Kas started with her traditional morning run. Not a very long one, but it was on the plan.
We got out of the house at around 10:30 and went around to Saint-Gervais-les-Bains in the hope of catching the Mont Blanc Tramway, however when we got there, and got parked up, we discovered that we would have to wait the best part of two hours, until just after 1pm, before we’d be able to get a place. Bleedin’ tourists. Why can’t they all just stay at home.
So we had a communal “bum to that !” and did a quick rethink.
We decided instead to go and try out the Télésiège des Bossons, which takes you up to a chalet and viewing point near the bottom of the Glacier de Bossons, which runs off the Mont Blanc Massif a little to the west of Chamonix town. The chairlift itself is an “old skool” skiing one where the chairs are fixed to the cable permanently, and as a result the overall experience is, shall we say, relaxing rather than speedy. However, on a sunny day in August there are worse things to do than to spend 15 minutes drifting serenely over the alpine meadows and woodlands.
When you get to the top it is a short walk to a couple of viewing platforms that look over the base of the glacier from west to east. I guess when they were built that the glacier was much further down the valley. Right until the early twentieth century, apparently, the glacier used to come right down into the valley. I won’t say it’s a shadow of its former self, because to be honest it still completely dominates the view from Chamonix looking west, especially in the summer when there’s no snow anywhere else around the base. The glacier still comes down well below the treeline, aided by the north-facing aspect of the slope it comes down, but the snout has now receded a few hundred metres back up from the valley floor, and the chairlift now takes you to a point probably a couple of hundred metres below the current snout. It is still close enough for a good view though.
I forgot to mention also that the Bossons area is home to the ski jump hill from the 1924 Winter Olympics, which looks sort of abandoned now, especially given that the public parking for the chairlift is sited at the base of the ski jump’s landing area (below the “K” point).
There is also an abandoned piste running to the east of the chairlift which was used for some events in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships of 1962. Much of the piste now has small coniferous trees growing in it. It’s obvious where the piste went, because the trees are smaller than those surrounding it, but it couldn’t be used for skiing now.
We had a very pleasant lunch of chips (for the kids) and omelettes (for Kas and myself) at the cafe at the top of the chairlift. We also has some beer. Well, I did, because Kas was driving.
After lunch it was time to move on, so Kas headed off towards the chairlift and I asked if I could walk down a path under the chairlift to grab a couple of geocaches on the way down. One was a bit out of the way down quite a steep but passable path which took me to a point underneath the neighbouring Glacier de Taconnaz. This looped back to a path and then a road which passed through some extremely fine looking houses and on to the top of the ski jump. After this point, I thought I’d just be able to walk down the side of the ski jump to the car park, but sadly it was all roped off and I ended up taking a rather circuitous route to the east through a load of trees and down the road.
We drove back into Chamonix and parked up and then walked straight to the Aiguille du Midi cable car, as we’d decided we’d quite like a look from the mid-station at Plan d’Aiguille. The station was very busy again, which surprised me as I thought it would only really have been busy on weekends like when we went up before. so we queued up and got our tokens for the ride (we already had tickets but had to get an allocated number for the cable car ride. Then we grabbed some drinks and started sitting around for the half hour wait we’d got lined up.
Our half hour came and went and there seemed to be some general Gallic shrugging going on amongst the cable car attendants, after which a load of people started walking away. So I went up to check and they said that they weren’t going to let anyone else go to the top on the basis that a) the top was in cloud so there was nothing to see and b) if they let anyone else go up they wouldn’t be able to get them all back down again before closing time. So they wouldn’t let us go up.
“But I only want to go halfway up” I said. “Yes”, replied they, “but you still need to get down again, along with everyone else. There’s a thousand people up there you know.”
Their advice was to take our tokens back to the pay desk and see what they could do. What they could do turned out to be nothing, because we’d bought a three day pass, and it wasn’t their fault if we couldn’t access our chosen lift on our final day. No refunds, sorry, sod off.
We started wandering off in a grump and trying to decide if there was anywhere else we could go to get some value out of our tickets (there’s plenty, we wish we’d bought a fourth and possibly a fifth day) but at the last second we decided to go and ask again. The attendant who five minutes ago was saying “no” very vehemently seemed to be all sweetness and light again and politely told us we could actually go up, if we wanted, but it would be crap because the top was in cloud. “We don’t want to go to the top” I said. “We only want to go halfway.”
I peered around the side of the building. The top wasn’t in cloud at the time. So I asked for tokens for a cable car ride and she said they weren’t needed any more because there wasn’t a queue now. Errr, maybe that’s because the lift attendants just told everyone they couldn’t use the tickets they just bought, and everyone’s gone home in a grump ? Just saying.
But “what ho !”, it meant we could get straight onto the next cable car and get up to the mid-station, and there were only a couple of other people in the car with us.
Up at the Plan d’Aiguille, you get treated to a broad area of high alpine terrain with a big cable car station and a small cafe in the middle. Towards the south there is the imposing face of the Aiguille du Midi and the cable car going up to it. To the north there’s the valley and the look over to Le Brévent, where we’d been about 24 hours previously. And over to the west there was a thunderstorm. No, make that three or four of them. Izzy was a bit spooked (because obviously those thunderstorms are going to arrive here before we can leave, and there’ll be lightning, and we’ll all die ) but she calmed down for long enough for us to mooch about, enjoy the views, a bit of far-away lightning and the general coolness, and for me to find the geocache under the cable car station. Not literally under it, but quite close.
The thunderstorms and cloudiness changed the light patterns a little bit after a couple of days of bright sunshine, so I quite like a lot of the photos I took from here. The light looks different and so the colours in the photos look different too.
There was a bit of a queue getting back down and the weather was looking increasingly dodgy, so we crammed like sardines into the cable car back and rushed down. As with the journey up, there was a large number of people who were, shall we say, unlikely to be skiers, and who took great pleasure in screaming and whooping in delight every time the cable car went over a pylon and there was a bit of rocking around. Oh for falling off a log, you’re not at Disneyland !
When we got back we mooched about for a while in the apartment and eventually decided we’d stop in for dinner instead of going out, so Izzy and me scooted up to Super U before closing time to grab some “stuff” – we went for what seems to be our French holiday staple of potato wedges, salads plus whatever looked nice from the butcher’s counter. In this case, what looked nice were some half-spicy beef and lamb sausages and (because Ami probably wouldn’t eat the sausages) some chicken and chorizo kebabs. The guy on the butcher’s counter spoke enough English and I spoke enough French that we conversed reasonably well on the subject of him having sold all the pork sausages earlier, and that the beef and lamb ones were red but not that hot, so the kids would be OK with them. The kids actual feedback was either that they should be hotter or should not be hot at all, because as they stood, they were neither one thing nor the other. Having said that though, none of them survived the meal, so they can’t have been that bad.
When we’d finished all that, the kids were about ready for bed and I was about ready to get my PC out and play with some of my photos for the first time on the holiday, the photos you’ve been looking at on here. There was also some beer involved and, of course, the Olympics in French.