After completing my trip around Lake Leman and eyeing the Alps from afar for a few days, I decided to face the highest peak in Western Europe upclose, also known as the 4800 meters mountainous monster. Yes folks, I was going up the Mont Blanc!
But first, I wanted to visit the small village located at the feet of the monster. Chamonix always held a special place in my heart: it is depicted in one of the funniest French Canadian movies of the 1990s (by the way, fellow Quebeckers, it is definitely pronounced Chamon-i, and not Chamon-ixe). It is a lovely little alpine village, perfect for ski holidays, filled with pâtisseries, sport equipment shops and cozy outdoor cafés. It has a very laid-back atmosphere, perfect for a pre-traumatic experience…! Too quickly my visit came to an end, and I had to make my way to the cable car station.
Nervous doesn’t even begin to describe what I was starting to feel like. You see, in addition of being scared of masks, speed, anything that owns more than four legs, and the dark, I am also deathly scared of heights (yes I know – I am one big wuss. Feel free to point and laugh). The sweaty hands, the shaky legs, the dizziness… it’s almost like a second nature to me anytime I get remotely far from the ground level.
After paying the somewhat onerous 45 euros ticket and joking with the clerks in my French Canadian accent, I walked towards the waiting area. Despite the relaxing atmosphere, my adrenaline started to peak when I entered the cable car that would get me up the Mont Blanc, to the top called Aiguille du Midi. That’s right – on the very freaking top. All 4,000 meters high. But to my big surprise, the two upward cable car rides weren’t bad at all – they were smooth enough to let me peak outside at the para-gliders and the pointy, snowy peaks.
The worst part of my adventure actually came when I saw the scariest-looking staircase of my life. What should seem like an innocent way to get to the second level of the observation terrace definitely looked like a torture device to me. Cable cars, I can do. See-through grid stairs that let me know just how far the ground is below me, not so much. But there wasn’t any other option… I went up one step at a time, probably slower than an old lady would, but I made it.
And once again, it was SO worth it. I was absolutely taken aback. It truly felt like I was standing on top of the world, mountains spreading as far as the eye can see and no sound to disturb the peaceful silence. It was just so calm! I had expected high winds and chilly temperature, but it was nothing like that. I smiled at myself, not only because of the beauty of nature that laid before my eyes, but also because I was so damn proud of myself for going up the Mont Blanc, in spite of everything.
Soon enough, my authorized half-hour was up. The ride down was, however, much faster than the way up. I swear, I thought my ears were about to explode! I didn’t feel so good when we got back on the ground, and I think the dangerous mix of high altitude, adrenaline due to fear, overall fatigue and rapid ride down all contributed to the migraine I felt for the next two days.
But even with that knowledge, I don’t think I would do things differently. Mont Blanc is too much of a big thing (no pun intended) to be missed out on! I am very proud of myself for facing this and totally recommend the experience, just for the views.
Have you gone up the Mont Blanc, or another peak in the Alps? Did you have to deal with your fear of heights or other problems?