Once little Ellie had hoped on the plane back to rainy Ireland, we got ready to take a trip to the Requin hut, situated above the Mer de Glace at about 2500 m. We jammed our little 30 L packs full with rock and ice gear, lunches and a change of clothes and set off across the Mer de Glace. It was a slow plod. Duncan lost his crampons somewhere in the moraine on the trek but we managed to make it to the hut without incident. The hut is run by a french woman, sometimes assisted by her husband, a mountain guide.
The loss of crampons severely restricted our choice of routes for the remainder of our visit as there is a lot of permanent ice that high up the mountain.
We settled on Congo Star, a 10 pitch (300 metre) bolted route on perfect granite at mostly 6a with a few harder bits along the way. This route is a fantastic outing with enough bolts to protect the hard moves but little to ease the nerves elsewhere. Probably the most adventurous part of the day was crossing a meltwater river on the way back to the hut in the late afternoon. After a day's sunshine on the higher ice the steep stream had become a raging torrent (Jess's description). After a few dunkings and a little cursing as Jess was safeley belayed across (unfortunately cameras were all safely wrapped in plastic for the affair) we got back to the hut just in time for dinner by the always enthusiastic Mme Hut Gardien.
Feeling quite tired and without our 2nd pair of crampons we decided to leave it at that and head back down hill the next day. After a late start (to let the glacier ice melt a little so it was not to slippy without crampons) we decended the Mer de Glace in the lifting fog. Thankfully visibility had improved enough to make routfinding easy so the only thing that slowed us down were the steep crevasses halfway.
Back in the valley, we spent a few days cragging and recuperating. Unfortunately,the weather began to deteriorate so we decided on a change of scene after 5 weeks in Chamonix. We decided to head for Arco close to Lake Garda in the north of Italy and headed there via Munich to visit Britta. Britta has moved on from phd life to become a respectable professional working for Roche in the south of Germany. We arrived just in time to meet her parents who were leaving after a visit. We stayed with her in her lovely new apartment in Penzburg. We sampled some of the German beers and bavarian food and took a stroll round Munich. We also visited some cute Bavarian villages and saw many pairs of lederhosen and drindls! It was really good to catch up with Britta before hitting the road for Arco.