Chamonix-Mont Blanc

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We took a long weekend last Thursday through Sunday in beautiful Chamonix, France. It’s not recommended for beginner skiers, so going in the fall was perfect for us!  We had a rainy but uneventful drive to Chamonix, which was just fine with me — no switchbacks or hairpin turns.  Despite the rain, we saw a beautiful, panoramic view of Mont Blanc and the surrounding peaks on our way into town.  This time of year is in between their busy summer and winter seasons, so there were several shops and restaurants that weren’t open, but the majority were, so it didn’t really affect us.  

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We had dinner at Jekyll and Hyde’s Bar and Restaurant, a suggestion from the woman who owns the apartment where we stayed.  It’s known for its tapas menu.  We chose several to share and all were delicious!  I thought it seemed a fitting place for the month of October with scary stories and all, so we filled G and L in on the story (a mild version) of Jekyll and Hyde and as a result, snapped some fun pictures near the sign in the stairwell. 🙂

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Friday was quite rainy, so it didn’t seem like the best day to go to the top of the mountain.  If it would have been our only chance, we would have gone and made the most of walking around in a cloud and enjoying the snow/precipitation, but since we had Saturday as an option, we held out hoping for nicer weather.  We spent the majority of the day roaming around the city, the tourist office, and the Espace Tairraz, which was an exhibition of climbing equipment from ropes to shoes to belay devices etc.  There was a small room on the side with movies running continuously from present day climbs to old reels of some of the first climbs to the summit of Mont-Blanc.  Watching them did not, however, make me want to become a mountain climber!!

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Saturday the weather cooperated, as we woke up to sunny, blue skies!  Perfect for riding a gondola straight up the side of a mountain to see what we could see!  Seriously, though.  It went straight up one side, and we have pictures of the cables to prove it!  (It holds the record for the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world!)  

img_0744 img_0800 (The lines here are the cables!!  The cables that carried us to the top!!)

The 20-minute Aiguille du Midi (pronounced ay-gwee do midee) cable car stops first at the Plan de l’Aiguille at a height of 2,310m, where you can get off and hike, but we decided to catch the next cable car and continue all the way up to the Aiguille du Midi, which is at a height of 3,777m, where we had beautiful views of the French, Swiss, and Italian Alps!

(If you look at the map below, you should be able to spot Mont Blanc behind us in the next two photos.) 

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img_0746 img_0751 img_0765 img_0771 img_0748 (To get to the “needle,” (aiguille) shown here, we’ll take the lift.)

The lift that takes you even higher (to the actual Aiguille du Midi), which is a terrace at 3,842m, where we had another great view of Mont Blanc!  (At 4,807m, it’s the highest peak in the Alps!)  Of course we had to take advantage of the opportunity to step out onto a glass box, which is hanging over a 1,000+m void, thus the name of the experience — “Pas Dans Le Vide” (Step into the Void!)  UGH!  You know it’s something special when you have to wear big cushy slippers over your shoes before stepping into the giant glass box.  I have to admit that had Mike not taken my hand and gently pulled me along, I may not have stepped into the void!  I did choose to not look down, so I was able to stay in long enough to have pictures taken. 🙂   

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(Looking down onto the terrace we’d been on before taking the lift and seeing others in the glass box!)img_0783  img_20161015_122022

We had a great time exploring Aiguille du Midi as there are multiple terraces and overlooks as well as inside areas to explore.  We also got to walk through the newest attraction — “The Tube” — which just opened in June and is already known as the Pipe.  It’s a steel pipe anchored to the mountain side with several window, but more important to note — thousands of feet of empty space below it!   It didn’t really occur to me as we walked through it that I was walking through a tube that was literally hanging off the side of the mountain.  I had no fear as I didn’t realize that’s what we were doing, and no one in our group — Mike, G, and L — thought it was important to share this info with me. 🙂  In fact, I didn’t realize this was where we were until I was sharing what I was writing about on the blog, and they informed me that this was what that tube was all about!  

img_0753 (You can see the tube at the right of this photo.)

We took the “téléphérique” (cable car) back down to the Plan de l’Aiguille and decided to hike around for a bit, which was a highlight for the kids, for sure!  We were still more than 2,000m high, but there was loads of open space with huge rocks for climbing against the backdrop of the higher heights.  We also got to watch dozens of people unload huge backpacks containing their paragliding stuff and then literally run off the side of the mountain as they floated up into the air!  Oh my!  It was so cool to see!  I would love to do it (it’s a floating swing!!)…IF I could be guaranteed 100% that I would land safely.  Mike says that’s just not possible, so I guess no paragliding for me…for now… 🙂

(Here’s G doing a handstand.)

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(And here are G and L rock climbing.)

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(Mike and I climbed, too!)

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So, an absolutely FABULOUS day spent on the mountains!  Beautiful!  

 

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