Day 9 – Trient to Chamonix: This was our final day of hiking. Before setting off, we hit up the adjacent food mart on the last day it was open for the season and bought lunch for the day. We headed back to France, walking uphill to the Col de Balme (2201m) towards the Chamonix Valley. The lodge up top was said to be run by a really grumpy old French woman. If you spoke in English to her, she apparently wouldn’t respond. I even just googled “Col de Balme grumpy woman” and her photo popped up.
I remember making this climb and thinking “when will this ever end??” But, the view up top was crazy amazing. Near the top, I heard a passing hiker exclaim, “God, she’s miserable!” I already knew who she was talking about. (Photo credit: Nabeel)
We walked into the lodge with caution to order 3 hot chocolates and were equipped with a few French words.
Me & Yuko: “Bonjour! Uh, um, chocolat. Trois. S’il vous plaît?”
Guess what? She cracked a smile!!! The hot chocolate that her husband made was probably the shittiest hot chocolate I ever tasted but, her smile made it worthwhile. We brought our mugs outside to drink with the view of Mont Blanc. And, this is when I discovered the continuous shooting mode on my camera.
These are just 3 of the 100 photos we took and I could definitely make a flip book for the 6 of us who became obsessed with this camera function. This was sooo worth the climb.
Now, compare this photo to the very first one we took on day 2. WE ARE FAMMMMILY! I GOT ALL MY SISTERS (and brothers) WITH ME!
On the steep way downhill to Le Tour, we had 2 opportunities to catch a ski/chair lift down should our knees fail us. Several people considered it but never committed to it. I wouldn’t take a chair lift down on my own and, on top of that, I made it this far and became determined to finish it on foot. We stopped midway to quickly eat our lunch then made the rest of the way down. My knees and ankles were killing me and I was the last one to finish but, when I made it down, I felt like I could CONQUER THE WORLD! Clare was proud of me for powering it through. No one was prouder than I was.
Down at Le Tour, we had some time before the bus came to take us back to Chamonix so, we grabbed a celebratory drink at Le Passon. By the time everyone got their drink and began cheers-ing, I had almost finished mine within 4-5 gulps. Yea-uhhhhh.
Estimated Hiking Time: 6hr
Approximate Distance Hiked: 14 km
Elevation: Start 1297m; Highest 2201m; Finish 1471m
We had some time before we met up for our final dinner and several of us were interested in going paragliding. It was EUR 110 for a 30 minute tandem flight. Upon hearing the price, everyone backed out except for me. I mean, when else could I paraglide around the glaciers of Mont Blanc? I met my tandem pilot, Sean, at the entrance to the Chamonix-Aiguille du Midi cable car, and we took the cable car up together to the top. Sean turned out to be a schoolmate or friend of a friend from Clare’s hometown and they actually hadn’t talked to/seen each other in decades. He was a ski junkie who came to Chamonix to cure himself of his ski bug, then ended up loving it so much more that he came here to live. He now lives with his French girlfriend and child, and they are now a paragliding, ski instructing duo. What a life! I need to rethink mine now… (actually, I already have been…).
Sean opened and set up his orange parachute and buckled me into the gear before buckling me into his. When the wind conditions became favorable, I was instructed to walk a few steps back when the wind gathered inside the parachute, then run off the cliff with all my might. It was fantastic.
I believed I could fly and then was flying like an eagle. Thank you R. Kelly and Seal. The views were so amazing – the glaciers, the other paragliders, the forest and the view of Chamonix. Sean suggested that I grab hold of the steering handles and try doing some turns. With my extremely sweaty hands and beating heart, I tried. For a good minute…or maybe it was just 30 seconds. Then, I insisted that he take it back or else I might bring us to an early death. But, yay I did it! (Inhale. Exhale.) Throughout the ride (or the glide?), Sean took photos of me with his GoPro type camera which I haven’t yet received so, I’ll post when I do get them. (Update: I contacted him and he had already sent them to me a few days after the flight. Either the email address was wrong or, it resided in my spam for over 30 days. Regardless, the photos are forever lost!) In case you want to do this on a visit to Chamonix, make sure to request Sean at Fly Chamonix. Dress warmly and bring gloves. The wind chill makes it pretty cold up there.
Ta-da! Some were jealous when I got back to the hotel (Hotel Le Chamonix) and said they were trying to look for me up in the sky. After a (none other than) glorious and slightly long but nicely hot shower, I met the others at the bar nearby before we headed to our final celebratory dinner at Le National. This was finally the end :*(
Clare recommended this dish that involved a hot plate and you cooking your own meat – duck, chicken and beef. Yuko and I split it since it’s meant for 2 people and man, it was so fresh, juicy and delicious! I just looked up reviews for this restaurant and people complained about blandness, rudeness and slowness but, everyone was happy with their food and service speed was completely fine…at least for us. Alex then brought out bottles of sparkling wine that he bought to celebrate.
After the dinner came the after pah tee (actually, the hotel lobby for 6 of us). Clare took us pub-hopping to the expat bars and we went about our merry way. As we were talking about Wasim and how monkey-like he was in his hiking abilities…
Alex: “That man is always wearing a track suit. I mean, you can even hear him swishing in his sleep!”
Hahaha, it’s true.
Day 10 – Depart Chamonix: Yuko and I woke up early (not hungover!) to say goodbye to everyone catching a morning flight. Nabeel, Wasim, Yuko and I were the only ones leftover at noon. We walked around and savored the last moments together. I seriously almost cried after they walked me to the train station. I made it back to Paris and it wasn’t the same.