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Christmas Market Sausages, Colmar, Alsace, France
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France: Chamonix
January 2012

Petit Dru, Chamonix

 

Fabulous mountain scenery surrounds Chamonix in the French Alps, not surprisingly a centre for winter sport.

 

Chamonix
Approaching Chamonix on the train from Basel.
Chamonix

 

Just a weekend trip from our home outside Basel via train. We had glorious weather and superb views of the snowy mountains. Winter is always my favourite time to visit.

We took the 6:30 a.m. train having to change at Visp, Martigny and Vallorcine, though we nearly came unstuck at the border town of Le Châtelard thinking we had to change there!

Chamonix
Rising high above Chamonix, still in shadow, on the cable car.

A short walk to our hotel, the Park Suisse, where we dropped of our bags for check-in later.

Headed to the Aiguille du Midi cable car which rises from the 1035m elevation of Chamonix to Plan de l'Aiguille at 2317m in ten minutes. Stupendous views down to Chamonix and over the mountains. An Aiguille is a needle.

Chamonix
The upper cable car to Aiguille du Midi.

A second cable car rises to 3777m just below Aiguille du Midi at 3842m in ten minutes, but it was having a bit of trouble, swinging violently once it had left the station. It was fixed quite quickly while we all waited on the platform, sending it all the way up while the second car came down.

Chamonix

 

At the top we both felt the effects of the altitude, it had been quite a fast ascent of almost 3000m, but it passed off.

Chamonix
Chamonix
Aiguille du Midi

Chamonix

Chamonix
Mont Blanc
Chamonix
Chamonix
Looking west with Chamonix in the valley.
Chamonix

 

We took the elevator up to the summit terrace at 3842m for the most incredible views.

It was quite warm for the time of year, -10°C, with no wind to speak of. Clear blue skies and we could see for miles.

 

Chamonix
Chamonix

 

Chamonix
Chamonix
Departure point for skiers going down the famous Vallée Blanche - no groomed runs, no trail markers, no ski patrol, no avalanche control.
Chamonix

 

Chamonix
Spot the rock climber!
Chamonix
Chamonix
Bar Plan de l'Aiguille 2317m

We had lunch in the little restaurant - excellent beef fillet - before taking more photographs then heading back down to check in.

Chamonix
Chamonix
Chamonix
Aiguilles de Chamonix

Chamonix has been a centre of Alpine sports and a centre for mountaineering since 1786 when Mont Blanc was first climbed by Michel Paccard and Jacques Balmat, thereby winning a prize for the first ascent offered by Swiss naturalist Horace Benedict de Saussure. The mountain is the highest in the Alps at 4,808m.

Chamonix
Our room had great views of the mountains.
Chamonix

The streets were reasonably clear of snow but there was plenty on the mountains for skiing, though apparently recent strong winds had cleared a lot of the lower slopes.

Chamonix
Statue of Balmat and Saussure in Chamonix.

 

We had made a reservation at La Petite Kitchen for dinner and I had an excellent pork dish - fillet, a kind of crispy meatball, and pork belly which was superb. Unfortunately Andrew's beef was chewy. But we both enjoyed the Brandy Alexanders!

Chamonix
Chamonix
Mont Blanc, Dome de Goûter and Aiguille de Goûter.
Left, below Mont Blanc ,descending to centre, the Glacier de Bossons.

 

The following day we headed up to the Mer de Glace, another gloriously clear blue sky day, though it was much colder early in the morning, -10°C in Chamonix.

Chamonix
Aiguille du Midi

The red rack and pinion train zigzags up the mountainside to arrive at Montenvers about twenty minutes later and 1,000m higher at an altitude of 1,913m.

Chamonix

 

In 1741 Englishmen Windham and Pocock defied superstition to visit the ice caves that the locals believed were haunted by demons.

The Englishmen gave the Mer de Glace its name - Sea of Ice.

It wasn't until 1909 that the railway track was completed to Montenvers, allowing a steam train to carry visitors up from Chamonix - prior to this it was either by mule or sedan chair!

 

Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace
Chamonix
Les Drus
Chamonix
Petit Dru 3733m
Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace

There were a few skiers on the glacier, the day was so still we could hear the crunch of their skis carving through the snow.

Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace

 

Down 400+ steps to the ice cave inside the glacier, the blue ice is beautiful and does not need the tacky tableaux and coloured lighting.

The glacier is retreating at a rate of 3-4m a year, the number of steps down to the cave increasing accordingly. The cave itself is re-excavated every year. In 50 years time there will be nothing left.

Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace

 

We had a very good Mont Blanc beer before descending to an excellent lunch at Elevation 1904 near the train station - nothing fancy but the burger and fries and fish and chips hit the spot.

Mer de Glace
Definitely my favourite peak here.

 

Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace
Aiguilles de Chamonix