10th – 12th May 2015: Alps trip part 4 – Chamonix and southern Switzerland   Leave a comment

IMG_7531 Chamonix

Having left Italy and briefly driven through Switzerland, we re-entered France and headed for the lovely town of Chamonix.

IMG_7515 view of Aiguille du Midi from Chamonix

The town is dominated by the mountains of the Aiguilles Rouges, the most impressive of which is the Aiguille du Midi which has an observation platform at 3842m. This photo was taken from the town some 2,800m lower down.

IMG_7522 Margaret at Chamonix hotel

We had a spectacular view from our hotel room ….

IMG_7528 view from hotel Chamonix

…. and after dark the view just got better. The dot of light on the mountain to the right of centre is from the observatory on Aiguille du Midi, shown in the photo above.

IMG_6110 Chamonix from cable car

Margaret, who hates cable cars, stayed behind to do some shopping, whilst I took the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world (2807m) to the top of Aiguille du Midi.

IMG_6120 Aiguille du Midi

The cable car on the ascent and descent was packed. I was interested to see how many Asian tourists were visiting this area, I’m pleased that tourism is now a global affair and not just the domain of westerners.

IMG_7548 view from Aiguille du Midi

From the observation platform the views of the valley to the west ….

IMG_7546 view from Aiguille du Midi

…. and the east, were spectacular.

IMG_7545 Step into the void

Unfortunately the upper observation deck, which gives the best view of Mont Blanc, was closed for renovation until June. On the side they have fixed a glass skywalk (a perspex box) known as ‘step into the void’. If you step into it you have an unbroken 1035m drop under your feet. I’d love to have tried it although I know I would have been scared.

IMG_7581 view from Aiguille du Midi

With every step …..

IMG_7569 view from Aiguille du Midi

…. more and more magnificent panoramas unfolded ….

IMG_7570 view from Aiguille du Midi

….  in the distance the peaks of Monte Rosa, at 4634m the second highest in Europe (excluding the Caucasus) can be seen.

IMG_7580 Monta Rosa

…. and zooming in, here it is in more detail.

IMG_7552 view from Aiguille du Midi

To the south the highest peak in Europe (again, excluding the 5000m mountains in the Caucasus) can just be seen, the 4810m rounded peak of Mont Blanc.

IMG_7614 Hang-gliders

Aiguille du Midi wasn’t just used by sightseers and skiers, large numbers of hang gliders were using it to make their near 3000m descent.

IMG_7624 painting on house Chamonix

As I walked back through Chamonix I came across this building. All the balconies, windows and people are painted on. The balconies look so three-dimensional, but if you look at the shadows cast by the real balconies on the front you can see that are thrown in a different direction. Nice to see they have painted a Lammergeier on there as well.

IMG_7494 Martigny

The following day we re-entered Switzerland and obtained this spectacular view over the town of Martigny in the Rhone Valley.

IMG_7497 Martigny

Zooming in revealed a fascinating pattern of parallel lines.

IMG_7633 the Matterhorn from Zermatt

Although we had wonderful views of the Matterhorn from the Italian side, the most dramatic view is from Zermatt to the north. Fortunately we missed the sign that said you weren’t allowed to drive into Zermatt without a permit (and we really didn’t have the time to catch the train) but once in the town we got caught up with a load of lorries involved in delivering material for construction, so I just hopped out of the car, snapped this photo of the Matterhorn and retreated.

IMG_7641 Munster

We stayed the night in a quaint little town called Munster but we learnt that all the mountain passes between there and our destination of Interlaken were closed due to snow and/or road works. It looked like we would have a five-hour drive back to Martigny, and then north to Montreux and Bern before we reached Interlaken until we found out that we could take our car on the train.

IMG_6137 car train

So the next morning we turned up at the station at nearby Oberwald, drove onto this train and spent 20 minutes going through a tunnel ….

IMG_6133 car train

…. and then drove off again at Realp at the eastern side of the Furkapass. We still had to make a detour as far north as Lucerne before we could get to Interlaken, but it was a lot better than going via Montreux.

IMG_7661 Furkanpass

We were able to drive part the way up the Furkapass before we reached the road barrier and continued the search for high altitude species. As well as Alpine Choughs, we found some Snowfinches and Water Pipits and had brief views of an Alpine Accentor.

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