Thursday, September 07, 2006

August 21st, 2006 - Chamonix, France
Shawn and I woke up around 8pm. Got up, actually because I WOKE up at 4am. Jet lag, obviously. I took a bath and read. When I couldn't stand it anymore I woke Shawn up (this is a rare occurrence in our marriage) and we went downstairs for our breakfast. Ah, French croissants! They had eggs, meat (bacon), and granola cereal (my favorite) but the croissants were awesome. Even if Hotel Morgane IS a Best Western the breakfast was superb (and it turns out, my vote for the best breakfast on the trip).

We hadn't decided on what we were going to do today. Tomorrow, Tuesday, was our fist official hiking day so today was somehow suppose to be a warm up. We wandered down the street to see how much it was to take the gondola up to the Aiguille du Midi. 36 Euros per person (essentially $54.00). Pricey but we look up and it looks so high and so intense and so close to Mont Blanc we figure it's worth it. We buy tickets.

The gondola is a box that ascends on two cables (and descends, of course). Amazing technology. They stuff 30 people into this thing. It actually rides to the Plan de Aiguille first, half way up and then you get into another identical gondola for the Aiguille du Midi (Needle of the Afternoon?).

Let me pause a moment to talk about Mont Blanc. It is a majestic snow covered half-dome shaped mountain. It's beautiful, and I mean that word in a complete awe-struck, breathy kinda way. The picture above is the glacier coming down from Mont Blanc (I had a hard time choosing which picture). It's strange though. Being the tallest mountain in the Alps (at 15,772 feet), it doesn't appear to be the largest when we are on top of the Aiguille. It looks close. They are next to one another - in a sort of epic way-separated by a large mass of glacier. Riding up in the gondola I was amazed and thrilled at how high we were going (but I was also scared, really scared). I felt like the camera of an IMAX film. I couldn't believe the gondola could go where it went. The Aiguille du Midi is 3842 meters high. (3.28 feet in a meter so 12,602 feet?) They have a building/station up there for tourists. The views will blow your head off. Yes, Mont Blanc looked close...until you saw tiny tiny figures on the face of it and you realized they were people summiting. We knew we lacked perspective. All the views were intense. We were above the clouds. Everything had snow or ice. It was more then words.

I don't know how long we were up there. Long enough for Shawn to get a Mont Blanc beer (I had une chocolate chaud, my mocha blended replacement for the trip). We descended on the gondola to Plan de l'Aiguille (2317 meters high). Here we hiked for 10 minutes to the Blue Lake (although it looked more green to me) and then were so inspired we thought we would just hike down to Chamonix. It's just a 1500 meter height difference and we didn't have our walking sticks with us. Crazy kids. By the end of it (took us 3 hours) Shawn's knees were killing him. Some warm up hike. It was pretty-streams and forests, etc.-but it was a brutal switchbacky downward trail. Poor Shawn. After we finally got back we went to dinner and then to bed.


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