Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It Could Be The Altitude

Like so many of our "problems", the lack of a train the whole way to Chamonix was simply a bit of a challenge to overcome. With very little discussion, we opted to take the train as far as it would take us. The border at Le Chatelard is actually most of the way up. The steepest, gnarliest climbing happens over that first section, rather than over the last section of the road. The remaining climbing had to be accomplished over a mere 9kms, and then it would be downhill for about 10kms. We pictured the last 9kms of Grimselpass and prepared ourselves, at least mentally, for switchbacks and steep turns.

The train ride itself was incredible. They really haul you up a big mountain, very slowly and at a steep angle. There is one part that goes over a crazy stone bridge that was on some postcards we'd just sent out. But very little of this dramatic ride was captured on camera, and what we did get was not captured very well.

from the train

And the riding turned out to be totally manageable. As we got off the train, with a whole train car full of German tourists, people gaped. One man asked if we were going up or down, and we pointed up. Gasp! They were meeting their own tour bus. In other words, they rode the train just to see the view from the train. The bus went via the road and would now take them to Chamonix.

Joshua practiced one of his best German phrases on a large German man: "Wollen Sie mit mir kommen?"

And he got a good laugh out of the long line of ladies waiting for the bathroom, one of whom said, "Es gibt Keinen Platz", referring to the already loaded nature of our bikes. Off we went.

The road was not too steep. It steadily went upward, but in a way that I might have enjoyed all day long. And there were beautiful flowers. After a few kilometers, the bus full of Germans passed us and we waved.

French Alps!

In fact, we were not quite convinced we'd reached the top, even when we did. The road veered down, so we knew it was possible. But it hadn't been all that hard, so perhaps another big climb was in our future? We had stopped where we could have a little picnic, and a hiking trail started there, next to an info center of some kind. So there was an info board with map. The Col des Montets. Yup, the top. 

this is the top?


great news!

Another hand-achingly long downhill commenced.


As if to make up for the great time we'd made, we rode around forever in search of the campsite. It looked like there were two, right in town, but we didn't quite have a detailed enough map - yet again. We rode west and away from the center of town for a while and then rode up to the south to see if we could get a view. Nope. So then we said we'd head back into the center and find an info office or something - and bam! Campsite, right there. 

glacier above our tent

So now we're in Chamonix, where you go if you want to see Mont Blanc. So? Let's go see Mont Blanc!

should we be worried about this cable bubble? not as on-time as the Swiss. not as Swiss.
up we go
part of the way up, people were already jumping off. so cool.

Okay, where does this thing go?  That teeny, tiny spike on top of that big mountain, just before it falls off to the right.  It's called the Aiguille du Midi.  Is this a good time to mention that the doors on our car were broken?  When the car arrived at the transfer point from the top of the mountain the doors would not open.  An operator from the outside had to manually force the doors open - it took him a long time appear.  This did not inspire confidence...

and there are people out there
Mont Blanc, somewhere in the clouds
this place is...
great for rock-climbing!

we may be a bit loopy from the altitude
we tried to take some photos together, but it was toooooo bright

The Aiguille du Midi is straight out of World of Warcraft or Game of Thrones. But truly, stunningly scary. This time the expensive ticket didn't include everything. No, you must pay an extra 3 Euros per person to go up in the elevator to the actual top. Zee French! 3 Euros!? 

so worth it
rock climbing

To go outside into the snow, you had to have your own ice pick and spiked boots, and warmer, drier clothing than we did. They go for 3 day hikes and camp out there. 

On the way down we decided to stop and get off at the transfer point. Different climate, different scenery. Also, there were these two donkeys.


it could be the altitude

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