Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chamonix and Mont Blanc!

Arriving in Chamonix 10 days before the starting in the 2011 Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, the town is already preparing for what is considered the Tour de France of running. Banners are hanging, flags are waving crazily at tourists who are as excited as the actual runners, and finally the start and finish line is standing in anticipation.

The town itself is a bustling hive of tourists, mountaineers, and nature-enthusiasts. Ever present though is the blinding face of Mont Blanc. Looking up, I start to get pre-race nerves at the sheer scale of the mountains around me and of the huge challenge ahead. In the words of the event organisers:

"It is, indeed, an adventure; by understanding that it is difficult and takes place in the middle of nowhere infers the notion of respect. Respect for its beauty, for its fragility, but also for the uncertainty of its environment...the mountains allow us to pass, we can on no account force this passage..."

Hike to La Flegere 1877m

I accessed the trail from the western side of Argentiere, climbing up to La Flegere (a gondola site perched above Chamonix). The whole way I had uninterrupted, amazing views towards the Mont Blanc Massif. I found the best time to go is in the late afternoon, when the sun's full attention is upon the range.

View towards the Argentiere Glacier receding back from the Valley of Chamonix:

Below La Flegere is a high altitude reservoir. It was built in 2007 to hold water for production of artificial snow in winter. In summer though, it's glassy surface perfectly mirrors the majestic peaks of Aig. Verte (4122m) and Les Drus (3754m), seen on the left:

Mont Blanc (4809m), on the far right:

The encroaching shadows of the mountains on the opposite side of the valley:

Hike to La Croix de Lognan (1972m) and the Argentiere Glacier

I started this hike from the eastern side of the town of Argentiere and climbed steadily on a non-technical, shaded forest path:

Once above the tree-line I arrived at La Croix de Lognan, a plateau where the dominant feature is the huge cable-car infrastructure used mostly by sightseers wanting to avoid the uphill hike:

The Chalet Militaire de Lognan surrounded by some impressive views:

On the trail to the Argentiere Glacier:

Argentiere Glacier, its presence felt in the cold micro-climate surrounding it. It is a dirty mass of prehistoric, rumbling, rock-crunching ice; a force of nature shaping the earth beneath it:

Passing through the Ecuries de la Pendant 1778m, a little pocket of alpine meadow with a stable, goats, guard dog and donkey:

1 comment:

  1. Hi im alan, I chatted to you on the way to Contamine. You are one of only 2 people that I had a chat to. Glad to see you finnished in an impressive time. Well done.