21-22 April 2018
Today we go about 325 miles - a longer travel day than usual for us - to get from Nice to Chamonix. We go from the warm seas, at sea level, to true alpine country with lots of ice and snow surrounding us. Our guidebook tells us we need to travel along "Route Napoleon". Route Napoléon is the route taken by Napoléon in 1815 on his return from Elba. The route begins at Golfe-Juan, where Napoleon disembarked 1 March 1815, beginning the Hundred Days that ended at Waterloo. We cover a portion of it coming out of Nice.
"Napoleon Trees" and towering geology provide interesting views on the drive.
Snowy peak complexes getting closer and closer.
Alpine villages appear amongst alpine peaks.
Onward and upward...Napoleon marches forward.
French mountain chalets, now just a stone's throw from the snow covered mountains. The weather is ideal today - we are lucky.
We arrive. The first Winter Olympic Games, in 1924, were held here. This majestic alpine city is an "original", copied many times over around the world in other mountains.
The late day's sunshine plays off the peaks, as seen from the middle of Chamonix.
In the morning we look up towards the complex of structures we will visit.
The gondola travel begins...
And then we step out up on high into a Springtime snowy wonderland.
It's a short but steep thrilling climb down for this skiers to start their long ski trip on a glacier just below.
Jagged peaks to the horizon provide a spectacular view.
Support structures clinging to the mountain provide the Gondola-get-off-platform, a final respite for skiers and climbers, platforms for sightseers like us, staff spaces, and mountain science exhibits as well as science space.
Chamonix spreads far below us now.
We ride up higher on another gondola, and get further views.
It's April, but it looks like January up here - perfect conditions for glaciers to begin their flow downward.
Our knit caps and layers keeping us warm, while the crazy skiers prepare for their plunge.
Playing in the snow, checking heart rate, with Mont Blanc not far above us.
Ah, back in the gondola, leaving the high country for the eagles. There's other places to explore.
Now to the cog train. The Montenvers Railwayor Chemin de fer du Montenversis a rack railway line serving trekkers, skiers, tourists. The line runs 3.2 miles/20 minutes from Chamonix to the Hotel de Montenversstation, at the Mer de Glace, at an altitude of 1,913 m (6,276 ft). The Mer de Glace ("Sea of Ice") is a valley glacier located on the northern slopes of the Mont Blanc massif, in the French Alps. It is 7.5 km long and 200 metres (660 ft) deep but, when all its tributary glaciers are taken into account, it can be regarded as the longest and largest glacier in France, and the second longest in the Alps after the Aletsch Glacier.
The terminal lies above the glacier's valley, with small gondolas taking one down to a lower platform, and then you may walk stairways to get direct access to the glacier.
Skiers awaiting their turn to ride the gondola to the train, for their return to Chamonix.
Our short day of mountaineering (at least being the tourist version) is complete. We ourselves return to Chamonix for people watching, beer, and more "French Food". Hmm, the food we find looks just like pub food.