On The Slopes of Mont Blanc

Last weekend we travelled south to Chamonix, curtesy of Emma and her car. The whole weekend was wonderful, but the highlight was without a doubt Mt Blanc itself.  We drove to Chamonix via Montreux and Martigny, from which there is a short – 50km – journey over the mountains into France.  The main pass is the Col de Forclaz at a height of 1527m.  From there we got our first clear view of the Mt Blanc massif, though not of the summit itself.  The first photo below is the spectacular view from the col, though I have no idea what this summit is called.  It is followed by our first two views of the Mt Blanc summit range, first from Argentière and then from Chamonix itself.

      

The Saturday was another beautiful, hot and sunny day, so we decided this was the day to get up the mountain as high as possible, which meant the L`Aiguille du Midi cable car, which takes you in two stages to a height of 3,842m.  From there you get an incredible series of vistas of the summit range.  The actual summit is another 1,000m higher up and to tell the truth is not in itself anything special – a nice rounded hill – though one at 4,810m high!  The surrounding peaks are spectacular though and here are some views from L`Aiguille du Midi.  First is a view of the summit peaks, followed by a close up of the summit itself.  Then two views of other peaks on the summit plateau, followed by the view across the snow to Heilbrunnen in Italy.  This sequence ends with a close up of Heilbrunnen.

      

      

L`Aiguille du Midi is quite a spectacular summit in its own right and really stands out as a pointed needle from the valley.  Below is a view up to L`Aiguille from Chamonix, followed by a photo of Kathleen sunning herself by the signpost and lastly one of the rocky outcrops of L`Aiguille.

      

L`Aiguille du Midi is quite a complex rock formation, with four separate viewing points.  At 3,842m above sea level is also very high – the highest we have ever been.  And we all found that this height had a disconcerting effect on our bodies.  Even the short climb up a few steps to the first viewpoint had us all out of breath and our legs feeling heavy.  The worst of all was going up the stairs to the cafeteria, which had us all feeling very dizzy and rather unstable.  Luckily these effects did not last and after a sit down and a cup of coffee we were as right as rain again and ready for some more excitement.  This came on the southern facing viewing platform, where a French TV film crew were peparing to shoot some scenes for a medical programme.  There was a large number of people involved, from cameramen to the technical experts and of course the actors.  At least we assume they were actors.  One of them was a rather attractive woman who seemed to be more concerned with her make-up than any potential danger from a bit of rock climbing 3,800m up.  Below is a photo of the lovely herself, followed by a rotary bladed contraption which was to be used later in some of the filming.  Finally another attraction of the summit – a man sized St Bernard dog.

      

L`Aiguille du Midi is also the starting point for Alpinist climbers who want to reach the summit of Mt Blanc or just explore the area.  The following photos show some shots of walkers out on the summit area.  First is an overview of several climbers zigzagging their way up the steep slopes, followed by a closer view of a couple of lonely walkers trudging through the snow and finally a tired climber just a few short steps from rest at L`Aiguille.

      

The Mt Blanc range is a paradise for paragliders and throughout the day you could see them gently descending from high above the summit to the valley below.  If you are not quite brave enough to do this on your own, you can get an exerienced glider to accompany you in a tandem glider.  Even that was too much for us.   Here though are some shots of those brave enough to do so.

         

As well as fabulous views of the Mt Blanc range, from the L`Aiguille du Midi you are treated to some wonderful views of the surrounding mountains.  Here are a couple of shots of some of these other mountain ranges to be seen from on high.  I end with a view down to Chamonix, which I hope to cover in a later post.

      

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