Saturday, 21 July 2012

Chamonix Express

The build up and preparation to this trip has been on going for months new. Each of the four of us has had their own price of the puzzle to deal with to get us on the road on the 20th of July. From preparing the car down to organising the music for the iPod.

So four men(apparently), an estate with a roofbox and a, pardon the pun, mountain of kit. We have packed for every eventuality; a possible camp at high level, the alpine trek to the summit, climbing if time allows etc. We just managed to get everything in the car leaving just enough room for us to get in.

We set off at 5pm heading for a booked 0320 ferry from Dover. The ferry was my part of ship (the puns are just rolling out). The roads were good and the chat was flowing which made for the passing of time to be smooth. Driver change overs kept it broken up just enough so it wasn't laborious. Three shifts and we were at the ferry port by ten past twelve with the hope of being ushered on an earlier ferry. We were too late for the 0050 but were queued up for the 0220. A trip into the service station-esque shops at the port brought a welcome comedy WH Smith employee on the till with a Frank Spencer accent, it's not nice to laugh but post midnight it was funny. I was looking for a corner of the complex to get horizontal and get some zeds, this was not to be as it was busy and some of the areas had been closed off due to the time of night. Back to the car it was but not much sleep could be salvaged due to the goings on and loud speaker announcements of the port.

The announcement in tri-lingual format was given to prepare to board. It was when this process started our four hearts fell! As I was on the first driving stint France side I planned to find a corner and get at least an hours sleep. However with the site of a previously spotted Glasgow coach company bus boarding our ferry there was the fear of little peace. The bus contained travelling supporters of one of Glasgow most prominent football teams. We anticipated the condition of these individuals to less sober. We boarded, grabbed some comfort gear from the car and raced up the stairs to find a comfortable spot. Some nice seats with stools for our feet were procured and we settled down. I closed my eyes desperate for respite in preparation for my driving leg. This was not to be, the supporters poured into the nearby outside area to top up on beverages and inhale toxic fumes. This lead to choruses of football chanting, stamping of feet and then to a conga up the aisle in the lounge area we were sat. For us we weren't surprised but for some of the other passengers their faces did hide their thoughts.

As there was no sleep to be had the next best option was caffeine. Strong and sweet, just what the doctor ordered.

As we approach Calais the herds headed back to the vehicle deck. We disembark, me at the wheel concentrating; stay on the right! As soon as we're off the ramp and into the snaking road system the rain started, of course. As it was early morning it was still dark mixed with heavy rain and the procession of vehicles merging together it made for an interesting entrance to France. Mr T Tom led the way, and a good job he did too. There were a number of hazard flashing cars on the peripherals of the road obviously a bit unsure of the next step. We left them behind in the search for fuel as the tripometer was warning of the remaining fumes.

The rain quickly fizzled out, natural light emerged and fuel was found with some left over. We worked out fuel was cheaper, around £1.20 per litre compared to £1.32 we paid when we left. It turns out though using the direct routes on the motorway offsets the fuel saving to toll charges. A scenic route could have been navigated adding time and additional fuel consumption. We opted for the more direct costly route and with a breakfast stop and a couple of driver changes we arrived in Chamonix at around 2pm local time.

The mountains in front of were shrouded in cloud but the enormity of the area was not lost on us. This little town sat at the foot of monster slopes, most of the summits covered in white plumped up cloud.

We were introduced to our apartment for the week. All the modern consider and plenty of space for our gear thanks to the balcony, handy for smelly boots!

We then headed down to the town for a closer inspection but predominantly for beer and food. We organised our weeks cable car pass then on the way back had a look in the well stocked outdoor shops. Brands we don't get in the UK and stuff from brands like Mammut I haven't seen before. My only purchase was a map of the glacier.

Next was a visit to the guides building to check on the upcoming forecast, which was good for the next couple of days. Any longcast beyond that wasn't worth paying attention to. Following the weather in the past few weeks there was as much accuracy found in our weather.

The last pit stop was the supermarket where we stocked up on water, beer, wine, tomorrows lunch and that nights dinner. We got back to the apartment and prepared out packs for the following day whilst on site chef Rab made a chicken, chorizo and pasta dish. Excellent it was too. We chatted on the balcony. For a while wishing for just a glimpse of our goal. It did reveal itself as the sun dropped but the camera probably doesn't do it justice.

We are all looking forward to the upcoming days was just hope the mountain allows our conquest.