Vosges - Day 2 : Le Grand Ballon
I had slept pretty well, considering the temperature had dropped to -9C and I woke up underneath a log. I quickly put my clothes on and ate breakfast. Packing everything went smooth although I needed to stop occasionally to warm my hands. While walking down the hill I already felt a blister.
I planned to climb the Grand Ballon, at 1424 meters the highest mountain in the Vosges. Supposedly there already was 60 cm of snow at the top. However, at my camping spot the sun was shining and there was no snow. I didn't mind, as it the milder conditions would help me to get used to walking. After a tough climb I passed one of the many cabins of the Vosges club. The people there shut the door as soon as they saw me. I bit later I reached a nice view where I made some photos.
The trail continued uphill. There were small snow patches that gradually became larger until everything was covered by a thick layer. The to the climbing and the sun I felt really warm, which I hadn't expected. Higher up the mountain I found myself knee deep in snow, which was pretty hard to walk through. Soon I arrived at the Collet Molkenrain, with the Molkenrain cabin. There was also a small fountain, which meant I didn't need to melt snow to refill my water bottles. I could clearly see the Grand Ballon with its weather station in the distance.
I descended the mountain and continued towards the Grand Ballon. I passed a World War 2 graveyard with 30.000 graves. That would have been a good answer to the custom officer's question about why I wasn't in the military. A while later I reached an asphalt road with a sign indicating it would be a 3,5 hour climb to the summit of Grand Ballon. That meant I would arrive in the evening. The 7 km climb with an average incline of 8% would be tough. The first kilometers went fine, although most people I passed looked surprised to see me going uphill rather than down. While climbing it slowly got dark.
Soon I reached the really deep snow, but fortunately the road itself was snow free. Later the road stopped and I had not choice but to walk through 50 cm deep powdery snow. It was only 500 meter until the summit but I could hardly move. There was no-one on the summit except a few people working in the weather station. The climb had made me very hungry, so I decided to cook dinner behind a statue on the 1424 meter high summit with a nice view over the setting sun and the distant Alps.
On the way down I realized sliding would be faster than walking through the snow. While sitting down on my waterproof pants I slid down the mountain at a nice speed. After making it into the valley it was time to find a place to sleep. Every inch of the forest was covered in a deep layer of snow, so I had no choice but to pitch my bivy bag on top. I still slept pretty well and didn't feel cold. I also tried to call home but had no connection.