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

South Ridge of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey - one of 
the longest rock climbs in the Mt Blanc range 1977

Looking down one of the abseils on the Noire 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

On the summit of the Aiguille du Moine 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

The Brenva Face of Mt Blanc from a bivi at the Col de Fourche 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!)

The Midi-Plan traverse 1983

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

Near the summit of the Aiguille Verte 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

By the Lac Bleu 1987

The old Midi Cable Car  1988

Julia & John on the Midi 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

Balcon, Easter 1995

Climbing "Children of the Moon" 1995

John and Julia, Easter 1996

Vallee Blanche team with Julia and John 1996

Skiing the Vallee Blanche, 1996

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

Julia descending from the Index 1996

Descending from the Couvercle Hut with John and Julia 1997

Walking up to the Petit Charmoz with John and Julia 1997

On the Summit of Mt Blanc du Tacul  with Malcolm1997

Walking the Bisse du Ro with Jan, John & Julia 1998

Skiing to the Grand St Bernard Monastery 1999

On the Grands Montets 2000

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!

Julia and John at the Grands Montets 2008

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