We started in Chamonix at an altitude of 1,035 meters (3,396 feet) and 26°C (78°F). We took the Montenvers rack rail train up the side of one of the mountains to the Mer de Glace, the largest glacier in France, pictured below, at an altitude of 1913 meters (6,276 feet) and 16°C (61°F). The glacier is pretty amazing, but has suffered from the effects of climate change – its thickness has been reduced by 3-4 meters/year since 1988.
We then descended in a cable car and then by foot (400 steep steps each way!!) to visit the ice cave, which is sculpted from the glacier itself and re-excavated every year. We crossed paths with a very large man, who was huffing and puffing (literally) his way back up the steps while smoking a cigarette. I wish I’d had the gumption to take a photo of him, because the irony was priceless. In any case, the walls of the ice cave were bathed in blue light and we all enjoyed touching the cold ice. Once we had finished our tour of the cave, we made climbed up the 400 steps and took the cable car back to the return train.
We hadn’t yet finished our sightseeing, however. There was no way in hell I was going to leave Chamonix without climbing as high as we possibly could. So we made our way to l’Aiguille du Midi cable car.
We again started our journey at 1,035 meters (3,396 feet) and 26°C (78°F). By the time we got off the car, however, we had gone from summer to winter and found ourselves at 3,842 meters (12,605 feet) and 0°C (32°F). Boy, was it cold and boy, were we unprepared. We were surrounded by serious mountain climbers and tourists appropriately decked out in winter jackets and hats. We were wearing our spring sweaters.
But enough said. The photos below say it all and don’t require any further narration. Being at the top of the Aiguille du Midi summit was simply breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything like it and I don’t imagine I ever will again.