Here are Part 1 and Part 2.

TMB Day 3: Les Chapieux to Rifugio Elisabetta

We enjoyed our hostel-style breakfast (i.e., communal rather than separate restaurant tables), again with our new British friends, before heading out. (A note on that: to do this trip at all required a certain level of denial about the risks of COVID. There was just no way to avoid a fair amount of contact with others, especially in dining environments.)

Our way led up the valley, at first on road then on a trail that paralleled the road but across the river. The guidebook said that this was a good part to skip by taking a taxi or shuttle, but I thought the hike up the valley was very pretty. Despite having somewhat heavier packs than usual, as we would not have our luggage that night at the rifugio, we didn't mind walking.
Looking back the way we'd come.

The end of the road is in Ville Des Glaciers, which appears to be named for the glacier des Glaciers? It's a long way up the valley now, but at one time must have come fairly close to the village. In any case, we checked it out, finding a public restroom but no potable water. We were carrying a filter so chose to move on and fill water bottles from a stream farther along. This wasn't necessary very often, but we did appreciate having the option and being able to carry less water at times.
Ville des Glaciers.

The climb to the Col de la Seigne and the border with Italy was a steady grunt but not terribly long and mostly not terribly steep. We arrived easily in time for lunch. Great views encouraged most of the hikers to seek out little hollows out of the wind and take a nice break, and we followed suit.
Painless border crossing. The mountain is now Monte Bianca.

Letting Stinklet and my feet out for some air. I do like to take off boots and socks at lunch whenever possible and let things dry.

The descent from the pass to Rifugio Elisabetta was pretty quick and mostly easy, with a stop at the newly renovated Casermetta (former customs house, now a museum and info center for the mountains, with an emphasis on treading lightly). We checked out the info and the 3-D map, and had second lunch, before dropping a bit farther down the valley to arrive at Elisabetta just at check-in time. Since they weren't actually ready, being very short-handed, we hung out on the porch and snacked some more.
Descending the broad, flat, glacier-carved valley.

That moment when you realize that your destination is above you and you have to climb back up after hammering down the valley for miles.

The Rifugio Elisabetta has an amazing setting, with views that were what we'd come for, especially the sunrise. We were a little taken aback by the delay in getting our room, and perhaps more so by the size of the so-called 3-person room (a set of bunks and a trundle bed that completely covered the floor aside from a little space by the door). Dinner was good, but breakfast a sad disappointment.
Day 3 stats: 9.2 miles, 3450' up, 1400' down. 
 

TMB Day 4:  Rifugio Elisabetta to Courmayeur

The earliest crack of dawn saw Tom and me up and out for the photo possibilities. Perched at 2195 m (7200') and very close to the glaciers, this was our coldest morning and about the only time I really needed my down puff. But this sunrise was what we'd come for, and why we put up with the tiny room and barley adequate showers and toilets.
First light reflected in the windows of the dining room.

After a longish wait, the sun prepares to make an appearance.

Glacier de la Lée Blanche. Monte Bianca was visible only from well up the ridge.

After being up for more than an hour and a half and climbing several hundred feet in search of the perfect photo spots, we were more than ready for a hearty breakfast. Sadly, we were presented with tea/coffee and bread with butter and jam (not even good baguette, but just sliced bread). It's a typical French or Italian breakfast, but not what we had been getting, and wholly inadequate for trekkers. Our tablemates shared some nut butter they were carrying, and we did our best, but knew this would stretch the provisions we'd brought with us.
 
Looking back at Elisabetta. Loved the setting, but we weren't sorry to leave. My recommendation if you want to stay there is to bring your own breakfast.

This day I had in my mind as an easy stroll down the valley. That's because I didn't read the guidebook carefully--the easy stroll was for bad weather, and we had fantastic weather! Naturally, we took the scenic route.
One of a couple of great reflecting ponds we encountered. This looks back to where Elisabetta is perched on the ridge just below the left-hand crags and above the grey streak of riverbed coming down from the glaciers.

Fern silhouettes in the Vallon de la Lée Blanche

The climbing took me by surprise, but soon rendered up views well worth the effort.
Monte Bianca and a crumbling farm building.


Once we reached the high point (and dropped down one annoying steep bit), the walk was pleasant, and definitely scenic.

Fairly graphic signs kept me from approaching the edge! The trail itself did not feel precarious.

Beautiful though the day's hike was, we were not sorry to finally reach the lifts. A pair of them took us down about 2400' to Cormayeur, a descent my knees were happy to skip.
Tom and Carol on the lift. Oddly, even these open ski lifts didn't trigger my fear of heights, at least not as long as I kept a firm grip on my imagination.
 
When we reached the bottom, we had to walk another half mile and climb up through the town to reach our hotel, a distance that felt immense in the heat at the end of the day.

Welcome to Courmayeur. Try not to be eaten by dinosaurs.

The climb to our Hotel Pavillon proved well worth the effort. This was one of the nice places we stayed, which was especially appreciated as we were there three nights. The view right from my bed was almost enough to make it unnecessary to get up. But I had to--to take advantage of the even better view from the balcony! Not to mention the shower.

Tired and hungry, we didn't want to wait for the fashionably late hour at which hotels started serving dinner. Instead, we went to the grocery store across the street and collected what we needed for the first of what probed to be many DIY dinners. Food and drink in the grocery were very cheap, though restaurants were as pricey as everywhere else.

Later we learned to get salads and add stuff until they were a dinner. This one was good, though!

Day 4 stats: 8.1 miles, 1736' up, approx. 2400' down. 
 
We remained in Courmayeur three nights in order to both rest up and to do some extras--all that coming up next time!