Tuesday 25 August 2009

Little sister in the big mountains

On Wednesday (19/June), Jess's littlest sister Ellen arrived for a short visit. We picked her up in Geneva airport and smuggled her over the border into France. She had been a little confused about where she was actually going before leaving Ireland and had settled on telling people that she was going to Switzerance! We fed her that evening and gently broke the bad news that we'd be getting up at 6.30 am the next day to take the cable car to the top of Aiguille du midi. 6.30 am doesn't really exist in Ellen's world especially since it was 5.30 am Irish time.

The bleary eyed little thing dragged herself out of the guest annnex (tent!) the next morning bright and early and we headed for the cable car. The Aiguille du midi cable car is the highest in Europe connecting Chamonix at 1037 m to close to the summit of the Aiguille du midi at 3776 m. Its a two stage trip and each stage only takes 8 mins. A lot quicker than walking! From the top of the Aiguille du midi, there are breathtaking views of Mont Blanc and the Vallee Blanche. Mountaineers in single file leave here via the steep snowy exit ramp to start most of the routes in the high alps.

From this point, there is another cable car that runs to Helbronner just over the Italian border. It crosses the Vallee Blanche and a few hundred metres below you see mountaineers moving like ants across the glaciers, some with massive crevasses.

After a scenery overload, we headed back down the mountain to grab some lunch and to introduce Ellen to rock climbing at Les Gaillands in Chamonix. She was a natural flying up a 5b to our amazement. She seemed to enjoy it as long as we didn't make her look down for photos! The poor thing was exhausted after her day and retired to her tent by 9.30 pm.

We took pity on Ellen and let her have a lie in till 7.30am the next day. We had hired her boots, crampons and an ice axe and took her up onto the Mer de Glace. Dunk showed her the basics of steep ice climbing and front pointing and she was up and down the sides of crevasses in no time. She seemed particularly taken with the deep water filled holes in the glacier and got immense satisfaction from dropping stones down them. The ant hills (ahem!) on the glacier were another point of interest. I wonder what so many ants would be doing on a glacier! That evening after feeding the guest, we popped round to Toto (aka Toby and Tom) who were just back from a couple of days in the Requin hut to get the beta. Ellen went wild and stayed up till 10.30!!

On Saturday, we headed to do some more climbing hitting the Forestiers and Frendo areas of Les Gaillands. Ellen proved herself on her first overhang. We bumped into Toby who joined us for a couple. Poor Tom had gotten a stomach bug and was curled up in his tent. Hope you are recovered Tom and cranking hard in Font! We spent most of the day there and then popped into town to grab some Savoie specialities for dinner. These specialities involve large quantities of melted cheese. Mmmmmmm!! Afterwards we headed back to the campsite and had a few drinks and listened to a few tunes before bed.

On Sunday, we had to drop little Ellen back to Geneva. It was really sad to see her go and to pack away the guest annex. We've started making plans for our trip to the Requin hut to fill the gap!

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