Wow! we are so lucky to be living in this beautiful region of France. I am regularly reminded of this and today was no exception as I was afforded the most amazing views of the Argentiere glacier on a great hike in Les Grands Montets area of Chamonix Mont Blanc in Haute Savoie. Chamonix, an international tourist destination and the site of the first Winter Olympics in 1924; is a large mountain resort area that has so much to offer including magnificent views of the north summit of Mont Blanc Europe’s highest mountain right there! This is a year-round playground for those participating in so many sports from the gentle hiking, golfing, eating and shopping; to the most extreme mountain sports including paragliding and rock and ice climbing, not to mention skiing on all levels including ‘extreme’!
So having parked in the Argentiere car park by the Grands Montets telepherique (large cable car) we embarked on this little adventure. There are 2 stops on the cable car, the mid-station is Croix de Lognan and then the high stop Les Grands Montets at 3260m. You have to change cable cars at the mid-station to go up to the top. Once up there – however hot it has been down below a light jacket is a good idea! but the thrill of the views may make you forget there is a chill in the air as you look down on this fantastic glacier winding through the mountain tops.
There are some fantastic hikes from the top and mid-station and one can safely walk out onto the ‘snow garden’ a groomed path creating a winter wonderland in August! You can climb all the stairs up to the most sensational view-point over the entire valley, look down on the glacier and over to Mont Blanc and the Aiguille de Midi. For the more adventurous there are organised guided climbing routes on the Grand Montets and other areas in the Chamonix Valley.
The Argentiere Glacier is dominated by three peaks over 4000 metres high – The Droites, The Grand Rocheuse and the Aiguille Verte and is around 9 kilometres long, although in recent years is rapidly receding. It is well worth the €33.50 round trip ticket to get up to the top to see the breathtakingly magnificent sight of this glacier and surrounding mountain peaks. Now I want to see it in winter…
We headed down in the cable car to the mid station Croix de Lognan and embarked on the hour and a half hike following the walking signs to ‘Le Point de Vue’ which took us down to a closer point on the glacier where the seracs can be clearly seen.
A serac (A swiss/french word – meaning a block or column of glacial ice, sometimes the size of a house and often created by intersecting crevasses that have formed in the glacier) Beside the glacier is a vertical long wall with a few waterfalls in summer, but in winter this wall becomes completely covered in ice and is popular with brave ice climbers – personally I can’t imagine why – very scary!! An uphill and rocky hike affords the most amazing sights of the glacier very close up.
So having earned our lunch we hiked back down via a slightly different route detouring off to the right to the Chalet Refuge De Lognan. We had booked a table and it is a good idea to do so.
There is an outdoor terrace looking out onto the mountainside and the glacier on one side and down into the Chamonix valley on the other – this is a ‘pinch yourself’ moment it really is. In winter and on a cooler day there is seating inside for dining too. The refuge has a few rooms too for the intrepid explorers wishing to overnight up the mountain.
The plat du jour was a vegetable and lardon crumble with a salad which was very tasty and the usual dishes appear on the Savoyard mountain menu. Various croûte and dishes like the assiette Montagnard and salads. Followed by a great selection of desserts! A very welcome lunch stop on the mountain which is open winter and summer.
After lunch is around a half an hour hike descending back to the mid-station cable car to take us back down to Argentiere. At the bottom is a restaurant where having made the hike back to the cable car – it is almost compulsory to stop for a slice of homemade myrtille sauvage (blueberry) tart and coffee. If you have the time it is well worth taking a walk around the lovely old village of Argentiere with traditional style wooden chalets with wooden tiled roofs.
This was a wonderful summers day out. Chamonix is about an hour from Geneva and an hour and 10 minutes from Annecy.
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all photos ©Copyright Caro Blackwell