Chamonix et Mont Blanc

Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Chamonix is a town of only about 10,000 but is packed almost year round with serious adventure seekers. Skiers, snowboarders, rock climbers, hikers, and general adrenaline junkies. (on a side note, they also have a seemingly endless supply of cheese and salami shops. See pictures, we had to indulge, fuel to burn off climbing mountains or something).
Chamonix and its claim to fame, Mont Blanc, has no shortage of ways to get your juices pumping.
Mont Blanc is where the first winter Olympics happened in 1924 and is also the site of that crazy ski chase in James Bond 007 "The World Is Not Enough". It is "the Alpinism capital of the world", and rightfully so.
Chamonix is about 1000 metres (remember metres, not feet here) above sea level and many of the peaks in the surrounding Alpes top 4000 metres. In between the peaks are glaciers that will take your breath away. One of the biggest is the "Mer de Glace" (sea of ice) it is 14km long, 1800m wide, and up to 400m deep. The chalet/hostel where we stayed is right up against the mountains with a glacier (Glacier des Bossons) in our backyard (see pictures). Our first night there we even saw a few shooting stars zoom in behind the peaks. Not too shabby.  All three nights we stared out into our lovely backyard while sharing local wine, cheese, and salami (well Kevin hogged most of the salami... Ok all of it).
You can tell outdoor adventure is serious business here as just about everywhere we looked mountaineering equipment can be seen hanging off the countless aforementioned thrill seekers as they stroll through town looking for cheese and salami. 
The most amazing thing we did here has to be the Telepherique du l'Aiguille du Midi. It is truly an engineering marvel. We took a cable car up to the peak of the Auguille du Midi mountain which is just under 4000 metres-METRES! All in about 20 minutes. We (read I [Kevin]) thought we (I) would have to bring a change of underwear or two for the trip up.  But honestly the view was way too remarkable to be scared.  At the top it was pretty cloudy and we couldn't see too much besides clouds and mountain peaks (but still gorgeous), but on a clear day you are supposed to be able to see into Italy and Switzerland as well.
We were about 1000 metres above the clouds. That day it was about 25 degrees in the town but only 2 degrees at the top.
The cable car trip is in two segments. You must change cars (and cables) about half way. We took it to the top and explored the views for a while. They have this whole complex of lookouts, a café and a shop up there.  We were climbing a couple flights of stairs and we were both a little winded and out of breath. Any type of physical exertion up that high takes a little more effort it seems. On the way back down we only took the cable car halfway. We hiked for about 2.5 hours at about 2200 metres along the mountain over to see the Mer de Glace. The hike was gorgeous. The views were incredible and we could even see the odd cloud float past at eye level that's how high we were. We even stopped for a picnic along the way and ate while overlooking the whole valley.  Definitely something that we will be talking about forever. 
We are now headed back down out of the Alpes to Wine Country!
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