FRANCE Chamonix from south 2016 July

Chamonix Mont Blanc area: south of the valley.


Refuge Plan de l”aiguille, back up nice and high. My new friend, Leslie.

Evening light, patiently waiting for sunset and chatting. The Mont peeping out shyly.
Thanks nice clouds.

Up above the palisade of steep rocks and into the fluffy white. It’s “wild”, but is this wilderness? Whatever, it’s beautiful.

“My” beloved Mont Blanc, up nice and close. This is with a wide-angle (distancing) lens, not a zoom one!

White on white, heart aching heartache, white on white, you are may respite.

Storm clouds gather. I hope to climb to your summit one day, my fair lady.

FRANCE Chamonix from north (2) 2016 July

Chamonix, north side of the valley, part 2.

A scene descending from Lac Blanc

My descent from Lac Blanc was slow (for those just popping in to this one blog, my story of the Chamonix region is continuing from previous posts). I was in no hurry to leave – and I wanted the ice to soften to allow me to kick steps in the snow rather than slide perilously down it. I stopped en route to take quite a lot of photos of this lake here, even though the sun was already too high for the sort of photos I favour.

Such a great camping spot!
In another drop and rise manoeuvre, I descended to the Col des Montets and then further, down on the eastern side, to Le Buet, before climbing back up (north) to the Refuge de la Pierre à Bérard, arriving in time for a late lunch. I was so glad I hadn’t brought food with me, as the lunch I ordered was absolutely delicious. I had nothing special I wanted to do before sunset (other than eat more and explore), so I just hung around eating and chatting to the other walkers. Eventually I did manage to leave food, and people, and go and suss out the waterfalls and pay a visit to the Ibex playing in the névé up higher. I had friends up there camped by the snow to chat to later. The afternoon passed quickly.

The descent next day was quick. I was getting quite used to this pattern, and dropped and rose once more to my next lodging for the night, Refuge de Loriaz, where I had some soup for lunch before exploring. Some of the ruins of this ancient alpage date back to 1250. It was very quaint. Dinner later that night was excellent.

Sunset, Loriaz
I slept in a converted animal barn, which I had all to myself, and I loved it. It is off in the shadows to the right of this picture above, too small to be seen properly.

This shot is of dawn, but the evening before, while I was out shooting cows at sunset, they got rather excited to be photographed – famous at long last – and came rushing over to check that I’d taken some flattering images off them, and thought they’d show their love and affection for me by licking the beautiful GND glass in front of my lens. I was in the middle of a long exposure shot that was now being ruined, so I don’t know why I didn’t move earlier. I guess I just expected them to stop. They didn’t. I had cleaning agents for the glass with me, but found that hot water worked better than anything else for this job, so I had to abandon my shooting. They all followed me towards my barn. I am not normally at all afraid of cattle, but they were crowding me out, so I had to act severe and shoo them away lest I get knocked over and trampled in their enthusiasm.

You can see the little barns in this photo

At dawn on this day, I was glad to see that they were a-mooing and a-chewing a bit further away. I no longer thought that cows would make an interesting foreground to the mountains.

After the shoot, I returned to find that the guardian had set up a table outside in the sun for me to have breakfast looking at the mountains. How beautiful. I loved the tranquility of this place.

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.