What with Himalayan distractions and a limited holidays it must be over 20 years since I have been in the Vallee Blanche at Chamonix. Last week though I was able to remedy that with my son, Alec, friends Jane Hartog and Jonathan Edwards, their children Ollie and Nic and Tim Hall.
Revisiting somewhere that was once very familiar certainly focuses the mind. And being up there in the mountains with Alec, Ollie and Nic avidly soaking in high mountain scenery that they had never experienced before really made the day.
There’s something very special about pointing out the great mountains and climbs (and crevasses!) of Chamonix to young minds so keen to ask questions and understand everything around them. I lost track of the number of times I was asked to photograph crevasses and go through the gory detail of how bad it can be to fall in one.
The Vallee Blanche might not be in the same mould as the remote, unclimbed mountain challenges that I seek out in the greater ranges but visiting it again brought me back to the area of my first difficult climbs in the 1970s and has left me with an urge to return and experience again the unique atmosphere of the Alps. It’s just such a fantastic alpine playground.
The day ended with a sobering sign of the times. Take a close look at the photograph of Tim looking appropriately worried on the stairway up to Montenvers. The sign next to him shows the level of the Mer de Glace in 1990. In just over 20 years the level must have dropped over 100 metres. Wow! What thickness of ice is left I wonder.