Via Francigena Liveblog

 

Via FrancigenaMembers of the BCC community have been embarking on an annual pilgrimage since 2013. The first took us along the famed Camino to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. It was such a success that we founded the Mormon Society of St. James and decided to do it again, choosing Olav’s Way to Trondheim as our next project. In 2015 we walked to Canterbury, where we picked up credentials for the Via Francigena, which, if you follow in the footsteps of Archbishop Sigeric, begins there and ends in Rome.

We did so until Dover. But lacking a boat and sufficient time, we decided to return in 2016 to tackle the portion of the “road that comes from France” that crosses Switzerland. Next year we plan to walk the final 100 kilometers of the Via Francigena to Rome; details will follow as plans solidify. But for now, watch this space for updates on our travels in the coming week from the Rhône valley to the Great St. Bernard Pass.

Update (7 Aug 2016; 18:56 local time)

I have arrived at my lodgings in Geneva for the night, and you’ll never guess what is right next door:

I’ll take that as a good omen! Too bad no one was lingering longer at the close of this fast day.

Update (9 August 2016; 8:35)

The group has not reached full strength but six of us inaugurated the 2016 pilgrimage by walking from Aigle to St. Maurice. Here are a few impressions from a sunny and warm first day.

Update (9 August 2016)

The group has reached full strength with three individuals having joined us in the last 24 hours. Today was overcast, which made for relatively comfortable hiking to Martigny, the staging ground for the ascent to the Great St. Bernard pass. Tomorrow we leave the Rhône valley and most trappings of civilization and climb up to Champex Lac where we have secured quarters in an alpine botanical garden.

A few impressions of the day’s journey:

Update (10 August 2016)

Today we ate. Our beautiful quarters in the Flore-Alpe botanical garden has a kitchen so we cooked an excellent meal under the expert guidance and with the unflagging efforts of our resident chef. This common meal was a premiere in the short history of the MSSJ, and I hope it becomes a recurring feature. Today was also the first day on the trail for the complete group. It was also the most strenuous (as far as we’ve gone on previous days plus a substantial elevation gain–we will eventually end up at the Great St. Bernard Pass, after all) and the most scenic. At some point this week we will post reflections by several members of the group, but in the meantime enjoy today’s pictures.

Update (11 August 2016)

We’re watching the 2016 Olympics women’s individual all-around final at the bar because a gathering of locals–complete with yodeling!–has filled all the seats in the restaurant. In any event, the skill involved is impressive, and I am content to be a fly on the wall. Pictures from today’s walk will follow Ronan’s thoughts below.

(Ronan:) When we left our chalet this morning we chatted with a Frenchman about our walk and our plans to eventually reach Rome. Christy asked him why he had moved to Switzerland from Brittany. “Pour manger le chocolat,” he replied. I have been chuckling to myself about that all day. When you walk a long distance, thoughts get stuck in your mind. I have been telling Gabe every time he moans about something my modified version of the First Noble Truth: life sucks and then you die. Except this is not always the case all the time. There is still chocolate to eat and, in our case, a road to travel through stunning countryside in good company. One feature of Switzerland’s high prices is that we have pooled food and eaten together. I have really enjoyed this. Life is good sometimes (when it doesn’t suck). Manger le chocolat indeed.

Peter: well, no photos today after all, the internet connection is too slow.

Update (12 August 2016)

We have arrived after a pleasant walk with the company of André, a friend from Lausanne who joined us for te final stage. The Great St. Bernard Hospice is great–a warm welcome for pilgrims that includes warm beverages, mass, supper and prayers.  We have already said goodbye to four fellow travelers; the rest will stay the night and go in separate ways tomorrow. We hope to meet again next year and walk the last stretch of the Via Francigena to Rome. Details to follow.

Two photo dumps today due to yesterday’s sketchy internet access. Day 4:

Day 5:

Comments

  1. That’s an auspicious sign and a perfect icon of what the MSSJ strives to be. Happy trails tomorrow. I will see you in Martigny.

  2. Great hopes for stories and pics people. Drop some movies.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for liveblogging and letting us come along remotely. Godspeed!

  4. So jealous. This is great.

  5. Jason K. says:

    Wish I could be there. Good pilgrimage to all!

  6. Great pictures and reporting as ever, Pete. The evening communal meal was definitely a highlight. I had thought such commensality was a first for the MSSJ, but John C. reminded me of the time he cooked … eggs on the road to Santiago.

  7. Hey, everybody agreed those were good eggs!

  8. Manger le chocolat, indeed!

  9. Swimming at 8,000 ft, in 50° water. Cathartic.

  10. Peter, these are beautiful pictures. I just want to publicly thank you again for all the time and work that went into planning this one. Also, I’m still not sad that I didn’t jump in the water.

  11. amazing stuff.