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The Crown Jewel of Chamonix: The Aiguille du Midi

FRANCE | Monday, 5 October 2015 | Views [520]

In a shining moment of mature glory, I drank two cups of coffee on an empty stomach and raced up to freezing temperatures and thin air at an altitude of 3,842 meters, where I promptly started running up flights of stairs, fueled by excitement and adrenaline. I reached the top terrace of Chamonix's Aiguille du Midi to find a majestic panorama of the French Alps, their jagged peaks glaring with sunlit snow and striped with compacted layers of earth. I doubled over and nearly puked. Slowly, I found my way to the warm cafe and deliriously wrote post cards for half an hour while I tried to catch my breath.

While there were a number of physical factors at play, this experience was an emotional one for me. Proximity to such a harsh, unforgiving, expansive landscape is a dramatic reminder of your infinitesimal humanness. And then there is the other remarkable piece: that humans have harnessed the power to allow people to experience such a landscape regardless of physical ability. That said, there was an identifiable group of individuals with me on the cable car: sturdy, leathered folks weighed down with backpacks of gear. I watched them exit through an icy hole in the mountain and tramp down precarious, narrow trails of packed snow to go hand glide off cliffs or ice climb or snowboard down nearly vertical slopes, and I couldn't help but question their sanity. Where is the line between an adventurous spirit and tempting fate?

The Plan du Midi (halfway point between Chamonix and the Aiguille du Midi)


Tags: altitude, cable car, france, hiking, mountains, outdoors, snow

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