Tatiana’s Gambol – D1/D2

From St. Gingolph to La Chapelle d’Abondance

The GR5, we have concluded after only one day into it, is a pretty serious endeavour. Admittedly, yesterday was mostly taken up with travelling to the start at St. Gingolph and a leisurely 4km hike up to Novel, having dipped our toes in Lake Leman.

Today, though was a completely different story – and we only covered 16 kms, admittedly over two very steep cols causing the profile of our route to look like a M. We finished quite dehydrated having drunk four litres en route and knocked back another three when we arrived here at La Chapelle d’Abondance. Water. Not alcohol.

The heat is proving to be a massive factor and I’m already considering ditching stuff to make room for more water. 1 litre of water, incidentally, weighs exactly 1kg. Loaded up with a minimum of 2 litres, and probably more in the future, what was a 12kg pack is now more like 15kgs. Dillon in Hiking the GR5 suggests no more than 10kg.

Richard’s having an even tougher time of it – self-inflicted, mind you. I have no sympathy. He has literally brought his office with him – laptop, iPad and other ‘writer’s tools’. He’s currently doing a distance course in travel journalism and writing yet another book. So, he’s loaded himself up with about 20kgs including water. That’s 44lbs for the non-metric.

Secretly, I’m thrilled by this as it was clear today that his pack’s weight had a pretty profound effect on his ability to speed up hills, allowing me to crack on and leave him behind. Does that sound cruel and mean? Absolutely. But, it cuts both ways. He was ecstatic when I admitted that my left Achilles’ tendon has never recovered from a sprain when running in Moscow. ‘I’m really pleased you’re in pain,’ he said meaning it, ‘because it’ll slow you down. Don’t expect me to help you!’

So, I’m delighted that he’s loaded down like one of Marius’ Mules (Google it) and he’s pleased that I’ve got a tendon issue.

Richard is in fact a pretty top-end hips and knees surgeon. Good to know, when you’re doing a walk like this. But if I need his services I’m in real trouble. This evening he offered to ‘operate’ on my tendon, presumably in an attempt to slow me down even more. I declined the offer.

And so, we’re only at the end of day two and already revelling in each other’s handicaps. If you thought that this was two ex-army guys off on a leisurely chums’ hike together, think again. When a ‘blood clot’ forms (a term that describes any two ex-Airborne people coming together for any reason), the DNA of ‘creeping excellence’ and ‘competitive skullduggery’ reactivates automatically.

Rather humiliatingly a German girl has just turned up at our Gîte d’Étape. She started her GR5 300 miles north of Lake Leman in Stuttgart. She’s wild camping her way down the GR5 to the Med, and succumbed to the relative luxury of a bed only because it poured down last night and she got soaked. So, having got here feeling pretty perky about still being alive, our bubbles have been burst by this hardcore German frau.

The views, admittedly, have been spectacular – both looking back from Col de Bis down the valley to Novel and Lake Leman, from where we’d come, and forward to La Chapelle d’Abondance.

The hero, or rather, heroine of the past two days has been Lego Tatiana, who has taken all this in her stride. She was an instant hit with Cecile, who manages the very new and, frankly, luxurious Les Chemins de Leman in Novel.

She’s taken hiking in her stride, is fond of posing for the camera and has plenty of admirers and followers on her Instagram account.

Apart from waiting for Richard to catch up, I’ve kept an eye on what’s been happening on the fundraising side. Generous donations have continued throughout the day and we have now raised over £6,000 for Children With Cancer UK. Many thanks to all of you who have donated and continue to follow this journey.

We can’t predict what tomorrow will bring, but Richard needs to keep a very close eye on his pack, lest a large stone is added to it when he’s not looking.

Stay tuned!

PS I should have added that for those interested in the vital statistics of today’s hike, here they are on this link: