Alarms set for 6am so that we could be first in the queue to book our slot on the Télégraphique. On arrival at the bookings desk at 6.30am a number of things presented themselves to us:
Bookings were no longer allotted times, so we needn’t have got up early to book a slot. You now just turn up & hop on.
The Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car between L’Aiguille & Helbronner in Italy was closed due to damage incurred during Storm Eleanor.
Our hoped for venture out on to the Aiguille du Midi ridge would only be allowed if we had crampons, harnesses & ropes (which we didn’t, because we hadn’t been advised we needed them).
So on the whole, a bit of a let down. But being British, we couldn’t miss the opportunity of joining a queue so bought tickets anyway!
We headed back to the hotel to have some brekkie, then sorted ourselves out with some layers & headed back to the Télégraphique to join the queue.
Everything was planned very differently this time, compared to last, & we had as much time as we needed to explore once we got up there. This was a real bonus as last time we’d been so rushed. The views were every bit as incredible as I remember – possibly even more incredible, having time to fully take them in. We really did feel ‘on top of Europe’. The sky wasn’t as clear as it was for us 2 years ago, but it was still every bit as breathtaking:
This is the point we’d have gone out on to the ridge if we’d have had the right equipment. I would really like to do this. So maybe when I’ve saved up my pocket money, maybe I’ll be allowed to nip back… just for this… #negotiationsrequired
As we walked around the summit we could see everywhere we’d walked & climbed over the last few days in the mountain sides opposite. The scale is staggering. I’ve taken loads of photos (you’ll all be invited to the slides evening obvs… ?) but they completely fail to show the vastness of these mountains. I guess that’s one of the unique things about doing this, that only we will carry the true scale of what we’ve seen in our mind’s eye. I’ve been seeing them every night when I’ve closed my eyes, & relived every moment. Except the sports shop & putting my hand down the back of Mike’s shorts. I don’t want to re-live that. Or the non-closing toilet door.
It was really cold up there too – apparently we lose 1 degree in temperature for every 150m we travel above sea level. So at 3842m we’d lost 19 degrees off the ground temperature in Chamonix at 1000m. And yes, I used the calculator to work that out! We were also running at only 65% oxygen, so the (many) steps were a real challenge!
It’s an amazing piece of engineering though, perched at such a height on such small mountain points. This is a shot looking down at a lower part of the station from the peak:
Certainly not for anyone suffering from vertigo!
Of course we managed to get ourselves lost when it came to returning to ground level – & we were very grateful for having to go back up a lot of steps again at such high altitude, with so little oxygen…!
Being so pumped when we came down, we decided the only logical thing to do next was go paragliding from 2000m. So we went & grabbed a couple of beers/Dutch courage first – a very nice variant on the Mont Blanc Blonde we’d had before, only this time with Génépi which is an absinthe liquor… & was VERY nice!
Then it was off to paraglide! These are the guys who would be taking us out, walking up to the launch point just before take off…
But guess what. It got cancelled! Just as we were about to robe up & go! We were absolutely gutted. The weather was turning & they just couldn’t guarantee our safety, so we returned to the base & got a refund. We couldn’t believe it. Neither of us had ever done it & we were right for it – especially after the absinthe! – but it just wasn’t to be. This will also be the first Polly knows about it too, so maybe someone in a higher place was just looking after me & had my back…!
Shortly after this, sure enough, the weather came in & it chucked it down in Chamonix.
When we came 2 years ago, we stayed at the hotel we’re in now. I left my (then brand new) walking poles in the room when we left. It was a long shot, I know that, but when I returned to the hotel to get my waterproof, I decided to try & have the conversation with the (as I now know it) very poor English speaking receptionist about said poles, to see whether they still had them. You know already this wasn’t going to go well right?
The first attempt was me, in my best French/English/Pigeon, explaining the story – 2 years, stayed here, strange request but, left poles, maybe do you have them, if not do you have any others, lost property etc. This was unsuccessful.
The second attempt included a translation app she had, which we both had a crack at to translate the story. However, autocorrect put a spin on the story that even I wasn’t expecting, & thus that route also failed. Although it was very amusing. More to me probably, because I knew what I wanted to say & she still had no clue/was quite surprised by some of the things I was asking!
Lastly, I resorted to French/English/Pigeon but I very cleverly added in another dimension – acting. I thought, if Owen can do it I can. So off I went. And it worked! Well, to a point. Somehow I ended up with her lending me a pair of walking poles, that I obviously didn’t want – or need – but by this point felt obliged to borrow. She handed them to me with the strict instructions that I needed to return them tomorrow. At which point I returned to our room, with the poles, to try & work out what to do next.
I had planned to go & do a little shopping, for gifts, but now had visions of having to take these poles with me – neither of which would fold down – just to keep the receptionist happy. As I was sat on the bed deliberating, Mike came back to the room (he’d been on walkabout), so I relayed my predicament to him.
He was no help. In fact I could barely understand what he was saying through his laughter. I was disappointed by his lack of support obviously. So I decided I would try & get past reception (there’s only one way out) ninja style, leaving the poles behind. Maybe even via an open window if there was one…
As I approached reception, my back pinned to the wall, I noted the receptionist was engaged with a couple of customers. I seized my chance & leapt for freedom through the open doorway… I was free!
By the time I returned later the shift had changed & I was able to re-enter without challenge. All was well. That was a close call though guys. I just hope she doesn’t ask me where I went when I return them tomorrow!
We’ve had a great last night here in Chamonix. Our last meal was in a lovely French restaurant – I had French onion soup (?) which I’ll be sharing with my fellow passengers on the way home tomorrow, followed by spaghetti with lobster sauce & prawns, Mike had bruschetta followed by a burger. Typical French cuisine really.
On returning to the hotel the front door was closed & wouldn’t open when pushed, so we mouthed & gesticulated & mimed to the (new) receptionist inside to let us in, to which she mouthed, gesticulated & mimed back… at which point we realised we just needed to turn the handle. At least she didn’t mention the poles…!
And so to bed. It’s been a great trip. As always, full of adventure, laughter, awe & just all round great stuff that money can’t buy & will only ever come through brilliant friendship.
I’m sure there’ll be a goodly supply muddledupness tomorrow as we venture home, but this is me signing off for this trip. Thank you to all those who’ve enjoyed my blog & messaged us along the way. I’ve never felt far from friends or family. It means a lot.
Here’s my parting (yes, I said parting) gift to you, as seen with my own eyes today. You should come & see it for yourself, if you should ever get the chance, just to comprehend its scale… I’m a very lucky & blessed chap.