in our map – a point which wad supposed to be 5 hours away. We both thought it was very strange that this hut and all those hotels were not in our map…. We asked if they are really sure.. they said “Yes!” We asked if they can call the hut and make sure that they are still having two free places… They just said: ” They will have free places…”.

We finally decided to try it because we saw no other chance. We were very angry about this behaviour and the whole situation… Again we hurried like idiots up and down and up and down and in my imagination I kicked the hut owners ass…with each step I was doing. Around us were just dark clouds – the blue sky was not visible anymore. We were lucky this time. There was no thunderstorm above our heads – personally I think after all those days that in certain situations nobody can ensure that there won’t be a thunderstorm within the next 4 or 5 hours.

After 4 hours of a very fast descent we finally arrived at the position which was marked by the hut owner before – the place where the 3-4 hotels were supposed to be….but…there was NOTHING. And again I kicked the hut owners ass – this time with both feet…

All we found was a sign which told us that we have to walk another 1:30 hours to l’Estive – the name which was given to us by the hut owner. And so we continued walking…without knowing if we will get a place to sleep.

However, one very nice thing which was almost lost in all this anger was the sea we were able to see the first time! This was an absolutely great moment. First I thought it is just a cloud but then I saw a ship and then it suddenly became clear how close we are to our final destination.

When we finally arrived at l’Estive we were surprised that we were the only guests beside two other people. We were so happy that we found a place to sleep, to eat and to take a shower :) After 11 hours of walking up and down everything hurt. And as always it turned out that almost everything has two sides…now at the end we were so glad to be down here instead of being on the hut with 100 other people. From the sun terrace we could look down to the sea – still far away – but it is there :)

In case we are able to move tomorrow morning we want to go to Sospel – the last stage before we reach the sea :) )

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