Saturday, August 08, 2009

Chamonix - Part 1

Welcome to Chamonix and the "home" of Mont Blanc. From the French perspective. Known by the Italians as 'Monte Bianco.' The time it's taken me to get this trip up on the blog could be compared to the drive to Chamonix itself - a little long, a bit overcast and a lot of uphill - but incredibly beautiful. Life is beautiful is it not? Even with those little detours along the way?

We did not take the "fast" route from Zurich - autobahn nearly the whole way - although I did on the way home. We took the mountain route which always brings a little adventure.

We went via the Furka Pass which tops at 2431m (approx. 8,000ft) incorporating an 11% grade on the way up and a 10% grade going down (from our direction at least). This particular journey is the same as that of the Glacier Express, skipping St. Moritz and Zermatt. Lovely and a little wild.

The wild involves actually driving on the road which heads pretty much straight uphill where you depart from those headed to the Gotthard Tunnel - it almost appears that you are headed up a driveway of sort. No, you are actually on the Furkastrasse. And, NO, it really isn't wide enough for your and the Tour Bus coming from the opposite direction. It's wide enough for two Fiats to fit comfortabley side by side. Throw in the buses, motorcycles, hikers and families on bicycle vacations and oh, boy, we've got two hands on the wheel. "Look, there goes 10 yr old Johann up an 11% grade mountain rode with saddlebags on his bike." No EuroDisney for that little boy this summer.

I'm thinking I really impressed my mom & J with my driving skills. Especially after the one encounter with the bus "J, you didn't get scratched by the rock wall did you (passenger side)?" "Mom, did you lick that bus as it squeaked by(driver side)?" It was that close. Bart (who joined us later in the week) isn't quite sure it beats the bus that squeaked by us in Italy. Trust me honey - this one was worse!

Crazy road stories, hot car and hot brakes aside - it was a beautiful ride and I'm glad we have the 'leisure' to take those roads. The roads less traveled.

Girls hopping a puddle on top of the Brevant (2525m) - opposite side of valley, facing Mont Blanc (4,810m) straight ahead and the Aiguille du Midi peak (3842) just to the left. Kendra and the Goat: they scared each other to death. I just happened to take the pic as she reached the top and yelped when the goat popped his head up. They both ran from each other - oh, we laughed.
We took the crazy, Mont Blanc cog train up to the glacier and point where the Mont Blanc trekkers start out. The seracks were incredible and I was amazed at how noisy the glaciers are. There is a constant sound of either running water or rocks falling. I asked J how he does it (cross the glaciers when climbing) and he responded "Well, it keeps you moving."
Found a nice Englishman to take our photo:
Took another cog train, the Montenvers, up where you get a glimpse of the Mer de Glace (Sea/River of Ice coming down off Mont Blanc behind the Aiguilles).
We really enjoyed these mountains. Although Mont Blanc is the highest and massive, it is the mildest looking compared to some of the surrounding mountains. They are all impressive and we really enjoyed some high elevation hiking, climbing and lunching.
Next post will be either 3 generations rock climbing or the glacier trip. See what I'm in the mood for. :)


MOM E said...

Good post and no, I wasn't worried about the bus...we weren't on the cliff side...and for J, that was tame compared to his lifestyle in South America. I was amazed we still had a mirror though. Thanks for making more "Alps Memories" with us.

Susan May said...

Great photos! Chamonix is on my list! Although reading about the drive made my palms sweat - just another reason why I'm glad we don't have a car here - I don't have to decide about whether to drive or take the train!

Hi! It's me, Julie! said...

Fantastic! I loved the picture of Kendra and the goat...I can just hear her screaming! I had a similar experience with Natalie as she charged through a friend's garden and then encountered some friendly those girls! Hugs from us to you!