Monday, 4 May 2009


I'm going to have to interrupt my blogging of our trip to Tunisia (which has turned into a long and tortuous affair), because this weekend we went to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc!

Linda gave me a flight over Mont-Blanc for my birthday last year, and we'd waited until now simply because we'd been too busy to do it earlier. We watched the weather for a few weeks, and it looked like this one was going to be clear, so we booked a hotel and off we went!

On Saturday we didn't do too much more than wander around Chamonix town, poking our heads into shops and taking food and coffee stops.

In fact we spent many hours looking through the many food and sports shops. I was looking for a cheap, light, rain jacket - which seems to be an impossible combination when the shops only stock brands like North Face, Mammut, and Eider.

The next day we woke up to clear skies - the view from our hotel room up the valley to Mont-Blanc, was quite amazing.

We arrived at the airport in Megeve and watched a few planes taking off and landing on the curiously sloping and dipping runway, before boarding our little plane and starting our flight.

We flew up the valley to Chamonix and then around two glaciers and Mont-Blanc itself. I took lots of photos of the amazing scenery.

I also took some video, which I've turned into a stunning piece of cinematography set to the Top Gun anthem.

After the flight we headed back to Chamonix and immediately jumped on the Aiguille du Midi Telepherique, a two-step lift to one of the Mont-Blanc peaks, around 3900m.

At the top station, the lift is so steep the cable almost touches the back of the cabin. I have to confess I felt quite queezy towards the top - I just kept thinking about the fact that we were held on by that slender cable, which disappeared above us to an unseen anchor point, and below towards a drop of many hundreds of metres.

My queeziness was soon forgotten, however, once I saw the amazing views from the top (you have to catch an elevator to the very top viewing platform).

We also watched some climbers appearing over a ridge, from where they were presumably returning either from one of the refuges, that seem to have been built on only the most precipitous cliffs of Mont-Blanc, or from summitting the mountain itself.

Eventually we had to head back down (more queeziness), which we did just in time to jump on the Montenvers railway to the Mer de Glace (sea of ice) Glacier.

We thought this would be a quick tourist train around the corner from Chamonix, but in fact it is quite an impressive trip, up a very steep and winding track, to the tip of the Glacier at some 2000m.

Once you see the glacier, its also easy to imagine that it is just the dusty, rocky, tip of the glacier above, however it is possible to actually enter inside the glacier, from where you can see that in fact it is solid, blue, ice inside, and you can see bubbles of air, pebbles, and even some sizable rocks suspended within.

This was at the end of a long day, so we didn't have long to hang around at the glacier, however it was certainly an amazing way to wind up the weekend!

I think it's safe to say we had an amazing time at Chamonix. We will amost certainly go back in Summer to see the difference from our early Spring visit. What's more, it is only 1.5h drive from home!

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