Mont Blanc: Camino Lessons Travel to the Alps

See that speck of a building below the glacier? It is Refugio Elisabetta, one of a collection of remote hostels on the 110-mile Tour du Mont Blanc.

I would never have stayed there if it had not been for my hiking adventure on the Camino de Santiago.

Perched on a spur in the Italian Alps, Refugio Elisabetta offered triple bunks in a crowded coed dorm and bright orange clogs for walking around an outdoor setting that left me gobsmacked. I showered in minimal privacy, shared a sink with other men, and waited to use the only toilet with a seat. We had lucked out with a private room with barely enough room for one set of bunks, but its tiny window opened to a view of the glacier. The dirty duvet made me wish I had packed my sleeping liner, but I was grateful for the bed after several exhausting days of climbs and descents.

Refugio Elisabetta was a highlight of our two-week trip around the Alps’ tallest mountain. The delicious communal dinner came with quick-binding friendships with trekkers who had traveled from throughout Europe. Some were sleeping in tents in the campground down the slope from the building.

In Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows, I describe the restless night in my first albergue in Spain and how I had ruminated about the lack of privacy in coed dorms and bathrooms. Our first long-distance backpacking adventure eventually guided me to come to terms with ghosts that had haunted me since childhood.

And, oh, so thankfully, the Camino lessons led me to Refugio Elisabetta.

Mont Blanc: Are We Really Going Up There?

Courage. Sue and I needed a backpack full of it on the Tour du Mont Blanc as we faced climbing into the mountains behind us.

During our two-week adventure around the highest peak in the European Alps, I packed more courage (mixed with a measure of fear) than I ever imagined possible as I tackled the greatest physical challenge of my life. My courage was born on the paths and in the albergues during our walk on Spain’s Camino de Santiago. And I borrowed bravery from Sue, for whom “give up” has never been an option.

Our book, Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows, tells and illustrates our story. Click on reviews on the menu to see comments from readers. I would love to hear what you think.