1600 metres climbing, and every one of them agony. No, actually that is an exaggeration. In fact travelling is relatively easy on wide paths until we get to the end of the Lac des Toules, but then everything changes for the worse. To say that our journey is a pointlessly painful exercise is akin to saying World War 2 was a minor miscalculation on Hitler’s part.
For walkers the route is a tough, but worthwhile challenge, for two idiots dragging their bikes over boulders and up vertical inclines, this is pure folly. Needless to say, we will be offering other alternatives for riders and cyclists in our guide. But having said all that, we are here, 2,473 metres up in the Swiss Alps, the sun is shining and more incredibly still, we are alive. Now all we need is a few litres of beer, a shower and some food - after these we may appear to be marginally less mad and possibly even human. Roll on the next stage – downhill to Aosta.
The climb is long and a continuous ascent with the air getting thinner as the climb gets steeper. Above the entrance to the tunnel the traffic level on the road reduces and it becomes a less painful choice, although beware the owners of powerful motor bikes and sports cars that live out their fantasies on this road. We try and stay at the Hospice, the home of the St Bernard rescue dogs, but Don’t Offer Owners of Dogs Accommodation in Hostels (DOODAH) have beaten us to it and again we have to dive into the bank balance to stay at the convenient Hotel de Hospice across the street. Here we go for demi-pension (the eating out choices are a bit limited on top of a mountain and the whole lot comes to 150 S.Fr for the 2 of us and dog – DOODAH have also invented the dog supplement – 10 S.Fr. Beware the ambiguous ads. suggesting rooms are much cheaper, they are not and they charge a weekend premium.