Yaya Papaya (adj.) [Singlish]: bullish, complacent, full of oneself or downright arrogant.
It’s easy to overestimate your daily distances whilst planning your trip sitting in a refurbished 1900’s old town apartment on the Cote d’Azur in the middle of summer. Not a cloud in the sky and only sun baked bodies frying on the beaches to ask for advice.
I guess we wanted to start off with a hiss and a roar. 70km over two days would get us a whole night ahead of schedule. We managed 45km in a day on the Skye Trail remember.
Fast-forward to 6pm on day one of our GR5 journey. 10 hours in, it has rained all day, we’d been lost twice and had only 20 minutes of sun where we could catch a fleeting glimpse of anything resembling a mountain. Tired, wet and hungry we realise we have really overextended ourselves and probably should have just followed the book.
To make matters worse, we’ve just read in our guide book that getting to our refuge for the night requires a chain and cable scramble on a 2100m mountain. Refuge de Dent d’Oche is ridiculously placed atop a narrow, gigantic mountain ridge with breathtaking views over Lake Geneva and the several cities below (that of course we could not see).
We arrived just as dinner was hitting the table, a fantastic place to spend our first night with 7 other hardy souls who braved the dreadful weather. Admittedly, the clouds cleared very briefly in the middle of the night and it was if we were gods looking straight down from Mount Olympus, but it was the bone chilling midnight air that really took my breath away as I ran to the long drop.
We unsuccessfully tried to rearrange accommodation the next day, so had to push for 12 hours all over again. 7 mountainous peaks and over 2000m of climbing, this time through hale and sloppy muddy tracks. Still having only seen severely obscured views of the alps, we crawled into a cosy refuge just over the Swiss border just in time for dinner at 8pm (we did get a nice surprise waking up to 6 inches of snow the next day).
I look back on both epic days fondly, proud of our perseverance and grit, but our Yaya Papaya attitude meant we were anxiously chewing what we’d bitten off right to the very end.
Written by Jeff
The Grande Randonné 5 is one of Europe’s premier long distance hiking routes. The full 12 week route runs from the Netherlands, through the French Alps, ending in Nice on the Cote d’Azur. We have chosen the common route of joining the trail at Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) and heading south.
Stage 1 runs from Thonon Les Bains on Lac Leman, and ends in Les Houches in the Chamonix valley.
Distance: 138km over 5 days
Difficulty: Welcome to the Alps…