|Our day started pretty early for a couple of 50-something, sleep-deprived people. But we awoke to the sun just beginning to shine on Mont Blanc out our bedroom window. With the promise of some good weather, we got ready and headed for the tram. I guess a lot of people had the same idea, because we were amazed at the number of people in line. Many were in full gear for rock and ice climbing. We made it on the third tram of the day and were at the top of in no time. The weather was perfect - no wind, clouds only in the distance. After a leisurely breakfast looking out over the peaks, we explored the many terraces at the top of Aguille du Midi, the point that many will recognize with it's rusty tin needle sticking out the top. We could watch the climbers that looked like so many ants in the distance, attempting to summit Mont Blanc. We were both perfectly happy to watch someone else do it. It's a very technical climb. There is even a base camp of sorts just below the top of the tram. Views in all directions were amazing. We could even see the Matterhorn. The clouds were roiling over Italy, but we took the Telecabine (little cable cars) from the Aguille du Midi to Italy anyway. It was an amazing ride in a little four person cabin, suspended for three miles with no solid pylon. The journey takes 40 minutes and was truly spectacular. The station in Italy was completely socked in - quite a switch from where we'd come from, so we stayed for a short while then returned to France.
After riding the gondola halfway back down the mountain, we hiked across the high valley to the Mer de Glace, a glacier that was underwhelming. The hike was beautiful, but crowded. It's a popular hike that takes about 2 1/2 hours. We took the tram down to the glacier - actually part way down, then climbed down 400 steps to an ice cave dug into the glacier. We're going to tell Rick Steves to take it out of his book - pretty lame in our opinion!
Finally we hopped on a cogwheel train that took us back to Chamonix. It was a pretty intense day, but we enjoyed every minute of it. The rain held off until we were back at our hotel, so we couldn't have asked for much more. We had a few moments of contemplation of the events of 9/11 when we stopped and placed some pretty rocks on a large cairn along our hike.
Tomorrow's plans are about settled - the weather will be the deciding factor! We are experiencing some technical difficulties in uploading pictures to the blog. Hopefully we'll get that figured out soon!