Summer in the Chamonix Valley
In this post we introduce Alex Potton, the latest contributor to the Ski Club’s blog, who tells all about the Chamonix Valley and why it makes the perfect summer holiday destination:
Preparing for a trip to the mountains is unlike preparing for any other kind of travel, there’s just something about the whole ordeal that is just incredibly exciting. From the moment you begin preparing your mountain gear there’s a feeling of anticipation in the pit of the stomach – you can almost taste the adventure and good times ahead. I was packing for my trip to Chamonix, though strangely, not in the middle of the winter season as I would usually hope, but in the middle of summer.
After having spent the winter season recovering from a dislocated knee injury obtained during summer fitness, relying on watching the season through online edits by athletes and competitions to get my mountain fix, I was absolutely chomping at the bit to get out and be in the mountains as soon as I possibly could. Spending the entire season getting an injury better isn’t only painful, it’s also pretty boring; I wanted to get my feet on some snow!
After taking my flight and landing in Geneva, I got loaded into the back of a transfer van with a bunch of other mountain lovers, all with bags bursting with rope, ice-axes, helmets and a tonne of other mountain kit. Not long after leaving the city, we entered France and began snaking our way into the mountains, which at first were slowly creeping up on us, but eventually, they completely enveloped us.
When we finally arrived in Chamonix after a short transfer from Geneva of just a little over an hour, we all hopped out, wished each other a happy and safe trip, and then all simultaneously took our time to just look around and take in our settings. The bus stop literally seemed to be at the bottom of the Aiguille du Midi, and suddenly we all felt like little ants in its presence. The air was a million times fresher already; it was like inhaling alpine soup.
After dropping the bags off at the apartment, getting acquainted with my home for the duration of my stay, I decided that there was no time like the present to grab my fresh lift pass and put it to good use. First stop, Brévent. I decided to leave the map at home and just get out and discover. As I got close to the lift station I could hear the clunking of the cogs along with the pang of the bars, and I just couldn’t wait to get on and feel my feet dangling beneath me. As the lift slowly climbed up the face of the mountain I got a chance to think how different mountains are without the powdery white snow wrapped around them, though still beautiful, nonetheless.
After reaching halfway and disembarking the chairlift, I decided to actually enjoy the terrain. So it was time to double knot the laces and crack on upwards. Now, hiking up a mountain can be breathtaking in both ways. Firstly, the scenery is second-to-none, causing you to stop almost every few minutes. Secondly, walking up extremely steep terrain has the literal breath taking effect. I also hadn’t accounted for 33 degree Celsius heat. Nevertheless, I got my freshly-injury-recovered body to the top eventually, and that’s when I got my first peek out over the valley. Across the valley, looking onto the Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc, the tips were still covered in thick snow, despite being in the midst of the summer.
The next few days were spent hiking trails, climbing and discovering the glaciers, ice-caves and the various peaks; followed by amazing food and drink every evening. The town of Chamonix is such a fantastic place to visit. Who would’ve ever thought it possible that in the heart of a valley that sits nestled between some Europe’s most challenging terrain, there’s a thriving cosmopolitan town full of thousands of people? It’s the most perfect compliment to a long hot day spent on the mountains. From quick and easy food at Poco Loco, which offers simple yet delicious French burgers and sandwiches, to the more typical classic French dishes available at Restaurant Le Carlina. The night didn’t end at a meal, however, as there were plenty of offerings with nightclubs and bars.
Eventually, a few days in, I got to the point of the trip that I’d been so desperately looking forward to – ascending the Aiguille du Midi. With a station that’s complete with a restaurant, café and shop sitting at 3892m in the air, the Aiguille du Midi is one of highest accessible points in the world, taking mere minutes for the cable car to scale. At the peak, the panoramic views are perhaps the most stunning I’ve ever seen. You can see for what seems to be hundreds of miles in every direction. It seems bizarre that a shop and restaurant are able to function up here. The air, despite being in the 30’s down in the valley, is barely above zero. Fresh snow – despite being mid-summer – is underfoot, which allowed me the chance to take the most beautiful altitude climb/hike and become lost in my surroundings. It perhaps sounds like a cliché that all mountain lovers use, but I felt fully at home in the environment. I was suddenly looking forward to the winter.
The main purpose of the trip had been to escape to the mountains and attempt to make up for the injury-stricken winter. It had also been to try and find somewhere to call home for the upcoming winter, as I go to live there for my first full-season. Chamonix delivered on that; I got my mountain fix and more. Whilst the trip reassured me that snow isn’t necessarily always required to enjoy the mountains, all I can say is roll on the winter, when those very mountains are covered in their enticing layers of snow, when instead of climbing up in blazing heat, I’ll be flying down with the powder flying into my face.
As I leave for my first full-season, you’ll be able to follow my winter here at the Ski Club, as I document it all for you to read!