April 3rd, 2006

(The bus to Chamonix)
I’m thinking that it sure would be nice to have some clean socks and another shirt while I sit waiting, looking out the window for the delivery truck. It should have been here with one of my bags. Not sure which one, and they still don’t know where the other one is. If it’s the duffel, I get clean clothes, my ski boots, my gloves. If it’s the ski bag I get my skis, crampons, and ice tools. I’m hoping for the duffel.

(The line to the glacier)
Tomorrow the plan is an overnight up at the Argentiere hut; it’s off on one of the glaciers and is the access to a cirque of steep faces. We’ll be needing the steepness because there’s been so much snowfall recently that the route we climbed today, the classic Arete du Cosmique, was a Cascades-style wallow-fest. The weather that moved in while we were on route (stuck behind a guide and his clients who looked like they were in full epic mode) is expected to drop another 20 cm of snow. So we reason the steeper the face, the less snow will have settled on it. Of course, if I don’t get my duffel bag I won’t be joining Colin and his friend Rob (an LA boy who’s schooling in Missoula, ‘Montuckey’).

I’m starting to feel normal again. Two days of fever just before leaving Seattle and the cold that followed didn’t help with the jet lag but it seems to be passing. Friday, when I arrived in Chamonix, it was blue-bird and sunny; Colin took me down to a small bolted crag where we met up with Rob and his guest-of-the-week. As with the bus trip up to Chamonix, I spent the bulk of the time staring off at Mt. Blanc and the Aguilles–and napping–but there were some fun moderates to climb. I can’t remember the evening. I slept.

(The Aguille du Midi)

Saturday we headed up the Aguille du Midi tram. In about 20 minutes you go from 3000′ to 12,000′. The idea was to climb the Arete du Cosmique however the weather had moved in, which was a blessing as I was sucking wind. I felt dizzy simply sitting there. I think it was a combination of the head cold and the altitude, but who can really say.
(Yielding to the weather)

Today the altitude was much better, just a lot of heavy breathing. As to the Cosmique, wow, ride the tram, walk downhill for about 15 minutes, then get on a ridge of perfect orange granite, snow, and a little ice in the cracks and climb back up to the tram. If you don’t get stuck wallowing in the snow behind a guided party it should be pretty quick. And fun. It’s sort of like the upper part of the West Ridge of Mt. Stuart except with better rock, more stunning scenery, and no 5000′ foot bone-jaring descent. Because there’s a tram. And coffee.

And as to the valley itself; there is a glacier that falls down into the heart of the valley. People’s back yards edge against alpine forests which break into cliff bands, snow fields, and glaciated peaks. Gouts of water spew from cliffs in massive waterfalls hundreds of feet tall. Old stone buildings line tight streets and rivers churning in chocolate colored silt rush through the middle of every town, full of spring run-off. It’s that in-between time, when the ground is heavy with the cold wetness of melting snow baring the winter’s collection of dog feces and last autumn’s leaves. In one neck straining twist to the sky the glaring white glaciers and ruggedly steep rock give perspective to the town, that this is an alpine landscape. And in the warmth of the sun is a hint at the beauty of spring about to blossom in the Chamonix valley.

(On the Arete du Cosmique)

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