Wednesday, 29 September 2010

One for the road

I was in Chamonix back in March, faceplanting my way down the Valley Blanche (well hell folks! You try and do it on park skis ... ) and after one large plunder down a slope the Ski Club rep Ken who had joined our group, nonchalantly sat me down in the middle of a serac field and handed over a hot Thermos filled with ginger and honey tea. Ye gods that perked me up. Since then I've been a Thermos fan, now proudly owning two - one for my own backpack and a larger one for picnics with friends. Natch. Yesterday, overcome with the pressure of work I decided to fill the little Thermos (hey, I'm new in town and it's cold. No picnics just yet) and go for a hike up to Le Lac Blanc. I'm pretty new to epic hiking and I'm still at the stage where I get it all wrong. Lovely windproof jacket? Check. Wearing it? nope. Etc etc etc. Furthermore I don't own any suitable trousers despite my mum kindly proferring her beige Craghoppers. These will not do. I'm a firm believer in combining fashion with practicality. So I always end up hiking in my Carhartt jeans - good for the first hour, not so effective thereafter.
Starting from just below the Col de Montets it was a four hour round trip which started by turning you away from the valley and had you heading towards Switzerland but then which spun you back round by virtue of a path that began to resemble a tight corkscrew drilling its way into the sky. It skirted below the Aigulles Rouges and from then on the views were amazing. Lavancher bowl, Mer de Glace, Glacier d'Argentier - the whole valley and its legends on display. The path turned to ice on the patches where the sun was blocked and my boots sunk into the first snow of winter:

On arrival at the lake after a series of ladders and wooden steps I cracked open the Thermos, unwrapped a Bounty (yes I'm old school) and got stuck in. In August people had been swimming there but despite the dominance of the surroundings it was not the time to hang around. There was a bite in the air. Not a big slap around the face cold, more like a gentle poke, winter flexing its muscles. It's that temperature that makes autumn so exciting and expectant.
I'm off to buy some trousers.

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