It was a long drive down from Calais to Servoz, at the mouth of the Chamonix valley, but, as usual, it took us just under 9 hours, all on the autoroutes. There was very little traffic and we arrived on Monday around 8.45pm in good time to unpack the car, have a hot drink and retire.
Next day involved getting straight and supermarket shopping in the morning and a trip into Chamonix by train in the afternoon. As to be expected, nothing much has changed since the end of the skiing season but there are new buildings still being built here and there, despite a very slow property market. Food prices seem to have gone up here faster than in UK, but that might just be perception and the holiday season is still going, judging by the numbers of people around. But lifts are closing steadily as things get quieter and we were caught out in this way on Tuesday, more of this later. The weather seems to have hit a favourable settled spell; slightly cloudy mornings before the sun breaks through, then warming up rapidly until the cloud gathers and rain falls in the late afternoon/evening often very heavy. This has happened two days in a row and the forecast is the same for the next 5 days. Lucky for us.
On Tuesday we set out to go to the Brevent lift with the intention of going to the top and walking around Lac Brevent, possibly visiting Refuge de Bellachat. However, while the lift to Plan Praz was working, when we got there we realised that the Brevent lift was not working again until the ski season. It had closed on September 3rd. We decided to walk to Flegere instead, following the TMB (Tour de Mont Blanc) trail. A couple of years ago we had walked in the other direction taking a slightly different route during the Ultra Trail race. That was a great experience with “motivational music” blaring out and being passed every few minutes by athletes that were just completing runs of 50km! But it was nice to do the walk in relative silence and without so many passers-by.
Plan Praz was beautiful, the blue piste looking so different from 6 months ago
Just before the liaison lift we took the higher, TMB, path which included a steep, fixed rope section and brought us out part way up the Lachenal piste
At Flegere we had a drink at the Refuge and watched a couple gorge themselves on tarte myrtille at 6.50 Euros a slice followed by fromage blanc in an exotic bowl. They needed some exercise after all that and set off to walk to Plan Praz. I wonder if they made it, they looked totally unprepared. She was carrying a handbag and wearing light court shoes (according to Mrs D) and he was wearing normal brogue type shoes. They were both walking quite tentatively at the start, on the stony track and, I suspect, little did they know it would get worse. The lifts close at 5pm and they were setting off after 2pm and it had taken us 3 hours for the trip coming the other way so maybe they were cutting it too fine. It is a long walk back down to Chamonix from Plan Praz. We will be listening keenly to the local news!
We caught a busy train from Chamonix packed with nodding-off tourists and arrived back at our flat about 30 minutes before the evening downpour.
Next day we caught the train/bus for Argentiere and the lift up to Lognan. At the top I was surprised to find the Grands Montets lift also in operation. I thought it generally closed in the summer and do not recall ever going up at this time of year, so grasped the opportunity. As per, glorious views from the top and several pictures taken. Unfortunately while taking one down the lift route, my walking pole wobbled on the guard rail, slipped, and tumbled about 200m, seemingly in slow motion, and stuck in a snow bank at the bottom. I showed the lift attendant who gave me a gallic shrug and we both mumbled, “Tant pis”. The picture that cost me the walking pole is quite good but maybe not that good. It is looking directly down the Pylones piste.
The other pictures I would like to share are the view over the Argentiere glacier towards Mont Dolent
and the view over the Mer de Glace towards Mont Blanc.
After I came back to Lognan, Mrs D and I took the path towards Chalets de la Pendant where we had lunch and I took a picture looking up the black ski run
We continued on and took the path towards Tete des Prapators (1844m) and beyond via the le Chapeau Chalet. This route has magnificent views but is precarious in parts. While descending one gully a plate sized rock whizzed down less than 10m away from us. It would have done serious damage if it had connected! This is a lovely walk and I am sure would be much more popular if only it were not so daunting. We finished at Les Tines and were lucky enough to catch a bus back to Chamonix about 5 minutes after we arrived at the bus stop. The bus was packed, however, and we needed to use Japanese-style commuter tactics to manage to squeeze on. Our ski lift experience was very valuable for this. In Chamonix we had time for an expensive beer before catching the train arriving home just after 7; late for us.