Continuing today my summary of my quick trip to Chamonix, France that I started a bit ago, allow me to tell you a little bit about a thing called ‘natural beauty’. I’ll give you a hint–it’s got nothing to do with make up or pearly whites or great hair.
It’s got a whole lot to do with this:
Annnnnnnd a little bit of this:
So now that I’ve got your attention, these photos were taken from the top of the Aiguille du Midi, one of the many ski lifts in Chamonix. This one happens to be the tallest and is so popular that even those who aren’t planning to ski or snowboard down (like myself) go up to the top to take in amazing views of the valleys and surrounding Alps (technically 3 countries can be seen!) The ride up is a 2-part deal with a stop in the middle to switch cable cars for a steeper descent to the top, and apparently is not for the weak of heart–for some reason the wind swinging us back and forth didn’t bother me, but there were definitely some other tourists in my car who were very, very not okay with it. But hey, they survived!
So what do you do at the top?
Well, naturally, there is a gift shop. With some hot beverages and food available because…tourism. (Also France’s highest post box, so you can send letters to your friends and family telling them just how damn numb your fingers are up there!) There is also a nice little glass box even HIGHER up on the peak (you take an elevator for that one. Score.) where you step out over a massive drop down to an icy glacier, as pictured above. Naturally I had to do it, and had the on-hand photographer (who probably hates his job) snap some photos of me on my phone. He had it down to a science–shuffled us in (literally, they make you wear slippers to avoid scuffing the glass) take a picture of you from one angle, move to another while trying to avoid showing the box corners and ruining the effect, and shuffle you back out.
Then, of course, you could ski or snowboard down–the route, to my knowledge, is quite long and ends on the Mer de Glace (unless you go off-piste down the super-steep front of the mountain, which one or two brave souls did) which I shall talk about further momentarily. The skiers have to hike down a bit to their starting point, which made for some pretty cool photos including the one below, which a couple months ago I got featured on the BBC as part of their “mountains” theme week for reader-photo submissions. I was pretty pumped.
When I had satiated my need to photograph every. single. mountain. crest (plus clouds, valley, skiers, etc) I finally made the descent back down to the valley, and shuffled a quick few minutes over to the Montenvers Train, which I took (via a combined ticket with the one for Aiguille du Midi, highly recommend if you don’t want to end up spending like 20-30 Euros extra to do them both individually) to see the Mer de Glace–France’s largest glacier.
What’s that? You didn’t know France HAD any glaciers? I suppose it’s not something I had previously thought much about either. But it does, and you can take a cute little red train (which does not connect to any regional trains, by the way–one purpose only) up to the Montenvers Station (or the very isolated, lovely hotel on the way!) for some stunning views. This is also where the aforementioned skiers ended up after a multi-hour trek down. Unfortunately for them, the glacier had shifted away from previously existing cable cars and they all had to hike several hundred stairs UP to the train to leave. In ski boots. They weren’t thrilled. I myself hiked down those stairs for something I had very much been looking forward to–the decorated ice cave carved out annually inside the glacier.
Admittedly I was a little disappointed–I had been expecting them to be a bit more extensive, but the fact is just carving out the loop and furniture in there from ice was probably quite the feat in itself, and the color-changing lightshow made for a very ethereal experience.
As I was snapping some photos on my way out after a quick stop in a “crystal museum” by the train station, I noticed some clouds creeping in over a far ridge above the glacier. They began to billow and tumble over like a waterfall, and the effect was so cool I had to snap a photo! Compare it to the previous glacier shot to see how much they covered it!
Annnnd that’s all for now, team! Have a great weekend!