PHOTOS: Chamonix Dream

Chamonix! The birthplace of mountaineering! Les hautes montagnes!  "Cham," as it's affectionately called, is the place to be for the creative and adventurous who are defining the latest mountain sports: fast and light alpinism, cutting edge steep skiing, wingsuit flying, speed riding...you name it. But that wasn’t our angle: Lindsey and I spent a month in the Mont Blanc massif not so much to push ourselves to the extreme, but to meld our love for alpine climbing with the joy of cultural immersion. Chamonix truly brings together the diversity of Europe’s outdoor-minded folks and provides a limitless playground for all to explore.

Here’s an example of the type of day that made Chamonix so special for us:

  • Wake up at 6:30 a.m., a very reasonable alpine start.
  • Grab daypack crammed with rope and rack and literally put on your climbing harness before leaving rented apartment.
  • Grab a steaming fresh baguette and grab the first tram with climbers from all over Europe.
  • Gawk out the tram windows at all the lines waiting to be climbing, listening to Norwegian, French, German, Spanish - you name it.
  • Hop out of the tram and rage on pitch after pitch of splitter granite climbing.
  • Rush back to not miss the last lift and inevitably run into someone you know on the lift.
  • Join said person for post-climb beer at the Canadian-run microbrewery.
  • Where, on some days, we’d catch the second half of a World Cup game that was being played across the ocean in Brazil.

Wondrous corners, slabs, cracks and edges await on the immaculate granite of the Mont Blanc range.

 

The Contamine Crack on Pointe Lachenal begs to be climbed. Mont Blanc du Tacul in mixed conditions in the background.

 

The Mont Blanc massif is split by Italy and France, and the Kueffner Ridge is the famous ridge that splits two of the most dramatic cirques of Mont Maudit and Mont Blanc. In excellent conditions, we top out the technical difficulties as the sun begins to rise over the range.

 

Enjoying the upper pitches of the Rebuffant route on Aguille du Midi.

 

Another perfect day of goofing around in the Mont Blanc massif.

 

A highlight from any trip to Chamonix is the first time walking out from the Aguille du Midi station ice tunnel.

 

A snowy early season meant snowy conditions even on the lower summits. Lindsey traverses the summit ridge of Petite Fourche as Aiguille du Chardonnet rises in the background.