France // Mont Blanc, Chamonix

Sunday, September 6, 2015
Visiting Mont Blanc was a completely visceral experience. Maybe we should have expected this but looking back, there was really no way we could have anticipated the way that this place would rock our senses.

We were initially drawn here by stories from outdoorsy friends about massive glaciers and the epic hiking trails. There was also the appeal of the tangible significance of the Mont Blanc massif being the highest mountain in the Alps and the tallest peak in Europe. Finally, as a water nerd, I wanted to see the peak that defined a major watershed line between France and Italy. All in all we had plenty of valid, albeit slightly superficial, reasons to make a beeline for Chamonix as early as our travel plans would allow.

I would say that all of that melted away quickly but that would be a misleading expression given the subzero temperatures we faced on top of Aiguille du Midi, a spike of a mountain above Chamonix. At 12,600 feet we were looking down at most of the surrounding peaks and across a narrow saddle at the perennial snow dome that covers the summit of Mont Blanc. Some burly alpinists were climbing below us (we took the cable car up) while others in the distance were starting an expedition to the nearby glaciers. Looking out in each direction, we could see parts of France, Italy, and Switzerland. 

After starting to adjust to the thin and freezing air, we began to appreciate the sights and sounds of this place. A high alpine wind blasted up at us from the valley to the north. On the south side, the air was perfectly still and silent, not even the hum of nearby Chamonix could reach this place. The peaks in the distance looked jagged and sharp but still somehow inviting. It was sunny but only because we were above the clouds. As soon as we realized that, everything we were experiencing started to make sense - this is what it felt like to be above the clouds.

Photography: Anna // Storytelling: Jack
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