The drive from Paris to Chamonix is about 600 km and took us about
6 hours. We waited until about 10 o'clock for the Friday
morning Paris commuter traffic to clear out, but even
at that hour the traffic was incredibly congested.
we neared the Alps, we decided to take a side trip to the beautiful
and quaint village of Annecy in the province of Haute-Savoie.
Haute-Savoie contains most of the French Alps and is famous for
it's cheese fondue dishes, and, as is the case throughout France, has
very tasty pastries. The weather in the Alps was rainy.
We set up our base of operations in a chalet that belongs to the
family of a college friend of Philippe's. We had a wood stove
and full kitchen and bathroom, and comfortable bunks. Who could
ask for more? (especially for the price... free!) The chalet, which
is outside the village of Les Houches near Chamonix, has an excellent
view of Mont Blanc.
It has been a stormy season in the Alps, a condition that had
already contributed to 50 deaths in the Mont Blanc range, and
10 deaths on The Matterhorn. Chamonix is at about 3000 ft. and
we could see that the snow level had recently dipped to about
4000 ft. We checked the weather forecast at the Bureau des Guides and
were happy to see that a stretch of good weather was forecast.
decided to spend Saturday exploring the area and packing for a
Sunday start for the traverse. To get a better view of our descent
route, we took the tram up to Aiguille du Midi (Aiguille is pronounced
ah-gwee). The tram rises an incredible 9,200 feet to a full service
visitors center carved out of a rock pinnacle at an altitude of
12,600 feet. From there, the view of Mont Blanc is awesome and
there is easy access to the glacier at Col du Midi. This was to
be our return route to Chamonix during the traverse.