“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.
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.
Rope On, Shaky Mind
We started to put our gears on. The first part of the trek would be traversing and descending on a very steep ridge. So Raphael, our guide, asked us to put our helmet and harness on. And we started to descend with a safety rope between us, and we also needed to attach our rope to the safety cable on the wall. It was a heart pounding experience, yet it was fun. In a way.
We climbed the stairs down and down, traverse the edge and traverse and traverse, and when I thought it would be a never end heart breaking trip, I thought I would pass out in some point, finally we got down and removed our safety rope; first time in my life out my feet on a glacier.
Let It Go, Let It Go
Yes I was dancing and swirling around like in Frozen Movie. NO! Well in a way yes.
I put my crampons on, jumping around left and right, a little jog here and there, and climbed up and down a few slopes to try the traction. Like a little girl was trying her new ski skates. Even though the crampons were not comfortable, but I started to get hang of it, a bit (much) heavier than my minimalist trail shoes, but the grip was amazing. I remembered very well how I got my third knee when I slid down on Mt. Tammany slope with my trail shoes, and these new upgraded hoof was not even close to slide.
Then Pete and Raphael were showing us the right way to dance on the snow and glacier. So we went up and down of the slopped, the correct way. We learned how to traverse a steep snow slide without slid our buttocks onto those magical snow. I felt like I was back on my kindergarten moment.
After we enough played with my awesome white carpet playground, guess what, lunch time. And guess what, this monkey forget to bought lunch sandwich. So I ended up only snacking on my power bars, I also think my tailwind kept me in check on my energy level that I felt good. Then good things happened, I saw Pete on the top of the hill, with ropes and axes. Ice Climbing!!
Good Thing Doesn’t Last Forever
After 2 climbs, we headed back. As much as I was still giddy up, and jumping around on the glacier, but my tail was not as wiggling as a few hours earlier. I knew that my play time was over. We went back to the crux, took off our crampons and ready to get back to Chamonix. But after I looked back for one more last glimpsed of the glacier, I looked up then there there, Raphael started climbed up and brought us back to the cliff. I was oh buoy, this would be another awesomely scary moment on the wall. And it was indeed awesomely scary. Especially when I had to traverse the pretty narrow ledge, probably less than a half of meter width, without and cable hold, only safe us with a few tiny finger holds, like popcorn made of rocks.
We all got back to the train station safely, back to Chamonix and ready for our big trip the next day.