Le Grand Catastrophe á Chamonix!

So today was the tourist day. We awoke at the dawn of crack & made our way to the ‘Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi’ to buy our tickets for the gondola car to ‘the top’ of Mont Blanc & for the 360 degree panoramic cable car across from MB to Hellbronner in Italy. The ticket office opened at 7.10am, & we were there. But the queue was already quite big, so we queued for an hour for tickets & got ourselves booked on the 9.30am car.

A quick breakfast & supplies stop back at the hotel & we were back at the Téléphérique for 9.10am.

As we waited for our car number to be announced I decided to nip outside & take a couple of snaps – it was then that my camera shouted ‘CF CARD ERROR, REPLACE CF CARD’!

The whole card dead. All 4gb of it. Dead. Along with ALL my photos from the entire trek. I felt physically sick. What a good job I’d got my gadget working & had copied a set of all the pictures over to my iPad ‘just in case’. I am now guarding my iPad with my life just in case! I’ll need to examine the camera card properly when I get home, but I think it’s dead ???? I just hope the pictures copied over in high resolution…

BUT, this didn’t help me with the ride to the top of MB just moments away… I kept trying it & trying it, but no good. Dead as a dodo. So all of today’s pictures have been taken on my trusty iPhone. They look ‘OK’, but you can’t beat a proper old school SLR. See what you think at the end.

So at 9.30am we set off. Sadly the whole thing was a bit like herding cattle… the magic of the last 10 days was somewhat dissolved by the endless queuing & shepherding that ensued amongst the – literally – 100s & 100s of people that were processed through the place. But hey, who am I to grumble, the infrastructure that’s in place to allow us to see what these profossional (yet totally bonkers) climbers see, is incredible – & must have cost millions & millions to build. So I guess the [estimated by me & Mike] quarter of a million euros they take A DAY are necessary to keep the whole thing maintained & running (& paid off!).

We went up to 4000m & we thought we’d been close to MB whilst trekking round – but boy, this time we were so close there was no need for a zoom lens, we could see every crack, divet, blemish, stone, flake of snow… it was breathtaking. We could even see climbers setting out on their ascent – they looked like ants! The ice range was VAST. Words can’t describe it, & the photos struggle, but sitting out there, suspended in the void between peaks, looking down at HUGE ice crevices where the glaciers have pulled away, in total silence, just has to be experienced for real to fully appreciate. It was like nothing I have ever experienced, & is a vision that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The pics I’ll include at the bottom try to encapsulate it, but they really do fail having seen it with my own eyes.

The hours we were up there passed in a blink & it was soon time for us to come down.

After grabbing some lunch Mike & I parted ways – he to go & investigate the Alps Museum, me to go gift shopping.

We met back up at the hotel (pic below of our view – also awesome) & headed off to an authentic French restaurant Mike had found this afternoon. Mike had fois gras, followed by lamb, followed by berry crumble, I had French onion soup with cheese & toasted bread, then salmon, followed by raspberries & mint. All of which we washed down with French wine & espresso coffee. Absolutely blummin’ delicious. I have, however, advised Mike to push those ear plugs of his in a little further than usual this evening… & possibly for the return journey home tomorrow, but to push them up his nostrils! ????

But what a great day. And what a great adventure actually. We raised a glass to each other this evening, & for for all we’ve each achieved in different ways. We’re both very proud of what we’ve achieved, & I feel particularly blessed to have carried with me so much support, love, goodwill & prayers. I’m a very blessed chap indeed.

So tomorrow we head homeward. Our flight is at 1.40pm (12.40pm yours), landing around 2.10pm local time, at Heathrow. We just then need to see if my car is still where we left it, on the driveway booked through justpark.com … & that it’s not been sold! So home for tea time – & I can’t wait. I’ve really missed my family. Even Owen. But I’ll have to wait until December before I see Jake, since he’s now in Madrid ????

And so to bed, one last time on foreign soil. Some last photos below from today, taken on my phone. I’ll get a gallery together once I’m in front of my computer in the office at home, so there’ll be a good selection there very soon if you’d like to take a look through. I have some thank you’s to do too, which I’ll do on that last post.

So for now, g’nite, & I hope you like these…

We did it! Path on the left the one we left on, path on the right the one we came back on.

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Bright & early the next day, tickets purchased, ready to ‘go up top’!

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At the top – climbers stepping out from the Téléphérique, walking the ridge out to one of the start points. A sheer drop either side!

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Mont Blanc with the white top on the left – can you see the three climbers at the bottom on their ascent?

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The weight of the glacier creates huge crevices in the ice field that can appear at any time – sometimes when climbers step on them!

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The landscape up there is like nothing I’ve ever seen – almost ‘moon like’ – & so quiet…

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Me & my mate, on top of the world!

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So that large mountain in the centre of the pic – the very green one – is the top we descended from yesterday, into Les Houches below. So you can see why my knees were a bit shaky when we got to the bottom!

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… and this was a typical ‘path’ for the journey down!

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Our hotel for the last two nights is the pink one on the right – ‘Vallée Blanc’. Nice view huh?!

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At at night-time from the square below…

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