Photo Friday: T(our de) M(ont) B(lanc), Part 1

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Hiking around Chamonix

Sit down, fasten your seatbelts, and prepare for a lot of photos, because I sure took a boatload of them on my hikes in the Alps! I was there for all of July (and a little bit of June and August), and did two major treks, all of it sleeping and eating in hotels and refuges (no camping this time) but still pretty strenuous at times. The TMB hike I did with my brother-in-law and his wife (Tom and Carol).

This post shares photos from Chamonix and the hikes we did there while my companions got over jet lag and we all adjusted a bit to higher elevations. Some of the hiking was a matter of cherry-picking the good parts of the TMB through the valley, though we didn't achieve them all.

First, a few shots of town.

Mt. Blanc hovers over the town from almost every angle,

First climbers to summit, I believe. Doing what we did in so many photos--pointing at the mountain.

The River Arve, swollen with fast-melting glaciers, runs right through the middle of town.

Turned loose in the land of pastries!

Our first hike, which turned out to be a struggle in part because maybe I wasn't quite over my COVID yet, involved taking the cable car up to the Plan d'Aiguille and walking to Lac Bleu and the Mer de Glace. From there we took a cog rail back down to Chamonix.

Got off the cable car and found this very helpful directional sign. Only 11,701 km to Aconcagua!

The day flirted with clouds, confirming our decision not to take the full ride to the 12,000' summit of the Aiguille de Midi. Later in the trip Tom and I made it up there from the other side.

A  ten-minute walk took us up the side trail to Lac Bleu, with Mt. Blanc up behind.

A very pretty spot for reflections.

An hour's walk from Lac Bleu brought us to the overlook for the Mer de Glace, a massive glacier which originates as an ice field on the slopes of Mt. Blanc.

The amount of shrinkage of European glaciers is obvious in this photo, which shows the valley sides scraped clean by the glacier, too recently to have regrown vegetation. In fact, the retreat is so great that the lift that used to take people to the surface of the glacier now leaves them with several hundred feet to descend to reach the ice.

The next day we stayed close to the hotel as I was still feeling pretty rotten, but the third day we were ready for the iconic hike to Lac Blanc. Seems like everyone who visits Chamonix has to do it, and it's part of the TMB, so while we had to do it too, we also had to contend with crowds. It starts with another lift ride, and we added a bit to go to the top of the lifts before dropping back to the mid-point to start the hike. I was rapidly coming to like lifts, cable cars, gondolas, and funiculars! Skipping long climbs is grand. At my age, skipping the long descents is a life-saver.

Mt. Blanc massif from l'Index, the top of the Flegere lifts. I was somewhat taken aback when the upper lift proved to be an open ski lift--I'm no skier, and hadn't been on such a lift more than once or twice in my life, a long long time ago. I learned the technique fast, but was glad not to have skis to manage!

The trail, especially past Lac Blanc, has its fun bits. Between Lac de Cheserys and the town of Argentiere there are even more fun bits, which we didn't do, somewhat to my regret.
Descending some funky stairs. Later a ladder was even more interesting.

Despite the crowds, to our amazement we saw a chamois, which turned out to be one of only two we saw the whole trip. Apologies for an imperfect photo.

The walk from La Flegere to Lac Blanc is comparatively easy, but had enough climbing to make us feel like we were getting a workout. Fantastic views the whole way make it easier.

Some of the many aiguilles (needles) just to the north of Mt. Blanc.

Lac Blanc is justifiably famous. It's really a pair of tarns, both beautifully colored by glacial silt, though I don't think there are any glaciers above them now.

Maybe a remnant glacier up there.

It was a very warm and somewhat humid day, and some people were taking dips in Lac de Chesery. I might have been tempted if I were as uninhibited as many of them, willing to strip to my skivvies and jump in in front of everyone. But then I'd have had to hike in wet skivvies, never my idea of fun!
 Instead of a swim I took a nap.

That hike, a moderately strenuous 5 1/2 miles with about an 1800' climb (and descent), was the last of our Chamonix outings. The next day we'd grab a bus to Les Houches and begin the TMB.

Sunset on the Alps, from the balcony of my hotel room.

Next week, we start the TMB, and I'll see if I can bite off 3-day chunks. As we move into fall, a bit of mountain dreaming is a good thing.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2022
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