Tour du Mont Blanc fini. Hello, lie-in, I thought. Alas, it’s not to be: I wake up at half six, sans alarm clock. (Trust me, there’s no chance of me waking up at that hour without an alarm these days.) I doze for another couple of hours; half-eight is a bit more like it. Time for a spot of pastry-hunting. There’s no shortage of boulangeries and cafés to try in Chamonix, but we opt for tried-and-tested Le Fournil Chamoniard. I chomp my way through a pain aux raisins; Laurence opts for a croix de Savoie myrtille (a cross-shaped pastry, filled with crème pâtissière and blueberries) and a café au lait.
Since we weren’t catching a train back to Lyon until mid-afternoon, we figured we had enough time to hike up a mountain – and if needs be, we’d simply catch a ski lift back down. After deliberating over Planpraz (1,999m) and La Flégère (1,894m), we decided on the former and then thought we may as well ask our Airbnb hosts roughly how long the ascent would be. “Ten minutes,” they replied confidently. Laurence and I exchanged a confused look, Our Airbnb hosts may be into trail running, but surely even they couldn’t run up this beast in ten minutes? “On foot?” we queried. “Oh,” they said, upon realising we didn’t intend to catch the ski lift up, “In that case, around three hours.”
The Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi has been transporting visitors to the summit of one of the Mont Blanc massif’s highest peaks since 1955; for those with no mountaineering experience – myself included – it’s the closest you’ll get to the summit of Mont Blanc. At a dizzying height of 3,842m, the Aiguille du Midi commands stellar views of the Chamonix Valley, the Aiguilles Rouges and the Mont Blanc massif. It also serves as the gateway to the Vallée Blanche, a world-renowned off-piste ski route; the descent of almost three thousand metres over glaciers edged with seracs and riddled with crevasses is not one for the inexperienced.
Nestled between the Aiguilles Rouges and the Mont Blanc massif lies the alpine town of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, a haven for winter sport enthusiasts and hikers alike. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, more commonly referred to as Chamonix, hosted the first Winter Olympics in 1924. Over the past century, it has become a firm favourite amongst lovers of the great outdoors, offering everything from off-piste runs and paragliding to nature trails and via ferrata. Back in February, Laurence and I spent three days exploring this alpine wonderland – and our only regret was not spending more time there.