A 10k, Cross Country and Les Grands Montets, Chamonix, France

Eating breakfast on a partially cloudy day, we could see runners on the other side of the L’Arve River heading for the starting point of the cross-country at 8:30 a.m., and then the 10km at 9:00 a.m., both beginning at the parapente area by the Sports Center. Inhaled breakfast and walked as fast as possible to the start but missed the start by five minutes. However, we were there in time for the 10k…View image…and immediately got choked up watching the camaraderie between runners, still thinking, maybe I should have given it a shot. I miss the fellowship but don’t miss training and getting up early for races. There was also going to be a mini-cross race for children beginning at different times (between 10:30-11:00 a.m.) depending on ages.

The winner of the 10k was Erik Gramstad of Norway. Erik’s time was 38:40 and lives and works in Geneva. He also told us he runs cross-country outside of Oslo in the mountains of Norway. Erik finished at least four minutes ahead of the 2nd place finisher and said the course was very difficult from the half way point on because of water from all the rain last night. If this stalwart Norwegian found it difficult, I never could have completed the race.

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children preparing for a short Chamonix race, France

ex-Marine came up with the great suggestion to take the Plan Praz lift up to watch the finishers of the Cross du Mont-Blanc (the cross-country), at 2016m. It couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes after reaching the top of the lift that we saw the first runners in the distance making their way towards 2016m. The announcer kept crying, incroyable (incredible) over and over again and it was incredible. Martin Echitler, DEU (Germany) ran a 23 km x-country in an absolutely unbelievable, 1:56:42. An astonishing time for 23 km, that began at the Chamonix altitude of at 1036m, continued up to 1248m, 1413m, 1897m, and ended at 2016m.

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watching and waiting for the cross-country runner on Planpraz, Chamonix

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runners struggling up the mountain to the finish in Chamonix, France

This was one of the most incredible athletic events I’ve ever witnessed with the 2nd place man only a few minutes behind. From viewpoints, we could see some of these awesomely fit runners (walking occasionally) struggling up the mountain. I was totally wrung out just watching and knowing that it usually takes us around 2:20 to hike up a mountain with a 2,000′ plus gain that is perhaps only 2-3 miles in actual distance. Totally incroyable. …View image

Back down the mountain and on the 12:07 p.m. bus to Les Grands MontetsView image. These huge cable cars just opened today and run about every 20 minutes. The ascent from Argentiere is in two stages – the Lognan tram and then Grands Montets tram which take you high above the Glacier d’Argentiere with supposedly spectacular sights of the Aiguille Verte and more snowfields but I’m a little dubious. It was becoming cloudy and by the time we changed from the Lognan (a four minute ride)…View image… and continued ascending in the Grands Montets tram, you couldn’t see a darn thing. A very interesting sign warning about avalanche dangers for even pedestrians…View image…before walking out on the viewing platforms.

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the Grands Montets tram going into the clouds, France

Almost a complete white-out on the platform and we could barely make out a few teeny figures of mountaineers making their way into the clouds and fog on the glaciers. Other climbers were sitting on the platform with crampons, ropes and ice axes who had obviously finished and were eating and resting. If I had to pick …one of these things is not like the other… specific to the Chamonix area, it would be the amount of men and women mountaineering. In over 35+ years traveling around Europe, I’ve never seen this.

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white out at Les Grands Montets, France

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mountaineers up at Les Grands Montets, France

It was -0 Celsius at the top…View image, darn cold, and we didn’t linger since you there was nothing to see. Back down to the middle and clear at this point, there were great looking hiking trails leading in all directions and I’m sorry we didn’t have a chance to experience hiking this area. The tram operator told us about large Marmot colonies at the middle station. We went to look for them, heard whistled warnings but didn’t see these little varmints. It’s only a five-minute walk to Argentiere…View image… (stupendous views of the Glacier d’Argentiere deep in the valley) from the tram where we caught the train back to Chamonix. Argentiere is also a big ski destination in the winter with many long runs.

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a small portion of Glacier d’Argentiere, France

There had to have been a minimum of 70-80 screaming and shouting young children with little suitcases and chaperones, fighting their way on the train while we tried to get off in Chamonix, heading home after a little holiday in the mountains.

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