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Mont Blanc - The white mountain

"It is -8 °C up there", I said. Looking up the Mont Blanc from the Chamonix valley it seemed far away. And it is: Like almost three kilometers higher than the valley. Chamonix is about 1000 m high and the Mont Blanc, the highest mountain of the alps and the EU, is 4810 m above sea level. We waited in line at the Chamonix cable car on that beautiful morning in early June. Unfortunately, it was quite windy up there and the ride was closed for almost 90 minutes. Afterwards, the 20 minutes ride up the Aiguille du Midi went pretty smoothly. The Aiguille du Midi is a 3842 m rock formation at the Mont Blanc massif and hosts the cable car station, a restaurant and some board walks with stunning views towards the mountain. We stopped in Chamonix for two nights on our way to Southern France to visit the famous "white mountain".

Some roped parties ascending and descending Aiguille du Midi
Some roped parties ascending and descending Aiguille du Midi
The Mont Blanc as seen from Chamonix with one of its prominent glaciers
The Mont Blanc as seen from Chamonix with one of its prominent glaciers

Mont Blanc - The white mountain

The highest peak of the alps is situated at the French-Italien border and a god hour south-east of Geneva. It's peak is covered in snow all year round - hence the name "white mountain". The most prominent city in the area is the French Chamonix. It is known for skiing, snowboarding, climbing and hiking.

Riding the Télépherique de l’Aiguille du Midi is good fun, especially in such moody conditions.
Riding the Télépherique de l’Aiguille du Midi is good fun, especially in such moody conditions.
After arriving at 3800 m we had beautiful blue skies and just a stunning view to the ice cap of Mont Blanc.
After arriving at 3800 m we had beautiful blue skies and just a stunning view to the ice cap of Mont Blanc.
You can walk around board walks on Aiguille du Midi and this really looks as if I am in the scene: A group of hikers starting their descend towards the ice field around Mont Blanc.
You can walk around board walks on Aiguille du Midi and this really looks as if I am in the scene: A group of hikers starting their descend towards the ice field around Mont Blanc.

White out

I recently bought a 70-200 lens for my Sony a6300. I made extensive use of it during my three weeks vacation in France. This day marked the start of my love affair with this lens. There a so many minimalistic shot opportunities up there when you are able to zoom in. I got plenty of "white outs" that day and love the small dots on the glaciers, called humans. This is one of my favorites: A group of six hikers sitting in the snow, pausing and enjoying the scene.

A stitched panorama showing parts of the Mont Blanc massif
A stitched panorama showing parts of the Mont Blanc massif
This pano is stitched of 33 (!) vertical pictures and has the Mont Blanc at the very right. Zoom in for full detail!
This pano is stitched of 33 (!) vertical pictures and has the Mont Blanc at the very right. Zoom in for full detail!

It was about 20 °C at the Chamonix valley that day and up Aiguille du Midi it was -8 °C. This marked the only day of our three weeks vacation where we needed our pullovers and jackets - stacked on top another. We only spent a good hour up there, because some of the board walks were really exposed and therefore windy. Since we did not have gloves, our hands really started to freeze and hurt. Also, my Canon 6D decided to stop working several times due to the cold.

 

It is a really enjoyable ride up the Mont Blanc massif and worth the (expensive) bug. And I guess it is the easiest way to get to 3800 m without almost any efforts.

Mer de Glace

Since it was only early afternoon we decided to finish the day with a ride in the famous cogwheel railway towards the Mer de Glace. The "ocean of ice" nicely describes the long glacier winding down from the Mont Blanc. During its long descend it collects lots of dirt and stones from the sides of the glacier and therefore is not purely white. At Le Montenvers station (1913 m) you can easily enjoy a view towards the S-curved glacier from a sun terrace holding a glace of white wine in your hand. This is exactly what we did that late afternoon. When we took the last cogwheel railway down to Chamonix the cars were filled with mountaineers that hiked the glacier that day. A really nice and easy to access ad on to a Mont Blanc tour! If you are interested to know how to walk up there instead of the comfy train ride to enjoy the area on your own, check for Thomas Heaton's episode on landscape at the Mont Blanc!

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