Chamonix Diaries: Day 3, June 1st 2017

Chamonix was a little cooler today, and the skies were moody. My legs felt pretty cooked from yesterdays run (and the prior days accumulative efforts), so I spent the morning working, before heading out for a coffee to do some personal emails etc around midday. Chamonix is in the flux of seasons, with the end of the snow season, and not quite the Summer of running/hiking. Lots of shops are closed for a few weeks (including the coffee shop that was recommended to me), but the town still hums. I’ve been visiting a cafe with a stunning view of Mont Blanc and the Glacier. None of the staff are locals, all either Kiwi or American by the sounds of things. The coffee is good, and they have some nice places to either lounge in the sun or sit inside, all with mountain views. It’s a nice break for me during the middle of the day, when the sun beams down on where I have been working most of the morning. Sitting in the sun is great, however my computer heats up, and the glare is pretty bad, which isn’t the most conducive when majority of my job is quality checking hundreds of documents.

There are a couple of big supermarkets here, with some great produce. I even found Tim Tams (the Aussies will understand the significance here) in one, which have proven to be a delightful snack post run. Chamonix is a cool town, with a unique vibe. Not like other mountain towns, definitely bigger and with a presence that is equal to its reputation. North Face, Salomon, Patagonia, plus other big brands alongside large alpine/mountain sport stores litter the streets. Then cafes, restaurants, and a few other shops and stores There is a mix of influences here, predominately French and Italian, with a splash of German. Chamonix is in France, but Italy is a stones throw away, Geneva the closest airport and like I found in Cortina, a German influence infused slightly too. It’s great mountain town, and I really feel at home here. The only other place that has spoken to me with such depth, is Flagstaff. Flag still remains number one for me, but Chamonix is a definitely second. It is incredibly friendly, and holds a great energy. I’m sure it is different in peak season, but for right now, it’s perfect.

Being in between seasons, the trails are essentially empty. A few lone hikers, a runner or two, but for majority of my runs, I’m alone. This afternoon I ran up to Plan Praz, and continued up the switchbacks aiming to tag the summit at Brevent. I got pretty close, before having a ton of snow to deal with, covering the trail. The snow was melting, but there was still a lot of it, which meant progressing to the summit was difficult. I scrambled around for a bit, before making the call to turn back. I had come up pretty minimally gear wise, so really wasn’t prepared to spend time messing around in the snow. I couldn’t see any other paths up (I may have missed one), so happy with my efforts, enjoyed cruising back down the switchbacks to Chamonix. The sun came out, warming me up again as I hammered down. I startled two Ibex feeding on the grass, and just enjoyed the stunning views as Chamonix came closer and closer. This was an easy effort run, one which I thoroughly enjoyed (although that’s the same for all my runs here). I’d run most of these trails before, but still appreciated the simple beauty mettled with the sheer mountains. Disarmingly beautiful, Chamonix trails are legit. Big climbs, lots of technical running, and at this time of the year, contending with snow up top at points. Which isn’t uncommon for alpine trails. I really wanted to tag Brevent today, and whilst I felt comfortable being up there, there was a narrow crossing with a vertical dropoff, which I just didn’t think running across would have been smart. The snow up top has been mixed. Some you can easily run across, whilst other parts I would slide around, drop knee deep into, or lose footing and balance. With a narrow margin to cross, despite being so close (and having gotten up that far with the snow), I had to ensure ‘Summit Fever’ didn’t take control. For those that don’t know what I am talking about, ‘Summit Fever’ is essentially when the goal of hitting the summit overrules any other notions of safety or logic. This was low scale risk, but none the less important to recognise and be mindful of. It was nearing 530PM, and I was alone up there with only a light jacket. So with nothing to prove, I happily turned around. It can be easy to take the mountains for granted, and to forget how unyielding and unforgiving they are. There are too many stories of far more experienced alpinists and mountain runners than me, taking one risk to many, and having to deal with dangerous and often fatal consequences.

Day three has been a success, and I am looking forward to the weekend where I will get to spend a good 5-8 hours in the mountains, exploring some new trails. Legs are feeling good, and body is agreeing with this training. Couldn’t be happier. It’s now June, which means Western States is only a few weeks away. See you in Squaw!

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