Well it’s been a while in the writing but I’ve finally managed to get around writing the story of our trip to Chamonix. The weekend started less than auspiciously with damp, inclement weather gathering overhead. We packed like there was no tomorrow to enable us to shut up shop at 12 to give us enough time to get to Heathrow. Leaving Matt and James in charge to pick the final orders, the Webtogs convoy churned up the A303 and in to Terminal 5’s car park. Things didn’t get much better for Jenny, our warehouse manager,as the Bus that took us to the terminal passed in front of her car. There was a yelp of “noooooooooooo” that reverberated around the bus as Jen realised she had left her sunroof open. Suffice to say, we were all incredibly sympathetic and we queued up to console her, just after we had all stopped laughing.
The flight was instantly forgettable and we soon made our way along the motorway to Chamonix with the mountains rearing up ahead of us. Mont Blanc was hidden behind some meaty wisps of cloud and so we found ourselves in town without a good glimpse of it. The night passed swiftly after a couple of sherbets and we gathered the following morning ready for the main event, the traverse of the Vallee Blanche. For those of us who had never been to the Alps before and only been walking / scrambling in Blighty, it was like having your Lego Duplo set taken away before being handed the latest Technics box instead. You know that there will be snow on the peaks, but the sight of it really hammers home that you are no longer in Kansas.
We all kitted ourselves out with the relevant boots, crampons and Ice axes. For a lot of the team, this was the first time they had used any of these and we spent a good 40 mins at the hotel fitting and trying everything on. We then headed to the cable car at the Aiguille du Midi and headed up the Mountain. Taking the cable car itself is not the most comfortable as it heads up very quickly and those with a delicate stomach were left looking inwards. There was a stop half way up where we changed cars and it was then up to the top where we got the first view of what we were about to undertake.
Simply put, it was awe inspiring with sheen of cloud underpinning the Aiguille, views across to Mont Blanc and to Switzerland. We also got our first view of the narrow ridge leading down to the Glacier below with a 1500 drop to one side and 300m on the other. Without further ado, Matt our guide got us locked and loaded with harnesses, ropes, crampons and axes and away we went down the ridge. Jenny and Richard our Tech director had already walked down so Tom and I came down with Matt. Matt cheerfully regaled us with the fact that he and Nick had seen a couple of climbers fall down the glacier side of the ridge the week before at which point Tom who had never been in crampons before was heard to mutter “Perhaps you could mention this at another point, maybe in a couple of years….”
Making it down safely to the glacier, we struck out for the Italian side of the Alps all roped up. Starting off in jackets, we were soon in shirt sleeves and feeling the sun burning through the thin sky. We passed underneath the cable car that would bring us home later that day that crosses from the Glacier de Geant to Point Helbronner on the Italian side. What struck me having never been on a glacier before were the crevasses that we came across and in some areas had to journey across. The glacier was not the smooth unbroken snowy landscape I had anticipated but more a living, moving animal. We passed a few Italian groups coming from the other side before stopping for lunch. I could describe the journey as a whole, but I think the pictures will tell a better story than I ever will!
Suffice to say we finished the day exhausted but with a smile on our faces. Now where’s that Mont Blanc ascent info…. You can view the rest of the photos on Facebook and the video is on you tube