Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Chamonix, France - Part 1
This place is breath taking! The drive in on this winding narrow road passes increasingly larger mountains the further we drive. This is the first time I have actually seen glaciers! Not in pictures but, actually seen! After the all-powerful GPS sends us into tailspins because it doesn't actually know where the center of town is, we use Travis's own internal GPS as he has been here before. The town is busting with activity. There is a rock climbing competition going on in the center of town, a concert stage being set up a few blocks from there and plenty of others leaving or returning from some extreme outdoor activity. Travis points out the gondola to the top of a nearby peak. We have to go! We find the station, a very new building looking all modern and simple. I guess it use to be a small funky building that was now having trouble accommodating all the would-be mountaineers like us. $35 or so later and we are being lifted to the mid station. The terrain rapidly loses vegetation and becomes a rocky landscape with the spaces in between filled in with grass. Onto the second gondola and the grass dissapears leaving solid rock. The other gondola zips past us going down. I don't know which one is traveling faster but, it's the only real sense of how fast these move along. The landscape is so huge our large gondola feels tiny.At the top I quickly realize I am not ready to move at my normal pace at this altitude. Walking slowly and not looking down at the same time are very important. The exterior stairs are all grated with a view down of several hundred feet along sheer rock faces. Holy shit! This is high! It all feel strange to be here. On the mountain side we can watch mountaineers heading off single file along the ridge. I suddenly feel like I shouldn't be here. This isn't really 12000 feet high. I'm at Disney World watching some virtual reality film like IMax or similar and it's so well done I feel actual vertigo and seriously thin air. The only thing to distract me is... espresso!