Aiguillette des Houches, all about perspective

It doesn’t seem to matter where you are in the world or what you are doing there is always the potential to have a bad day. Which in essence is the choice you make in how you respond to your circumstances in the moment. And this was truly a selfish and first world bad day of wanting to fit in all the amazing experiences on this epic European adventure.

We knew when we booked our tour around Mont Blanc in June that it was a trade off of crowds versus the weather, but there is always that expectation that you’ll cheat the trade off and get both (low crowds, great weather). One of the key experiences we planned for was paragliding or Parapete. It was due to happen the following day, as that was the last opportunity to fly over the Les Bossons glacier before it became a no fly zone for the summer.

The forecast was for perfect weather today and storms tomorrow. My heart sank, I had  determined this walk was my least favourite and would have gladly given it up to paraglide but it was all too late for that and my chosen response had the potential to rob me of today’s experience while pining the loss of tomorrows. As I write this some months later it sounds ridiculous but in the moment that is what was happening.

Skulking out to the car the blue sky taunts me, we wind our way up the mountain to Parc Merlet our best chance to see an Ibex. Great stories are told of these animals, standing on roof tops, chimneys and other very small precipes but there were none showing themselves today. Parc Merlet is across the valley from Les Bossons glacier so I get a good view of where I could have been paragliding…

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Looking across to Glacier des Bossons from Parc Merlet

The walk meanders through the forest for quite some time, it’s moist, cool and easy on the feet, the fallen neeedles soft like carpet.

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Our guide leading the way

The Aigiuletee des Houches is in the Reserve Naturelle de Calaveyron and presents one of the steepest face of the lower mountains to hike. Forest gives way to shrubs which give way to heath as we traverse the sheer rocky cliff side, snaking our way up on switch backs, at times with the aid of steel fixed poles. This should be scary but after walking the balcony the day before we were better acclimiatised to the conditions.

The views are spectacular with broad vistas of the Mont Blanc massif the trifecta of the Aiguille du Midi, Les Bossons Glacier and Mont Blanc in full view, almost feeling close enough to touch.

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Perfect back drop for photos
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Spectacular vista from Aiguille du Midi to Aiguille du Gouter

The track is a slog and we rest frequently, my attitude is still rubbsh making the walk mentally harder than it is physical. From the ridgeline an armada of para-gliders appear, circling in front of us as if to remind me what I am missing out on. I make some grumbling remark and feel myself being lifted to be with them, but I was still firmly planted on the rock.

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Parapete off the Plan Praz, just a ridge or two away

We’re on our way to Refuge de Bellachat and it seems much higher than expected. Although we’re in the shadow of Mont Blanc, today’s walk is highest elevation of the tour at 2300m. This is higher than any peak in Australia but feels like a simple hill walk. Perspective is a curious thing and I start to change mine and enjoy the adventure laid out before us. Thankful we have the opportunity to be here.

The gravelly path gives way to rocky outcrops, the range falling back in on itself as we cross Ravin des Vouillourds. It’s a tactical little rock hop at this altitude but opens significantly below us. The high side walks you up a ridge path to a top out of view, giving the sense you’ll walk over it. Before long we reach the refuge and as has become our custom stop for a hot drink and bathroom break. While the food might be civilised the toilet is an old squat job, which Anne negotiates as a new mountain challenge.

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Dozens of tracks and shortcuts forged in the hill
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Refuge de Bellachat, what a great place for a hot drinks and the view
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Toilets still have some way to go in the alps

One of our team loses their balance tumbling off a small brick wall and out sight over the steep cliff edge. Hearts jump in our mouth as shock grips us and our brains refuse to process what our eyes just witnessed. Thankfully there is a grassy ledge about 2 metres below and while shaken and scratched our intrepid adventurer is OK, crisis averted.

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Chamonix laid out before us

Climbing above Refuge de Bellachat, we’re greeted by meadow country, switching back and forward on gravelly ground to make the plateau, a criss-cross of scars on the landscape as millions of people over time have carved their own paths and shortcuts.

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Even after the refuge there is still a bit more up

The views here are beyond words, the pre-alps at our back and the alps in front of us. This is a prime location to soak in the mountain atmosphere. The walk becomes much more leisurely and for the first time in a while the team forms small groups and talks and walks. We’re so relaxed you could solve world politics up here.

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Meadow country and easier walking

This feels like the real alpine meadows, flower and low alpine heath interrupted by tarns, delicate with there banks of moss and fine organisms. the meadows roll with low valleys punctuated by rocky outcrops and on the protected side residual banks of snow

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Tarns looking out over the mountains
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Taking in the sites
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Refuges of snow on the shadowed banks

The Aiguillette des Houches, runs like a range along the front side of the mountain facing out over Bellevue, where we walked the day before. Close by is a smaller peak with views into the pre-alps and some rugged cliff drops. Off to the left is a curious track that heads to the bottom of the valley carved beautifully into the ridge it runs like a pin stripe dividing the range.

Walking away from the group, the sounds of voices swallowed by the wind, I stand on top of the Aiguillette des Houches alone, Mont Blanc towering over me I stand in the presence of this amazing mountain, all that whistles here is the cool wind as a storm stirs on the horizon.

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Aiguillette des Houches, just a short walk away
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Can’t resist climbing to the peak

I think of Moses going up the mountain to visit with God, how powerful and high the mountain must have been, about the height I was at and yet it was not the mountain that he feared but God. Proverbs tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.

Lunch is drawing to a close and my time here is coming to an end. I tear myself away from this mini summit and rejoin the group. Our descent steep until we reach a small plateau walking directly toward the impressive Mont Blanc. Not long after this beautiful little plateau the trail dives into the firs and spruce winding back down to our pick up point.

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Descending with that view, too easy

With a clear night the stars are out in force and one of the main objectives of the trip, to photograph the night over Mont Blanc is set to happen. Sitting in the cooling air i click away hopeful one of the shots I take will be a keeper.

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Gouters Dome at sunset

 

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The Mont Blanc massif under starry skies

Experience the walk for yourself here

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