June 26, 2012

Hell on the Hill

Now that you’ve clicked on the link, hoping for some gore story or a detailed account of a disaster of some kind, I can tell you this was not as awful as it could have been. 

Last Sunday was Meije’s three month-“birthday”. Since it also happened to be 30°C with clear sky, it seemed like the perfect Sunday to do our first “real” mountain hike as a family of four. This is what we see from our house…

The Parmelan behind our house
This also happens to be the mountain Martin and I often used to run up to on those pre-Meije Saturday mornings where The-girl-who-help-us-staying-sane(-and-fit), namely Elodie the baby-sitter, came to look after Malo, and where we’re hoping dying to get back for weekend trail runs very soon. This seemed like two perfect reasons to choose the Parmelan as the destination for our first family-of-four hike. 

It did not start well. 

Since we had attempted to do that same hike last weekend only to bail out when we realised it had taken us so long to get ready that it was time for lunch, we got more organised this time, packing as much as we can on Saturday night. That’s when problems actually started. You know you can forget about light, alpine-style ascents when equipped with a toddler and a baby. But alpine-style notwithstanding, how are you still supposed to pack everything you need when one parent will be carrying kid n°1 in a backpack, the other will be carrying kid n°2 in a sling, and there none of you can therefore carry any proper backpack? And thank God for inventing breastfeeding because at least I did not have to think about packing a baby bottle, a container with solution milk, water to transform said solution milk in something edible by a 3-month old, extra milk in case she is unexpectedly hungry again, therefore extra water, etc, etc… So, despite our Saturday night pre-packing, and despite Malo’s help in trying for a reasonably early start by waking up at 6.15am, it was not so early when we finally had managed to fit nappies, pads, spare clothes, wind-proof jackets, water and food-but-only-for-Malo-because-there-is-not-enough-space-to-take-fod-for-everybody. Finally we set of. By car, because it will still be a while before we can do with the kids the 1100m climb that is involved if leaving from the house, and we therefore had chosen to start from a hut half way up. 

And that’s where problems carried on. Because Parmelan being one of the mountains overlooking Annecy and parking space being available half-way up, it (unfortunately) attracts a big crowd on sunny summer days, even the usually-does-not-do-sports-unless-one-counts-watching-soccer-in-front-of-TV-as-a-sport crowd.  That means we found ourselves, 10 minutes after leaving home, stuck behind a massive SUV on the steep and narrow dirt road leading to the hut, said SUV being itself stuck because of two extra long rows of cars parked on both sides of the dirt road, preventing it to move further. Had we been able to do a U-turn at that point, I think we would have driven back home. But, as you’ll guess from what I said above, U-turns were not an option.  So we’ll try and be patient (some of us managing better than others) and not bitch against fat couch potatoes with big SUVs (some of us not managing that part at all), and by the time we managed to park, it was 11am, hence the perfect time to start a hike with a small child and a baby, no shade and 30°C.
In the end, it was all worth it.

We saw cows with their bells “singing” (Malo). Cows are very big, literally and figuratively, for Malo, these days.
We passed by disabled people being carried by volunteers on plastic chairs fixed on wooden stretchers, so that they could hike to the top, which made us say we should also try and help next year, because everybody (bar fat coach potatoes with SUVs) should have the right to experience the magic of the mountains.

We saw our house from the top, or rather, Martin and I saw it and Malo, being a good sport, pretended he did because his poor parents clearly thought that was a very big deal indeed. 

Our house is at the right of my belly (and 1100m below) ... but you'll have to take my word for it.
We also saw trail runners. One of them, thin as a stick and wearing plain, grey-ish running gear which had seen better days, was running up effortlessly. Others wore spotless bright trail running shoes (which, given how much rain we had lately can only mean they were brand new) and shinny t-shirts with the latest [fill whatever you want here: as long as it sounds very complicated and does not mean anything, it will do] technology. We could not say how fast these ones could be, since they were walking. One thing we could say though is that we know in which category we see ourselves. Call us running snobs if you wish, it is still better than being a Salomon walking ad. 

Malo was super excited about being here, on the mountain he can watch every day from the house or from the car coming back from day care, and whose name I made sure he knows perfectly already. He walked (not all the way though!) like a real trooper, climbed every rock who happened to be on his way, and a good deal of the others, and fell asleep in the backpack on the way back seconds after having said he was not tired and did not want to take a nap when we would get home.

A big and a little M...
 Meije slept the whole way, waking up on top only to be fed and survived nappy changing in the cold mountain wind. Some people were clearly worried she might get oxygen deprived, but seeing the colour of her cheeks when we got back to the hut, I think there just worried too much - and I mean, we’re respectable parents who took their girl to 1800m-Parmelan, not (yet) to Mount Everest.

Martin stopped complaining (at least for that day) about not doing enough exercise since he seemed to have found carrying 15kgs-Malo in the 2.5kgs back-pack (with additional 2l-hence-2kg of water on the way up) for a bit chunk of our 4 hour hike of our hike rather challenging was on the quads. 

As for me, I got it all: a nice day out, the three loves of my life with me, my first proper hike since Meije’s birth. And a migraine on a way back. That must have been at the thought of the fat coach potato with a SUV.

... and my two little Ms!


cherelli said...

I love your house and location, what a beautiful day! I'm glad the effort was worth it in the end, lovely pics.

Billie said...

I have been following your blog off and on now for a few years. :-)

But I would love to have an email address to contact you. We live in Paris now and are trying to figure out our summer vacation in august. Would you mind sending me an email if you have time with the kids? We would love to know if you have any recommendations for the area...where to stay, hiking with kids, etc.


Mapp said...

@ Cherelli : we love them too.. and you're welcome to stay over if your travels take you to Europe and the French Alps one day (we would obviously make up for it by squatting your place with 2 kids and lots of running shoes soon after!).

@ Billie : well, I am writing the blog off and on, so can't hold the "off" against you! Sorry it took me so long to reply to your comments... I am behind everything I want to do these days : blogging, commenting, replying, running, sleeping... Anyway, I fear it is now too late to give you any pointers for your holiday, since August starts tomorrow, but just in case, I will send you my email in a few seconds, and would love to hear from you!