Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Chamonix Dreaming

The town of Chamonix has played a fairly big role in my life over the years. I first visited in 1965 as a 17 year old hitch-hiker. I was impressed by the scale of the mountains and went for a short walk on the Bossons Glacier, which came much nearer to the valley in those days (no gear of course, I just walked out onto the ice). Later, having served my mountaineering apprenticeship on less demanding hills in Norway, Austria and Switzerland, I came back as an Alpinist and spent a couple of weeks or so in the valley every summer for many years. Family holidays grew out of this, then as the children grew older we all came back for skiing many times. I walked the "Tour du Mont Blanc" with Jan in 2005 and since then have returned most years for the races at the end of August.

When I was in the town last summer I speculated that it must be near my 50th visit. When I got home I looked through diaries and photo collections and discovered that it was in fact my 55th. We've taken photos over the years, sometimes more enthusiastically than others, but enough to bring back memories. In the few I've posted below, although other climbing partners appear, the main people you see (apart from me) are my wife Jan, children John and Julia, and my friend Malcolm with whom I shared most of the climbing.

First visit to Chamonix in 1965


The Midi telepherique station in 1965


On the summit ridge of the Aiguille du Chardonnet 1977


The Brasserie Nationale in 1977  -  not the smooth restaurant it is now but a scruffy bar patronised by British climbers


On the Frendo Spur of the Aiguille du Midi (the one underneath the cable car wires) in 1977


Camping on the Pierre d'Orthaz field (the one by the big boulder in Les Praz) in 1978



Bivvy by the Argentiere Glacier in 1978


Climbing the famous "Fissure Brown" (first climbed by Joe Brown) on the Aiguille du Blaitiere in 1979


The Frontier Ridge on Mont Maudit in 1979


At a belay on the Walker Spur on the Grands Jorasses in 1981  (note the state of repair of average British climber's equipment!)


On the North Spur of Les Courtes in 1984


Low tech camping in the Vallee Blanche in 1984



Bivvy on the traverse of the Chamonix Aiguilles 1984


In the Coutourier Couloir on the Aiguille Vert in 1985



With John and Julia at the Chosalets campsite in Argentiere (the "sloping field") in 1985


On the Route Major on the Brenva Face of Mont Blanc in 1986



Summit of Mont Blanc with Malcolm 1986


Damp weather in Orthaz Field 1986


The old Midi Cable Car  1988



Leaving the Midi for the Vallee Blanche with Julia and Malcolm  1994


Vallee Blanche 1994


Vallee Blanche 1994



Descending to the Mer de Glace with John 1994


Climbing "Children of the Moon" 1995


John and Julia, Easter 1996


Skiing the Vallee Blanche, 1996


Climbing the Aiguille de l'Index with Julia, summer 1996


Descending from the Couvercle Hut with John and Julia 1997


On the Summit of Mt Blanc du Tacul  with Malcolm1997

Skiing to the Grand St Bernard Monastery 1999


Great snow at the Grands Montets 2001


Ready to ski the Vallee Blanche with Laura (niece) and Julia 2001


Walking with bag, Julia and Jan 2006


Othaz field, no campers now in 2007. The town has been cleaned up!


UTMB Finish 2010 (course shortened due to bad weather)


After UTMB 2010


Start of the Waiters' Race 2010



The Bonhomme Hut in daylight 2011 (always dark on the UTMB)


 With Jan at Plan de l'Aigulle 2013


 Near the Brevent 2016


Never tire of this view, 2016