Chamonix, Mt Blanc FRANCE
By Céline Jennison
It’s 10am and we’re considering going on an expedition to the Lac Blanc with my little brother and Christian. We’re at my parents’ house and my mother is mad tat we haven’t cleaned up our rock climbing gear from the previous day, nor have we participated in household chores.
I was heading back to Upstate New York for the summer, and I was determined to bring my little brother on his first ever Plastic Tides expedition.
We cleaned up the house, tended to the garden and prepared our gear.
It’s 5pm and we’re ready to go. We ask my mother for a ride to the end of the valley where we’d start our ascent. Alexandre and I were carrying camping gear and Christian was carrying our inflatable SUP. The only problem: the SUP didn’t fit in any of the mountaineering packs we had at home! So we had to jimmy-rig the SUP protector into a backpack and make-do. It was time to leave.
By the time we got to the start of the hike up it was 5:45pm, and I hadn’t done this hike since I was a little girl.
We started at a good pace, and I tried not to stop for wild sorrel too much as we started winding up the mountain.
Forty five minutes into our hike we noticed some wild goats just ahead of us — they did not seem to mind our presence! So we followed them up, trotting along the path.
By 6:30pm it was starting to get more grey and I felt a drop of rain. It was getting colder too, and we didn’t want to get wet. As I looked up across the valley there was a rainbow — indicating to us that it was safe to keep going!
After about two hours we finally came across my little brother’s favourite part of the hike: the via ferrata — metal ladders bolted to the rock.
We kept walking up, passing trees and birds and getting different viewpoints of the mountains around us. Wow are the views beautiful there.
By something like 8:30pm the rain starts creeping in as we are forced to wear our rain jackets, and the air is getting crisp. In June in the Alps the days are very very long, so even at 8pm there was no need for headlamps.
Surprised at how cold the air was getting, we peaked our heads up and there it was — snow ! Not just patches of it, but everything was covered in snow!
This is when I got a little worried, as I had no clue where the trail was meant to take us. In the Alps a few steps in the wrong direction and you can end up in the ravine. So we stepped carefully, getting our boots and entire legs stuck in the snow at times !
And we marched through the snow, dusk finally settling in. We looked around and thought how fun the descent in the snow (on our butts!) would be!
By 9:45pm we made it to the top of the hike, the Lac Blanc. Whilst it was getting hard to see, we knew it was frozen and there wouldn’t be much use for the SUP we lugged up.
At this point we were all bundled up in our down jackets and I immediately thought to myself that we hadn’t packed enough warm clothes.
But my curious brother said ‘let’s check the refuge (hut) and see if it’s open! Usually they leave a door open in case someone is lost in the mountains. And sure enough, after a good push we got in. It was cozy and warm, but very very dark as all the shutters were closed.
We piled in and the boys put up the tents (yes, inside!) whilst I made some dinner: french baguette, Patagonia Provisions salmon, and some wild sorrel picked along the way. Needless to say, the boys were still hungry after dinner !
Alexandre was testing out his brand new flying hammock which proved to be rather difficult to attach inside the dark unit.
The next morning we made a fire, went over to the snow and picked some up to melt for water. We pumped up our SUP , determined to SUP on the frozen lake ! As the sun shined through the clouds, we noticed a patch of melted ice on the surface. We were relieved that we were going to be able to take our water samples for Adventure Scientists !
Later we had some fun snow sledding, packed up and started our descent on the other side of the mountain. Going down this way would allow us to walk right back to the house. What I thought would be just a few hours down ended up taking half the day! And we got back from the expedition famished but happy!