TMB8 Singin’ in the rain

We’ve really been very lucky / fortunate / blessed (choose term according to personal world view) with the weather and are very happy / grateful for it. Although it’s pissed down for much of today, it has had much less impact than it would have done had we been struggling from col to col, be-ponchoed in the clouds. True, our visit to the Mer de Glace was a bit less dramatic than it might have been, but that’s not a major problem. We also decided to skip the gondola trip to Aiguille du Midi.

I mentioned yesterday that the summer sledging had changed since last I saw it, but I could see no great difference in the rack railway. The train trundles slowly up almost a Munro’s worth of mountain, providing impressive views of Chamonix below and the bits of the Brevent not obscured by clouds, eventually arriving at a little station. Today it was a little, rain-sodden, cloud-enveloped and dreich, station. We wandered through a gallery full of mineral specimens, mostly smokey quartz, and started on the route marked “La Grotte de Glace par le sentier” until it dawned on us that the sign implied there must be an alternative that involved neither a sentier nor getting soaked in the process. The little gondola to the glacier certainly helped, but then we had to cope with the effects of global warming as the metal walkway and steps continued downhill, frequently marked with signs “Niveau de glacier 1980 / 1985 / 1990…” etc. all the way to its currently depleted state. It was a bit like an archaeological dig in reverse. The cave itself seemed smaller than the one I saw many years back: maybe there’s not enough ice for anything bigger or maybe they’re just getting tired of having to burrow a new each year. It’s still quite impressive inside: a tunnel in the blueish grey ice lit with coloured LEDs and Jean-Michel Jarre playing in the background. Catch it before it’s gone.

The area around the cave entrance certainly couldn’t have been looking its best in the drizzle, but I found the visit strangely depressing with a distinct air of Mordor about it. “Mer” now seems a bit of a misnomer, but I can’t come up with anything better along the same lines: “rockpool” sounds too pristine and it’s not like my idea of a lagoon.

After a brief visit to the gift shop – I won’t spoil any surprises, but Sonia shouldn’t get her hopes up – we got back on the train and descended to Chamonix again.

A cup of coffee and a pastry each cost over €17: lovely jubbly but a bit over the top. Since then we’ve been in the hotel watching the milky river turn brown, increase in speed and rise in the rain.

Tomorrow’s weather is reckoned to be much like today’s, but round about 12:30 our minibus should collect us, transfer us to Geneva and thus start our return home. Unless something unlucky / unfortunate / accursed happens, that’s your lot.

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