“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.”
– Lonely Planet –
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.”
– Wikipedia –
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.