“The “roof of Europe”, the world’s third-ranking most visited natural area, continues to attract millions of visitors and thousands of mountaineers every year. Conquering Mont Blanc is a dream shared by many amateur mountaineers and enthusiasts. This dream is possible as long as one does not underestimate the apparently easy slopes of this legendary mountain.”
– Chamonix Valley Official Website –
Fear Is Man Best Friend
That morning I woke up early, we would meet up with the group at the Chamonix Express office around 9 am. People who had run or trekked with me, knew that I always tried to be upbeat and did my best not to complain much. But this morning, the fear hit me. I saw how fast the weather in the Alps could change from gorgeous day into nasty thunderstorms or just cold freezing rain. Also a few days before I flew to Chamonix, there had been 2 deadly accidents there. Mont Blanc average causality is around 100 hikers every year, with around 12 rescue mission only in summer every year, which was pretty high. (article)
I tried to occupied my mind. I reviewed my pack and my day by day plan, to make sure I had everything I would need and not over-do it. I knew I was physically prepared, I was doing pretty good with my crampons and axes training, the weather was not bother me much, and we got some awesome professional guides. I thought it just between me and the monkey. I just needed to be extra cautious, not too excited in the mountain and having fun. Some wise man says that fear keeps man alive, I guessed that was exactly what I needed at that moment.
“France’s largest glacier, the glistening 200 m – deep Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) snakes 7km through mighty rock spires and turrets; it was named by Englishman William Windham, the first foreigner to set eyes on the glacier in 1741. The glacier moves up to 90m a year, and has become a popular attraction thanks to the rack-and-pinion railway line opened in 1908. Wrap up warm to experience the Grotte de la Mer de Glace ice cave, where frozen tunnels and ice sculptures change colour like mood rings. A quaint red mountain train trundles up from Gare du Montenvers in Chamonix to Montenvers (1913m), from where a cable car takes you down to the glacier and cave. Besides covering the 20-minute journey, the cable car and the ice cave, your ticket gets you entry into the Galerie des Cristaux , glittering with crystals from the Mont Blanc Massif, and the new Glaciorium , spotlighting the birth, life and future of glaciers. The Mer de Glace can be reached on foot via the Grand Balcon Nord trail from Plan de l’Aiguille. The two-hour uphill trail from Chamonix starts near the summer luge track. Traversing the crevasse glacier requires proper equipment and an experienced guide.”
Tuut Tuut, Snow White, I love
After my first hike in the Alps the day before, I was tired but at the same time, I could not wait to get back to that magical place. I grew up in tropical country where the humidity could reach 90% and 30˚ C average temperature the whole year, so snow was not my nature, yet something about this Alps that made me feel so content.
Dan and I went to Gare du Montenvers in Chamonix around 9 am to meet up with the group, and the ride to Montenvers was about 20 minutes-ish. The whole ride was amazing, I felt like I was in the Universal Studio ride. For a moment, I forgot about the chill air that bits my skin or drowsy feeling that clouded my mind.
Then, when I got out from the train at Montenvers, the view even more stunning. I had not seen so much white in one place in my life, I meant glacier. when I looked into the right side, towards to the Alps, it was an ocean of ice. It seemed like I would begin a journey into a winter wonderland, just like in the Disney movie, Frozen.
Dan, me, and Alex – Photo by Alex
Alex, Denis, me and Dan – Photo by Alex
On the other hand, when I saw a photo from 1900-ish that was posted on the visitor center wall, the glacier back then was probably ten times more massive than today. It was pretty sad if the next generation might not able to enjoy this view anymore. And who says that Global Warming was a hoax. Explain these two pictures.
“The peak, the 7th highest mountain in the Graian Alps, with an elevation of 4,061 m, is close to Mont Blanc on the nearby border with France. In the SOIUSA (International Standardized Mountain Subdivision of the Alps) the mountain belongs to an alpine subsection called “North-Eastern Graian Alps”(It:Alpi del Gran Paradiso; Fr:Alpes du Grand-Paradis) and also gives the name to the gruppo del Gran Paradiso. While the Mont Blanc massif straddles the border between France and Italy, the Gran Paradiso is the only mountain whose summit reaches over 4,000 metres that is entirely within Italian territory, so that it could be considered the highest peak in Italy.”
We woke up early and I was really excited like a labrador smells a steak, I just could not wait to start the hike. We walked with our gears to the meeting point at the Chamex office, in front of the Aiguille du Midi cable car station around 9am. The day before, our guide Raphael had checked my pack and gears, and he shed of half of my junk-gears. In US, we carried plenty gears that most of the time we won’t use, “just in case” gears. But here in French, I guessed they were really minimalist, and everything about speed, and I do like it. Also the main reason that we could be minimalist was, we would stay one night in the hut that had bunk beds and foods.
Our team was made of 4 people. Raphael the Guide, Gino the British Kid, Dan, and me. It was amazing that Raphael’s small cars could afford us and our gears, and still had power to climb those hilly roads. We stopped couple times around Courmayeur, and the view along the road was just stunning. I might had been drooling over the window, looking at the majestic view of the Alps.
The drive from Chamonix (France) to Pont Breuil (Italy) was probably about 2 hours.
Today is Indonesian Independence Day, and “Freedom or Die” had been always the slogan of our independence fighters. In away, it also relates with how I do my day by day activities. I love my freedom in the outdoor, trail running, and what not. I am responsible for myself, responsible for my failure and for what I had gain, yet I don’t have to follow any standard or judges.
Also this year, I am planing to do a 35 Days of Adventure towards my birthday. It s so happen today the first day, and I started it with my first day trip in Mount Blanc.
I met Dan Hernandez in Geneve airport at 10 am, and rode a bus to Chamonix. I felt the exact feeling that I had, when i did my trip in Kilimanjaro last year. I saw the Mont Blanc since I arrived at the airport, and I saw it the whole trip to the Chamonix. It invited me and I heard it was calling me to come closer, so I could praise her majestic from her peak.
We got to walked around and managed to get lost in this lovely nice little town. People were so nice and helpful, that I could say “France J’aime”.
We were staying at the Chalet Les Pelerins, about 10 minutes walk from Chamonix downtown. The owner David Robertson lived in the same complex, so it was a convenient if we needed any suggestion or had any question. Even one time, Asa, David’s partner, drove us in the morning to the train station. They were a very wonderful people and hosts. He also had a winter outdoor sport trip agency, action-outdoors, so I would definitely come to visit them in the near future.
For the trekking trip, we hired Chamonix Experience, they did a great job with arranging our trip. Basically we just showed up and they had everything prepared for us. The guides were very professional and thorough with our safety and preparation. Hey I am here now writing this blog now in one piece. Cheers!!
Scott Jurek stayed here too for his UTMB
Photo by Dan Hernandez
Blanka from Chamonix Experience, who was behind my success trip
Dylan, a 4 years old girl, who loves to play soccer and run. Sometime she races with her dad, Joe Delano. And she wins every time.
Joe is one of my running buddy, who also a Boston Marathon qualifier. Unfortunately, Dylan has to suffer a rare disease, The Glycogen Storage Disease Type Ib. (https://www.counsyl.com/services/family-prep-screen/diseases/glycogen-storage-disease-type-ib/).
Due to a missing or impaired enzyme, Dylan is unable to maintain normal blood sugar levels between meals, leading to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). As a result, Dylan will be chronically hungry, tired, and irritable unless she eats regularly—typically every 1 to 3 hours during the day and every 3 to 4 hours at night. If her blood sugar reaches a critically low-level, sometime may experience seizures. So far there is no cure and Dylan needs to be under an adult watch for 24 hours. It definitely hard for such an active parents, but it is worst for Dylan. She might not realize it right now, but she has a limitation on her activity. She would not able to kicking ball all day, running with her parents, do camping, and what not.
The first time I heard a story about Dylan, it broke my heart. For me, a childhood should be the time for a kid to be a very active, care free, having a fun day/night, and the best time to enjoy what the world could offer. I believe that happiness will stamps to the kid’s mind and soul, which will be carried till he/she grows up become an adult. Although these disease did not slow down Dylan nor her parents. Dylan is a very active kid, Joe is undoubtedly a great runner on the road or trail, and Cindy is going to do her first marathon at Philadelphia this year.
Mile For Dylan
Then I heard from Joe that University of Florida College of Medicine has been doing research for a cure, but they need more fund. And it become my small obsession to find a way to help Joe with this fundraising. Not only it would be a delightful moment if I can witness Dylan can be running around all day, but also more kids in the future could advantage from this remedy.
So here is my idea:
1. Every 10 dollars from the donation we receive, I will run a mile for it.
**Please assign the runner’s name in the comments area if you want to assign to me or Joe, or any other volunteer runner if there is any. (Updated 07/16)
2. If anyone want to join us to run the mile(s), he or she needs to bring his/her own 30 miles. The donation can be combined from any of his/her donator. Than, he/she will be in the roster as our volunteer runner. And I will email him/her directly for the mile assignment. Then he/she could email me back the tracking info.
**Please make sure that the donator put the runner’s name on the comments area. (Updated 07/16)
3. Every time Joe and/or I will participate in a race, anyone who runs in the same events, can donate their mileage.
**Meaning, the runner could translate his/her miles from the race, full or part of it, into a donation. (Updated 07/16)
How to Donate
This is the most important part, please follow this direction bellow, so University of Florida can inform me how many miles that I need to match. Thank you! Together, I hope we can be a small help for Dylan.
2. Please fill the “Appeal Code” with this format : RFD
3. **(Updated 07/16)** For donating to our mileage. Please fill the “Comments” followed by the runner name that you want to run it, with this format : Run For Dylan – “Runner Name”
(e.g Run For Dylan – Eric D)
4. For donating your race mileage. Please fill the “Comments” with this format : Run For Dylan – “Race Name”
(e.g Run For Dylan – Escarpment Trail 30K)
6. **(Updated 07/16)** The University of Florida will email me weekly for how many miles that I need to match. But, you can email me the receipt if you want me to run it immediately, not waiting till the end of the week. And email me if you have any questions. Email ME.
7. Come to the Final Count Down event on September 24th to give ourselves a beer clank.
The Final Count Down
On September 24th, I will run 35 miles to the bar and we will do the final calculation there and celebrate. If anyone one wants to meet up on the run and share a few miles with me, it will be well appreciated.