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Todmorden, England, United Kingdom
November 7, 2002
It can be done in either direction, but we started at Chamonix and caught a bus through the Mont Blanc tunnel to the base of the cable-car from Courmayeure to point Helbronner. Obviously most of the bustrip gives very limited scenery indeed, but this is just to get in position for the marvels. The ascent to Pointe Helbronner would be a thing to remember in its own right if it was not immediately overshadowed by the telecabine section.
There are trips up to the Pointe every 20 minutes, and the top is 3,462 metres high. You get off into a world of snow and giant peaks, many above 4,000 metres. We were in clouds initially, and after a short time the sun broke through. The magic of the moment could well have been shattered as a 14 year old voice came out with "Ah, le soleil" in what was clearly a school send-up of the French. Far from engendering any irritation, however, it spurred on most of the queue to make competitive noises of the same ilk. Moreover the queue instantly diminished as the appeal of staying around magnified many times.
From here the most wonderful part of the trip starts, a fairly slow swing across from Pointe Helbronner to Aiguille de Midi. The fact that it is an international trip is not very significant. This high icefield, with its crevasses virtually a world apart, was phenomenal. It's about five kilometres and it took a good half-hour to do the trip.
The last section of the trip was a bit more rushed than we should have wished because it was getting near to closing time, a result of insufficient planning on our part. As a consequence my ears were popping more than they should have, but nothing could spoil the magnificence of the descent. It is always good to get down and look back up to what you have done, but our main feeling was one of regret that it was over.
Except for the brief period of freezing before the sun broke through, every moment was a delight!
From journal A quickie to Chamonix
by James Vaughn
December 23, 2001
The best ski areas by far were Le Brevent and Les Grand Montets. Being less liability-conscious than their American counterparts, the resorts in Europe have a very liberal out-of-bounds policy. Translation: there is none. You are basically free to go wherever you feel is within your ability. My most amusing (and slightly harrowing) experience came at Le Brevent when I met up with a fellow American and decided to try out some of the chutes. We shared a chairlift ride where we were able to see a number of chutes on our way to the top. We picked one out which was fairly steep, but appeared to be wide enough to at least carve some decent turns. The terrain looked much different from the top, however, and we ended up entering the wrong one. The chute narrowed down to about three meters wide, and was extremely steep with rock outcroppings on both sides. After a little praying and alot of sideslipping, however, we made it to the bottom relatively unscathed.
From journal Meet Me in Chamonix