Return to France and Chamonix

A good night’s sleep. No really, I slept all the way till 4.30 in the morning when the first group of climbers left clompingly. I slept through the next few mobs until it was time for us to grab breakfast of the usual European type. Bread, cheese, salami, jam etc. But I so needed coffee.

After once again packing all my gear, putting on the helmet, harness and crampons, we headed off back to the Punta Indren cable car station. That was over an hours walk away over the glaciers and about 400 meters lower. In that time the snow had turned from firm and icy to patches of slush. We did stop to strip off wind proofs and crampons, as well as unroping once we got past the steeper sections.

Apart from seeing some juvenile ibex at one of the cable car changes, it was an uneventful trip back to the valley, and the soon to be fulfilled promise of good coffee. 10am and a great Italian/French combination of cappuccino and croissant was indulged in.

A change into lighter and less smelly clothes made for a more pleasant drive back to Chamonix. Mont Blanc was coyly hiding itself behind a lenticular cloud. This can be a sign of incoming moister air preceding a front. We’ll see.


The sun rises early here. And as my body is still partially in another time zone it did likewise. I grabbed my camera and went outside into the predawn, and minutes later the sun kissed the top of the mountains opposite my hotel.

The mountains, I could see the mountains. Not a cloud in the sky and the entire Mont Blanc massif was visible to me, including the Aiguille du Midi, today’s goal.

After giving the camera a short workout, whilst cursing myself for not bringing the polariser, breakfast was beckoning. Whilst the coffee was nice and strong, I do prefer Italian espresso to French press. It is just a little more mellow, whilst still having that essential caffeine kick.

But I do digress from the excellent baguettes, French cultured butter and cheese. I went back for seconds. Following this almost joyful breakfast experience, I once again grabbed the camera, this time along with my polarisers, and meandered through the back streets towards the cable car station.

A lot of the houses here retain, and are still built in the old French mountain farmhouse style, if there is such a thing. And a good thing it is compared to the soulless apartment blocks a few streets away. I know which I would be happy to photograph as something that brings a warm character to Chamonix, if not with the timber in their walls, then with the traditional roof lines. Even if they no longer covered in heavy slabs of slate.

The cable car was to take me up from 1035 meters via a change at Plan de l’Aiguille at 2317 meters, to the Aiguille du Midi at 3842 meters at the top. And it does this at an almost eardrum splitting 20 minutes, including the change.

Something about leaving the trees and the valley behind does my heart good, even when sardine canned into a cable car with 40 or so strangers. The air at the top was pleasantly fresh, and the views were eminently viewable. They were probably also very viewable by the people jumping off the mountain, only being stopped from slamming into the ground more than a thousand meters below by some paracord and a few square meters of nylon that they were attached to.

A short and steep ride down to the Plan de l’Aiguille just below the snowline, enabled me to go for a walk to Lac Bleu. This is a small lake filled with runoff from the snow and glacier fields higher up, so had a hint of that magic bluey green colour that glacial melt water has. On a still day it provides a mirror for the surrounding mountains. Now if it only wasn’t for the small horde of bare-chested, Scottish youths playing over loud Kris Kristofferson and other music.

I left, and headed back down to the valley. This time I scored a front position in the gondola and could see and almost feel the mountain fall away from me as we descended steeply. Whilst I enjoy this sort of thing, it is highly not recommended for anyone with any height issues.

Tomorrow it is planned to head towards the Italian Alps and its delights.