TO CHAMONIX FOR A CHANGE OF SCENERY…
After 3 days in and around Lyon we decided we’d had enough of the heat and have headed for the hills! Well, if you can call these hills….
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the Mont Blanc massif – all 4,810m of it. And this is the view from our room here in Chamonix…
The town of Chamonix is 1,035m up, tucked half way up the Chamonix Valley, right near the Italian and Swiss borders with France. Made famous when the first Winter Olympics were held here in 1924, Chamonix is the epitome of what you’d expect from a French alpine village. It’s beautiful and the mountains surrounding the town are magnificent.
We arrived in Chamonix late this afternoon, after a long day’s train hopping that started in Lyon and took us to Bellegarde, then on to St Gervais Les Bains, and finally up the valley to Chamonix. Our journey took us from Lyon, the capital of the Rhône-Alpes region, along the Rhône River valley and then up into the Alps. It was a long 6 hours of transit, but the views along the way got better and better as the day went on so we were pretty well entertained.
Situated near the massive peaks of the Aiguilles Rouges* and under the shadow of Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc, Chamonix is one of the oldest ski resorts in France. As well as being a favourite amongst skiers and snow boarders, it’s also a great place for hiking, mountain climbing, and mountain biking. We’re here primarily for the epic views, fresh (and cool) mountain air, and hiking opportunities.
*The Aiguilles Rouges (i.e. the Red Peaks) are part of the European Alps and get their name from the colour of the iron rich gneiss rock they’re made of.
Due to the late hour of our arrival we didn’t get to do any hiking today, but certainly enjoyed our afternoon stroll through town, and the mountain views all around us.
Walking through town this afternoon we couldn’t help but notice the crowds, cordoned off areas, and banners everywhere. Curious to find out what was going on we followed our ears to the loudest part of town and found out that today is the last day of the 2015 Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. This INSANE race requires competitors to cross 3 countries on foot (France, Italy and Switzerland), covering 166km, and climbing 9,400m of UP along the way. We watched a few of the competitors cross the finish line (which is set up right in the centre of Chamonix), and could only stand in awe of their achievements – these are unbelievably, incredibly fit people. Mind you, most of them looked ready to drop as they crossed the finish line, but still, what an amazing feat of endurance they’ve survived*! We can only bow down and worship at the feet of such incredible human beings (especially as we get excited when clock over 20km in a day – on flat ground!).
*Talking to some of the locals we found out that the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc is a pretty prestigious event and to enter people have to first prove that they have completed at least 3 similar events over the past 2 years (i.e. prove you CAN do it), then their name goes into a lottery and only a few hundred applicants are picked to compete. What blows us away is that there are enough of these super-human fitness freaks out there in the world that the organisers have to PICK NAMES OUT OF A HAT to see who gets to compete!
With the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc wrapping up and the sun setting behind the mountains around us, the vibe in town right now is awesome. So we’re going down there to join in the fun! Tomorrow we’ll tackle some of these mountains, but for now there’s a couple of refreshing beverages with our names on them, so a demain blog fans!
PS: Shane’s bored with the view already, but I can’t get enough of it!