CHAMONIX IN THE SUMMER
22nd May 2019 | James Cove, Chamonix
Fancy a summer trip to the mountains? Chamonix offers it all – adventures, adrenalin, activities, history & much more besides.
On our trip last year we went hiking, white water rafting, e-mountain biking, a visit to the Aiguille du Midi and the Mer de Glace.
Then there was the small matter of the history of the region.
Here we re-produce our rolling blog from last summer to give you a taste of what summer in the mountains can be like…
First up it was hiking….
There are 100s of walks in the mountains of the Chamonix Valley, probably 1,000s if you count all the variations that can be done.
But some are more interesting than others, and not just for the views.
The hike up to the Bossons glacier from the valley floor is such a walk.
The Bossons glacier itself was the first thing I saw each morning from my hotel room as I woke up.
And in the evening, as the sun set, it often resembled molten lava rather than solid ice as the rays of sun struck it.
A walk to it seemed an excellent idea.
I needed to get up close.
It is fed from the ice fields lying on the north side of Mont Blanc, and descends down past the Aiguille du Midi and ends on the southern side of the valley.
It has the largest altitudinal drop of any glacier in Europe and is 7.5 km long, with a surface area of approximately 10 km².
In the 19th century it still went all the way down to valley floor.
You can either walk from the valley floor or take a chair lift.
And why is it so special?
There are some stunning views on the hike up.
But there is also a tale to be told.
Every so often the glacier reveals its secrets as the ice melts and objects appear.
In 2008 parts from Air India flight 101 that went missing in 1966 emerged from the melting ice.
The plane was heading from Bombay to London and crashed into Mont Blanc on the 24th January.
The accident was caused by a misunderstood verbal instruction from the radar controller to the pilot.
The crew was instructed to descend to Geneva Airport after the aircraft had passed Mont Blanc.
However the pilot started to descend as he thought he had passed Mont Blanc.
He hadn’t, and flew into the mountain near the Rochers de la Tournette, at an altitude of 4,750m.
All 106 passengers and 11 crew were killed.
16 years earlier in 1950 another Air India plane, Flight 245, had crashed at almost the same location. 48 people died.
In recent years parts of the planes have emerged from the glacier, having been bought down the mountain in the ice.
- In 2008, a climber found some Indian newspapers dated 23 January 1966.
- An engine from Air India Flight 245 was also discovered that year.
- In August 2012 a bag of diplomatic mail, stamped “On Indian Government Service, Diplomatic Mail, Ministry of External Affairs”, was recovered by a mountain rescue worker and handed over to the authorities.
We reported on it at the time on PlanetSKI
- In September 2013 a metal box containing the Air India logo was found. It contained rubies, sapphires, and emeralds worth more than $300,000.
- In June 2014 a camera belonging to one of the passengers was found in the Glacier des Bossons by a climber. The film was present but was too damaged to retrieve any pictures.
- In July 2017 human body parts, specifically the upper thigh of a woman and a hand were discovered beside an aircraft engine.
The story and some of the findings are on display on the walk from a local mountain restaurant to an observation point overlooking the glacier.
Who says the mountains are only for winter?
Next it was a mountain coaster…
Now this is fun!
Hold on tight and apply the brakes as lightly as possible:
And lets not forget white water rafting…
It’s probably the most fun you’ll ever have on water.
Well, in a rubber boat anyway.
In fact it probably needs no words, just the pictures.
If you have ever thought of doing it then don’t hesitate if the opportunity presents itself.
I don’t claim to be very good at mountain biking, more of an enthusiastic amateur than a hard core rider.
The fun, the challenge and the excitement – it reminds me of skiing.
But when I was told e-fat biking was on the itinerary, my heart somewhat sank.
This is the beast I was going to have to pedal.
It weighs in at 24kgs – twice the weight of a standard mountain bike. I prefer something lighter and more nimble.
For me it is cheating a bit to use a battery.
“Oh well, I’ll give it a go,” I thought to myself.
And off we pedalled.
I pushed down and the bike effortlessly shot forward and it felt more like a standard 13kg mountain bike.
I was impressed.
And then we hit a small hill – it was like having a giant hand pushing you up.
Then we hit a steeper hill – same again. I reached the top barely breaking into sweat.
And then a seriously steep path over roots and rocks – on a normal bike I would have had to get off and push.
On the e-fat bike it sailed up and I could concentrate of picking the correct route and balancing over the bike rather than huffing and puffing pushing it up hill.
Going uphill felt like going downhill – the best bit of mountain biking.
And this is just some of the terrain I went through with my friends.
We cycled from Chamonix up the valley to Argentiere – not along the valley floor but up into the foothills.
The e-bike took me to places I would not otherwise have reached.
And my new favourite sport in the mountains?
And those are words I never thought I would write.
And it appears I am not the only one.
“The e-bike opens up new possibilities for cyclists and allows people who would not normally cycle to give it a go,” said the manager of the Intersport shop, Philippe Riquier.
“20% of my bikes are now e-bikes and that figure will only increase. Next summer we will be having a special range for children,” he added.
See below for my earlier blogs from Chamonix as we headed to the Aiguille du Midi and then a paraglide down to the valley floor:
A look back at the history of alpinisim in the region and a visit to the Mer de Glace:
James was staying with Inghams who offers a seven-night stay on a catered basis (including buffet breakfasts, packed lunches, afternoon tea and cake and evening meals with complimentary wine for six days) at the three-diamond Hotel La Sapinière in Chamonix, France.
Prices start from £484 per person based on four adults travelling in August / September 2018.
Price includes return flights and airport transfers.
To book see here or call 01483 791 116.
For more information on the resort see its web site.
Inghams has launched a NEW range of excursions in Chamonix this summer, to introduce guests to the resort’s plentiful outdoor activities.
These must be pre-booked and include:
• Overnight Glacier Experience from £105 per person – spend an unforgettable night in the newly renovated Refuge du Montenvers, with a three-course dinner included
• Mountain Magic from £121 per person – enjoy three half days of adventure including white-water rafting, gentle hiking and guided biking
• Ice, Air & Rapids from £260 per person – experience big thrills with white-water rafting in Italy, tandem paragliding and a Mer de Glace glacier hike (during two and a half days)
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