Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Mont Blanc experience:episode 3



Map out of this site

La Vallee Blanche: The White Valley
and Mer de Glace: Sea of Ice (see Montevers on the map and is to the left towards where it reads: Vallee Blanche)


“Mont Blanc and the valley of Chamonix, and the Sea of Ice, and all the wonders of the most wonderful place are above and beyond one's wildest expectation. I cannot imagine anything in nature more stupendous or sublime.”

This is not taken out of a vacation prospect, this was Charles Dickens' advice in 1846, which I found while looking for information about Chamonix. Nature is awsome in all its forms. I haven't been at the Vallee Blanche or the Sea of Ice myself because I am not that adventurous, but I virtually visited it through the Mar boys' pics, videos and shared experiences. Click to enlarge the pics, it is worth it (Copyright: Son17)

For this adventure first you take two cable cars starting in Chamonix at 1.050 m above sea level, which will take you up in 20 min. to 3,842m to the Aiguille du Midi. The second cable car mounts 1.500 m without any pylon on a cable of 4 km lenght with top speed of approx. 40 km /h (picture below).
At the Aiguille du Midi there is a restaurant and also a small café with a wonderful view (surprise!) where you can buy souvenirs. The Mont Blanc is just a at your reach although 1.000 m above your right hand: it is the white sunny top to the right, above the cable car on the pic below) . There are not only souvenirs available, also "Mont Blanc" pens and fountain pens! really! You can came back to Chamonix with the same cable car, like I have done, or do the real thing... which will be told by my guest blogger:





Once you arrive to the top and have your picture taken for posterity you go out a tunnel where you find this ridge walk to descend about 200 m and to reach the starting platform on the glacier. A rope to hold on to with your left hand, there the mountain falls down 1.300 m or to the right (only 400 m) , you are holding your skis with your right hand and watching your step. Indeed it is better to have a backpack where you can fit your skis and ice cramps for your ski boots to be a bit more on the safe side. The following is the view if you look back (see all those skiers standing in line and carefully stepping down to reach the glacier) . Somebody was afraid above- therefore the large gap. This descend takes you 20-30 min.



And this is the view from the top arriving with the cable car. Hold on to that rope!




After you have reached the platform of the glacier you can put your skis on and enjoy the off-piste skiing, if that is your kind of skiing! You ski at your own risk. You have a lot of different possibilities.

The total lenght from the platform to Chamonix ( 2,8 km vertical drop) is about 24 km, if there is enough snow to ski down to the city, otherwise you can take the rack-railway ( first run 1875) . It is one of the longest slopes in the Alps.

This area is not patrolled at all, but helicopters are at your disposal if you (or your friends) are able to alarm them after you felt into a crevasse ( do not be afraid, this does not happen too often).

Not only the view of the mountains, crevasses and sunshine is striking. Son17, an e-guitar player and music lover like any other teenager mostly appreciates listening to the sound of silence when up there. For him it is the biggest adventure in the Alps and he is greatful to his father that they have done this together 6 times already (wrote the proud father!)

The other side of the mountains in the picture below is already Italy, from where you can also lift up to ski down to Chamonix. Than you have to cross the Mont Blanc tunnel to get back to Italy.

(picture to follow)

Arriving in the lower part you meet a lot of people in the "salle à manger" , you know that the French make a big event out of every meal, but in fact it is the best open air lunch room in the world, the Dining Room out in the snow, just below the great icefall of the glaciers (they move about 100-150 m downhill/year). It takes you about 90 min to get there ( ok, Bode Miller would be faster ) . Here you can enjoy a picnic lunch. The best time to arrive there is about noon (in February).

Finally you have to make the decision to either climb up about 200 m to a platform where a lift connects you to ride the train to Chamonix or ski a bit more downhill to climb also about 200 m from the glacier tongue to a platform (1.600 m altitude) , where you find a small kiosk with refreshments and then to ski down the last 30 min to Chamonix . You arrive at Chamonix at the same place where the train arrives ( about 400 m from your starting point ).

These 200 m are necessary today because the glaciers shrink each year. If you see pictures dating 50 years ago, the scene was different. The cable car to the top was inaugurated in 1955. To complete the whole trip Chamonix-Aiguille du Midi-Chamonix you need about 4 hours , a very good physical condition and experience. There are a lot of mountain guides available if you need some assistance. So do not risk it alone if you are not sure and only try that trip with best weather conditions.

(Thanks for your co-writing, Mr. Mar. This was his very first blogging experience!)


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24 comments:

  1. The scenery looks fantastic, but I think that I would be scared to death to do something like that. Guess, I'm a brandy by the fire kind of gal.

    ;)

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  2. Gorgeous pictures, but I'm getting woozy reading about it.

    Here via Michele's.

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  3. It looks great but I'm headed for the beach soon! Here from michele's today.

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  4. Sounds both exhilerating and exhausting. Michele sent me today.

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  5. It does look fantastic but I can pretty much guarantee I'll never see it first hand...pictures of that much snow is quite enough!

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  6. wow, I am ready to go skiing! great scenery there!

    Hello! Michele sent me!

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  7. beautiful pictures!@

    here from michele's, but i usually come here everyday anyway!!!!!

    am i loosing it or did you change your blog header?!?!?!?!

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  8. Looks gorgeous... Here via michele's today. Have a great day!

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  9. hey, michele sent me....

    amazing....

    I have skied around that area....

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  10. I totally enjoyed this post. The scenery in these pictures is gorgeous. I got to go to the French Alps many years ago, but it was in the summer. It was still really beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing. Michele sent me today, and I'm glad she did!

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  11. I lived in Colorado for seven years, and never skiied, but this entry makes me wish I'd learned.

    How beautiful!

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  12. Hello, Michele sent me.

    Beautiful pictures... but the skiing part turns my stomach. Glad you love to do it!

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  13. It is absolutely GORGEOUS And extremely scary sounding!! I am such a chicken that I would just sit at the lodge drinking Hot Chocolate while others braved these extreme dangers...! That would be my idea of a GRAND Skiing Experience!!! But I can't get over how Gorgeous it all is...! Mr Mar & 17 must be very very brave men!

    Here from Michele today, my dear Mar...

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  14. hi mar! lovely photos (winter is my favorite season).

    i'll be stopping by from time to time.

    michele sent me!

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  15. Wow, those pics are really amazing. Can you believe you did that? Guess you can't be afraid of heights...:)

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  16. what a view, looks like some fun!!

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  17. what a gorgeous place! it must really look all the more majestic when you're skiing down the slopes! :)

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  18. The scenery is magnificent, but I wouldn't get on skis if my life depended on it!

    I hate hearing that the glaciers are shrinking.

    You wrote "Bodo" Miller (I think it shoud be "Dodo"). He could make it more quickly - IF - he isn't drunk while trying it. What a dummy he is to throw away an Olympic career because of drinking.

    Michele sent me!

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  19. I checked with Time magazine, Judy: his name is Bode Miller! thanks, I will edit Mr. Mar's typo! It is sad when good sportlers are tempted with some sort of drugs or addictions...

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  20. Wow that is amazing, had to laugh at the part about falling into a crevice and alerting a helicopter. I presume that is if you are not already dead HAHA

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  21. I love it. I love it so much. I hate the cold but I do love to ski. I'm so jealous!

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  22. Those pictures are amazing. All that snow, it's like a dream come true for me.

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  23. Spectacular scenery and a well written description. I have also visited Chamonix and also the glacier, but it was in the springtime, although there was plenty of ice and snow up by the glacier.

    I loved the scenery and your pictures bring back great memories. And I also went walking out about around Argentueil(?) which was far enough down from the snow line to be green with some early wild flowers of the spring.

    Best.

    rashbre

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  24. Awesome photos, too bad I'm a pussy when it comes to this kind of thing. Both my boys are black diamond snow people, and I love them for surviving it :) If you didn't provide photos, I'd never see it. Thank you.

    Here from Michele

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