20 August 2012

riding the rails in the Alps

I was happy to see that  
Gabrielle at Design Mom was hosting another Love the Place You Live series. I require very little encouragement to wax poetic about where we live. We love it here. The idea of the series is to get out and enjoy a place close to home, share about it and link up with others that did the same. Félix and I have been meaning to hop on the TMB, the Tramway du Mont Blanc for ages. The timing couldn't be better.  Well, maybe our timing was a wee bit off. When we went to pick up our tickets, we missed the train that was at the station by about 30 seconds.  To make the most of it, we sat down at the little railway café to enjoy a coffee in the sunshine while waiting for the next train to arrive.

The rail line was inaugurated in 1909 and is the highest railway in France. It is also one of the steepest. In only 12 km (7.5 miles) of track, it climbs 1798 meters (5866 feet).  Our train wasn't too full but the early morning trains are usually packed with climbers heading up to start the long trek to the summit of the Mont Blanc. The original idea was to build a train that would go all the way up to the top of the Mont Blanc. Can you imagine?  The early 1900s were such a lofty time of industrial revolution. However, the project faced financial difficulties and with the arrival of the First World War, the idea to go all the way up was definitively abandoned. 

Each one of the three trains that run on the line are named after the operators daughters, Jeanne, Anne and Marie. The railcars are beautiful with polished wood benches and big windows that open to let in the fresh alpine air.

The train winds through the forest climbing up higher and higher until out peaks the most gorgeous panoramas of the Mont Blanc, the Bionnassay Glacier and the Aiguille du Midi.  It rolls through alpine meadows and then heads into a tunnel before reaching its terminus.

We hopped off the train at Mont Lachat stop.  The train can go all the way up to the Nid d'Aigle (The Eagle's Nest) but due to intense melting and glacial activity of the Bionnassay glacier the rail line has had to close and have some work done.

Meanwhile, the wildflowers have happily moved in and taken advantage of the slow down in train traffic. 

We hiked up and up and up further.  It was such a beautiful day.  Félix set a perfect pace as we followed the switchbacks through the rock fields. We walked along until ice axes and crampons were required to go any further.

There has been a lot more rock fall this year with the hot, hot temperatures.  Helmuts were a must at this point, too.  After savoring the amazing view over a snack break, we headed back down and just happened to make a new friend.

We came across this good-looking fellow. He's a bouquetin, a european mountain goat. He was pretty mellow. And no, that's not zooming in, we were really that close. He checked us out for a bit and then trotted off towards his buddies that were busy sunning themselves on the rocks a bit higher up.

This was such a fun day trip.  I feel like the mountaineering bug bit me with this one. Félix and I wanted to keep going up and up and up.   People come from all around the world to visit where we live. We are so lucky to have all this just outside our back door.  And who knows, maybe the next time we're on that train, we will be heading to start our long trek toward the mountain huts before taking on the summit of the Mont Blanc.  What do you think, would you want to join us?

p.s.  For my other favorite from the Love the Place you Live series, take a look here.

1 comment:

  1. such a gorgeous place. so glad that you're able to..."profites-en."


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