Our first hiking trip out of the UK, not
really knowing what to expect we booked a package with Crystal Active, 7
days in Chamonix staying at Les Aiglons Hotel.
The Hotel was superb, just under the
Aiguille du Midi cable car with views from the balcony across the
glacier to the Mont Blanc massif.
At first we were a bit sceptical about
getting a lift pass, but by the end of the week not only had we got our
moneys worth but we realised how accessible it made places, walking up
hill and then getting the lift back or going from one cable car station
First day and to get a feel of the area
and also suss out how the cable car system works we took advantage of a
guided walk organised by Crystal, a high level but flat route starting
at the Index cable car rising gradually to Lac Blanc before descending
back to the Flegere Cable Car. The idea of taking a cable car up hill
and walking down isn't our idea of fun, walking up and cable car down
seems more appropriate but thankfully this route had a good mix of rocky
terrain and scrambles to excite. Normally we tend to be out trekking
alone only occasionally meeting others at summits or along the route so
it was a new experience to be joined by 20+ others but soon the group
split as we all found our own pace and it was quite nice to be able to
chat with others as we went along.
Everything was going smoothly until the final
ascent and the altitude hit, for a short time it was like walking
through treacle. Certainly understand now why mountaineers have to get
used to the altitude and acclimatise!
Something we would find out for
ourselves a few days later when we took the cable car up to Aiguille du
Midi and struggled to walk up the metal staircase!
Thankfully the views
from this high vantage point were awesome. Mont Blanc rising out of deep
glacial valleys. We were so envious of the 'Alpinistes' roping up and
heading off onto the snow.
Our second day's walking took us onto the
Mont Blanc massif range. Taking the Montevers railway to the Mer du
Glace, walking up over the Signal and then along the ridge to the lower
cable station of Aiguille du Midi, again another reasonably level walk
once the initial ascent was out of the way.
We took some time out to do a spot of
climbing, first on real rock, our guide Denis arranged by
Crystal, met us at Gaillands, a few minutes walk from the hotel. He made
it look relatively easy taking up and fixing the lead rope to a grade 4
climb. Liz never having managed a grade 3 indoors took her time but
didn't give in and reached the top, then onto a grade 5 with near
impossible starting point but we both climbed the route. Great climbing
in the sun, outside and with Mont Blanc behind.
For a less taxing day we walked up to the Pranplatz cable car station
and watched the parapenters throw
themselves off the Brevent.
Final day saw our first full ascent of
a 2500 m peak, Le Brevent. Lizzie had been looking at the peak all
week determined to get to the top. Starting from Chamonix there are a number of
choices, one ascending by the 'ski run' and the other through the
forest. The ski run looked the easiest a wide zig-zag upwards but we
took the forest trail eventually meeting the ski run below the lower
cable car station. From here there is a bit of a tourist route to the
summit or the more difficult option of taking a track around the front of the Aiguilles
Rouges to Col du Brevent then across the back of the range to the
Needless to say by accident we went this way!
Halfway up we came across a group of
impaired walkers being taken out on contraptions that looked like
stretchers on top of large wheels, how the helpers managed to get these
up and down the tracks is beyond me, they were closely followed by a
mule loaded with equipment. On one bend the mule above dislodged a rock
that bounced on the path below then over the next bend almost hitting
one of the people on the stretcher. Imagine you struggle all that way
only to be brained by a falling rock!
By now we were in proper mountain
terrain and not sure we were doing the right thing or even going the
right way. Luckily the way ahead looked more intimidating than it was
and the route was clearly marked in red paint so we continued turned a
corner and saw the ladders. Yipes, our first Via Ferrata and we weren't
expecting it, Kev was so concerned about whether we were lost that he
didn't take any pictures as we scrambled up, thankfully it wasn't too
difficult and by the time we were on the second ladder it was quite
enjoyable. We will have to go back again for the pictures!
Summit eventually reached, just in
time. High winds had closed the cable car and they were only taking
people down off the summit, needless to say we took advantage and jumped
into the car saving our celebration drink of Kir for the cafe at the
midway Planpraz station then before our legs seized up crawled into the
cable car for the final descent down to the valley below.
So, that was our first experience of
the Alps. Unbelievable scenery, great walks and
The mountains managed to show who is
in control, a violent rock and ice fall occurred while we were having a
break at Lac Bleu close to the Aiguilles du Midi. We could hear the
cracks and tumbling rock but fortunately too far away to see it. Sadly
several people were killed and badly hurt. That evening from our
balcony we watched the rescue helicopters going back and forth, thankful
for our own safety and aware that nature has a power to be respected.