Into the Heart of the Alps

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A Most Perfect Day, Thanks to Random Kindness, July 6, 2013

Today's trekking instructions started with about 2500' of uphill, lots of it on roads and through inhabited areas, just to get to the beginning of the good stuff -- an optional loop that led to spectacular views in a different direction than we'd seen so far.  No cable car or ski lift options to gain some of the altitude.  We were not happy, because after this many days of long trekking hours and steep ups and downs, my hips, knees and stamina are no longer at their best.  The high country part of the day seemed out of reach for me.

During last night's dinner, our host Leighton asked what the hiking plan was for the next day.  He didn't approve either and offered that they would drive us up to the beginning of the good part (the optional additional loop).  We accepted this incredibly kind offer and it made this one of our best days yet.

Climbed about 2,000', first pretty easy but getting ever steeper, until every little switchback had another stop-in-your-tracks view of aiguilles (needles), ridges and small glaciers across the Chamonix valley from Mont Blanc.  Got to the highest point of our trekking agenda, a green flower-filled plateau with 360-degree views of Mont Blanc and the high mountains surrounding it.  We could not stop playing with the camera and cellphone -- taking panoramic shots, 360-degree videos, etc.  The videos worked, BTW, so we can take ourselves (and some of you) back to that magical spot any time.

It doesn't get much better than this
It doesn't get much better than this

The plateau was not high enough for Bob, so he hiked another 1,000' up the top of the nearest aiguille and met me in the next meadow.  I ambled along the "balcony path", getting ever better views of the blue glaciers coming down from Mont Blanc.  Had an hour or more to enjoy a leisurely lunch in the second meadow, had a short nap, did some reading, and generally felt in tune with the amazing scenery.  That's the kind of hiking agenda that gives each of us our favorite outdoor experience -- Bob gets to the top of the highest point around and pushes his limits, and I get to sink into the spirit of the place without feeling rushed or exhausted.

This is paraglider heaven

This is paraglider heaven

We did have to descend the entire elevation differential from the valley (both the part we drove by car in the morning and that we climbed on foot, probably more than 4,000'), but our final lodging in the Chamonix Valley was another amazing place.  The Hotel Aiguille du Midi faces the two blue glaciers on Mont Blanc (you see them from every dining table), has a lovely swimming pool, and a five-course dinner was included with the room.  And, because this was a larger hotel, great people-watching.

Two glaciers on Mont Blanc
Two glaciers on Mont Blanc
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