FRANCE Chamonix from north (1) 2016 June

Chamonix, north side of the Valley, part 1.

Alpen glow to begin a superb day at Bellachat. The weather had been very ordinary the day before climbing up, but this day was perfect. 
 Once it transpired that I needed to escort my sick husband north, I made the seemingly obvious decision to abandon my GR5 quest. Chamonix was en route to Geneva airport, and I know it well. It seemed a perfect location for a new base once Bruce had gone home. I was sure I could devise a wonderful programme of high walking and climbing and photography that would keep me moving and happy. As you can tell from these photos, I really love being high, especially to sleep. Well, I don’t actually like wasting too much time on that. A philosopher I spent quite a bit of time “with”, Immanuel Kant, called sleep “das tote Drittel” [the dead third] and I am inclined to agree with him. On many, many nights this trip, I just didn’t want to waste my time dead to the world when there was so much beauty out the window, so lay there staring at the mountains in the moonlight (or starlight) until sleep crept up on me unawares.
I was so excited when an Ibex came and photobombed my shot aimed at Mont Blanc. We are dealing with exposures of up to five seconds here, and this marvellous animal understood that she needed to be very still for me.

My first choice of mountain hut was Bellachat on the northern side of the Chamonix valley, high above the town and looking directly across at Mont Blanc. We must have been around about 1100 ms above Chamonix, as whenever the French told me Abels were unimpressive pimples, I told them that if Chamonix was the ocean, they were now on an Abel. If they thought they were high, then our Abels have the same feeling. I find the notion of judging a mountain’s worth by its height to be nearly as nonsensical as judging people by the size of their bank accounts. In fact, if I’m looking for nice people, I’d go directly to the opposite if I want to increase my chances of finding what I want.

It is not at all necessary to drop down to Chamonix to get from where I was to my next destination, Lac Blanc, but I am not in the mountains to be efficient. I enjoy exercise, and did not intend spending the time between dawn and dusk (the two times I love) being idle, so I descended to Chamonix, then went to Argentière and gained all my height back again and a bit more. The climb up to the lake was in full snow that looked rather forbiddingly steep from afar, but was fine in reality. Things always look worse than they are from afar, I find.

My glorious path leading downwards …


which eventually dropped below the clouds, giving me a magical mist to walk in.
The slope off to the side is a little steep.
How I love Lac Blanc

Lac Blanc was as beautiful as ever. I sat on a rock just staring at the majesty for over an hour, waiting for dinner time. In that time, a man approached who looked oddly like my husband did before his disease changed his posture and gait. His hair was wild, bushwhacker hair, like Bruce’s of yesteryear, and he seemed to stride towards me with purpose. Absurdly (seeing’s he was then on a plane to Australia), I thought: “Ah, here comes Bruce to meet me.” My heart leapt for joy, until reality crashed into me, and I sobbed. He will never come to meet me with a bounce like that, or in the wild again.

The beauty of the white snow with steely blue patches helped soothe me in this nasty rubbing of my nose in the state of things as they actually are. In the quiet and majesty of the mountains I find it easier than anywhere else to find peace.

The following night I would spend at a hut in the next valley to the east, but to get there, I would drop all the way down to the main Chamonix valley yet again, and climb back up, as there is no direct route connecting both locations, and, even if there were, I would possibly not use it, as that would make the day too short, and I wanted both a decent workout and to sleep in that particular valley.

A new day dawns. This world is breathtakingly, poignantly beautiful.
The next post will deal with the next two valleys on the northern side before I move my attentions south.

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