Friday, July 18

We started our exploration of the French Alps by taking a cable car up to a peak called Aiguille du Midi. The ride is described as the longest and scariest cable car ride in the world, and it certainly lived up to its reputation. After 2 rides up to the station at 3,842 meters, we were greeted with howling and very cold winds, despite the bright sunshine and warm weather below. What we noticed most was the impact of the altitude - we became winded and light-headed after only small climbs up the stairs to the viewing terraces. David was especially impacted, and didn't like his time at the top at all. Many of the people who rode the cable car up with us were very official-looking ice climbers. They all had large packs and all kinds of climbing equipment - this is an area for some very serious ice and rock climbing. We took a few pictures, and then took the cable car down to the halfway point where we were able to begin our hike along a ridge to a place called Montenvers. This hike was spectacular, and just the right level of difficulty. We had views the entire way, including the snow-capped peaks of Mont Blanc and its surrounding mountains, the Chamonix valley, and a large glacier at Montenvers. This was a spectacular first day for us in the French Alps! ~Steve

Today was absolutely beautiful in the Alps. The hiking here is like nowhere else. My last hike in the Alps was 21 years ago, and it has been much too long a wait. The feeling of hiking for hours above the tree line with spectacular views is difficult to describe. I actually find myself wanting to turn in a circle with each forward step so that I don't miss even a moment of the 360 degree view. Everything was so wonderful - the wildflowers along the trail, being able to view the trail beyond and behind you for long distances, the small streams and waterfalls from melting snow at the peaks, the feeling of being literally on top of the world, viewing the tiny houses in the valley below.

I was thrilled to see that David and Katie seemed equally enthralled by the landscape ahd hike. David especially loved the streams and the glacier. Katie kept saying "this is so awesome", and "I'm thoroughly enjoying this." We were tired by the end of the hike but were all eager to head up again tomorrow! ~Paula

I thought the Alps were absolutely beautiful. It was unlike any hike I have ever done before. Everywhere you looked were beautiful snowy mountains stretching as far as you can see. Around you were enormous rocks supporting the powerful flow of water coming down from distant mountains. The sky was cloudless and still except for the gentle glides of the ravens and hang gliders. Looking over the edge you saw the village packed with houses with their sloped roofs. In nearby mountains you could see people struggling up the zigzag trails. There was no way to escape the smells of fresh air, still atmosphere, and beauty of this incredible mountain range. I felt as if I was on the edge of the world. The only thing I was disappointed with is how the pictures turned out. You can't just look at pictures to experience the Alps - you have to be there. If you ever have the chance to go here, definitely take it. It's not just how it looks that matters - but more so how the atmosphere makes you feel. We weren't afraid at all of how high we were; in fact we were hardly aware of it. The beauty of the mountains made this fear get pushed aside completely. We weren't concentrating on how far and difficult the trail was, or that we were completely exhausted after hiking up and down rocky terrain for four hours. We were completely focused on the feeling and atmosphere of this adventure. ~Katie

Today toward the end of our hike through the French Alps, we decided to go into the ice caves in a glacier at Montevers. The glacier was located deep in a U-shaped valley, which it had been carving for thousands of years. From a distance, we couldn't see the entire glacier, but just its icy top and its meandering trail. As we walked nearer to it, we saw the huge block of ice up close and ventured into its caves. Near the entrance, ice cold water dripped down onto us and created a stream down the valley. Inside the glacier was really cool, literally! It was fascinating to think that you were walking into a solid block of ice from the ice age! The cave was also modernized with ice sculptures of furniture, bedrooms and kitchens with dummies. I didn't really like the sculptures because I felt it took away from the experience, but I still greatly enjoyed it. In the cave was also a place where you could get a picture of yourself in a small ice corridor. To attract people, they had a HUGE St. Bernard that sat with you in the picture. We all cracked up because before each picture, his owner came with a big rag and wiped all the drool off his face! Then immediately after the picture, the dog ran to his owner (the photographer) and got his usual treat. He would then bark, as if to say: "Come on people, who wants a picture? I get a treat afterwards!"

This was an amazing experience for all of us. After our trip, I did some research and determined that the glacier was a valley glacier. It was surprising to learn that valley glaciers move 1-2 feet a day, and 700 feet a year. I discovered that they slide on rock beds which creates friction, makes the ice melt, and then slide down the mountain. I also learned that valley glaciers create U-shaped valleys, form on snow-topped mountains and slide on rock beds. All of this seemed to be true with the glacier we visited today. And remember, glaciers are really cool, literally! ~David



Distance Walked: 6.22 miles





























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