Chamonix and Mont Blanc, An Awesome Day at High Altitude

DSC_0598What a fantastic day in Chamonix and Mont Blanc. I woke up with a perfect attitude for high altitude. It was an early morning, up for breakfast and out the door for eight o’clock in hopes of catching a glimpse of the elusive Mont Blanc that had thus far eluded me on this trip to the French Alps. It was a good sign when having my coffee on the deck of my luxury chalet that some blue sky peered out from the clouds to reveal the mountains and I hoped it would last until I had the chance to take the cable car up to the Aguille du Midi. Camera in hand and donning a new Chamonix alpine hat from the kind folks at the Chamonix Tourism office, I headed out for the adventure of a lifetime.

DSC_0515The twenty minute cable car from the town of Chamonix to the Aiguille du Midi was packed with tourists and local climbers anxious to shake off the claustrophobia from hanging out all week indoors because of the rain. The landing spot is 3,842 meters above and let me off at the terrace which boasts 360 degree views of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps.

DSC_0565The next destination was Italy via the panoramic Chamonix Mont-Blanc gondola. Only a few short minutes away (usually) lies the border of Italy and France. In years past one could jump off in Italy and make their way down for lunch and be back in France by dark. Unfortunately for me, this was not a possibility. The Italians have shut down their cable car for the next three years for renovation. My guide, Bernadette shared that the new project will be a huge improvement to their infrastructure and promises to be an amazing renovation that travelers will love once completed.

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While frigid year ’round, the gondola ride was quite warm. There was a mix up of the cable lines today and so our car sat baking in the high altitude sun during the hour-long break down. My travel buddy Leah and I took this time out to pose for a photo and I even took a 20 minute snooze after snapping loads of photos.

DSC_0538It was a day of breathtaking views and a couple of nervous moments. Never being afraid of heights before, I thought it would be a piece of cake to step out onto the glass box at the top of the Aiguille du Midi to pose for a photo, however once I looked down and saw that only a thin layer of glass stood between me and 3,842 meters below, my mind went instantly into preservation mode and I panicked a bit. Not wanting to waste an opportunity to conquer my fears, I regrouped quickly and braved the precipice to have my photo taken.

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It was a blast to watch the rock climbers, hikers and skiers alone on the white vista below. Many were making the first tracks in the new powder snow below.

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The blue skies lasted until after lunch. The lazy travelers who slept in this morning missed these incredible views. By the time I headed back down into town the sun had given way to clouds and fog. I am one lucky gal. Remember, the early bird catches the best photos!

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The layers of snow can be seen in the crevices below where our guide explained “look shallow, yet are quite deep.” She fell into one a few years back and lived to tell us about it. Roped up, she sat below the ice some six meters and snapped photos from inside while waiting for her guide and fellow hikers to help pull her out. She did not feel the full effects of the near death experience until rescued and says she is alive today because of the fact that safety precautions are carefully adhered to by the expert Chamonix mountain guides. Some 50-55 people perish each year on this mountain, mostly due to not being prepared and not taking the weather conditions into account. Hiring an experienced guide is recommended for all who choose to brave the terrain. To hire a guide, click here.

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I felt a sense of accomplishment today having seen the beautiful mountains of Chamonix!

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And, I even have a certificate of proof that I made it to the the Aiguille du Midi. Of course it would have been a more monumental task had I climbed all the way to the top of Mont-Blanc, but there’s always next year!

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Special thanks to Bernadette, my guide today from the Chamonix Tourism office and to The Best of the Alps for sponsoring this trip.

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