TMB7

That last sentence of TMB6 went a bit awry: I’m not sure exactly what turned into “passive”, but the whole thing was supposed to say something along the lines of “the chanteuse across the road has hung up her plectrum”. Honestly, what’s the point of me slaving away over a glass keyboard if technology is going to play ducks and drakes with my metaphors like that?

Our walk from Argentiere was impressive, with a significant chunk of height being gained by scrambling up metal ladders and footholds bolted to the vertical rock. We also found ourselves caught up in the fag end of the UTMB, sometimes eliciting unmerited rounds of applause by knots of spectators. Some of the poor “runners” were so so slow we walked past them and some some staggered and were clearly a bit disoriented.

The runners and bits of associated waymarking may have been the reason for us straying from the planned route a couple of times. The last such error resulted in us walking all the way down into Chamonix, rather than taking the telepherique, which was  -quite literally – a bit of a pain. However, we negotiated the UTMB finishing line and found our way to the hotel, which is very comfortable and placed so that the torrents of milky snow melt which form the river Arve are rushing past our room, a few feet below our window sill. I find the white noise of the water much more relaxing than the death throes of Lola.

Today we were supposed to take the gondola back to Plan Praz, ascend the Brevent on foot and then continue at height until a descent into Les Houches by a route the guide book describes as “knee wrenching”. We didn’t.

After aundoubtedly relaxed breakfast, with no need to have our cases ready for picking up, we took the gondola as instructed, but reneged on the walk, taking a second gondola all the way to the top of the Brevent. On the way up we were treated to seeing not just the dozens of run of the mill paragliders running into space, but also base jumpers. These folk are obviously cuckoo: they call themselves “the pingwings”, go up in the cablecars, wear suits with “flying fox” panels sewn into them, climb over the safety barriers round the viewing platform at the very top of the mountain and throw themselves off a projecting rock. They are literally thousands of feet above Chamonix and the valley below. They initially fall like a stone but, arms and legs splayed they stabilize their descent and aim for a point on the edge of town. The local rules ban any of this Icarean lunacy between 10am and 3pm, so we only saw them at a distance whilst going up in our cablecar, but that was quite scary enough for me (and Brian)!

We spent quite a while at the top as the views of Mont Blanc, Chamonix and the area generally are spectacular. I reminisced about my visit here 4 years back when doing the GR5 and could identify parts of my route. Eventually, we took the gondola back down the town and had a bite of lunch.

Afterlunch we went to what I’ve known as the summer sledge run. Years ago it was a concrete sort of Crests run, but at long last Elf and Safety have caught up with it and it’s now a shining stainless steel runway that your seat-belted sledge fits onto and it’s probably more difficult to kill yourself on. We each had a wheech down the rails and enjoyed it, but it has lost some of the visceral thrill it used to have. Still better than base jumping though!

Tomorrow is our last full day in Chamonix and we’re planning visits to the Mer de Glace and the Aiguille du Midi. Wednesday afternoon sees the start of our return to the bosoms of our families. Not too sure about where the plurals should be in that last sentence.

 

 

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