The weather turned on Wednesday and we had almost 24 hours of rain and snow down to below 2000m. It was a time for us to shop and visit a launderette but, shock horror, as we turned into our favourite supermarket car park, with associated petrol station and launderette, it was no more. Our friends with more ready access to the internet told us, afterwards, that the whole complex had been destroyed in a fire and 120 people had lost their jobs. (I am talking about Super U in Le Fayet for anyone au fait with the area). Anyway, there are ready alternatives so it was not too much of an inconvenience for us.
So, we took the Montenvers train and walked back to Chamonix via Les Rochers des Mottets. The signage for this path is not quite as good as some, but much of the route is common sense and there is almost always a discernable path. So we were a little surprised, after walking for about 25 minutes from Montenvers station, to be asked by a French couple, who were following us, where were we going. They seemed non-plussed when we answered “Chamonix” and gave us a look like we were stupid. But au contraire. They wanted to walk down to the ice cave and had missed their turning, just as well they asked! Near where they should have turned off there was a very shocking reminder of the retreat of the glaciers as this picture illustrates
It is difficult to imagine the glacier at the level of that sign bearing in mind its present position.
There are plenty of reminders of glacial action on the path; very large erratic boulders scattered randomly and smoothed-off rock platforms. At the Rochers des Mottets it is possible to look across the glacier and spy Le Chapeau buvette. I believe this could have been close to the Victorian tourist route that took walkers up from Chamonix across the glacier near here to somewhere close by Le Chapeau and down Le Mauvais Pas back to the valley. It seems that at that time the glacier was just about level with the Rochers; barely credible now.
There is a very pretty chalet/buvette at les Rochers. It was closed when we passed but I am pretty sure I have had a drink there one winter when I skied down to Chamonix, at the end of the Vallee Blanche. Somebody has worked very hard to create a splendid garden there.
After les Rochers there is a short walk over giant glacier-eroded rocks to join a gentle track
that wends its way back to Chamonix coming in at the top of Les Planards. This is a lovely walk with great views across the valley to the Brevent and Flegere ski areas, as is illustrated by the header photo of this blog.