Monday, July 15: Chamonix
Welcome to Chamonix
I’m sitting here is Zurich waiting for my flight to Geneva. I had a pleasant flight from Boston. I sat next to a nice young woman from Zurich, and I probably got about 3 hours of sleep.
Since my flight left at 9:45pm, I figured that I would get a beverage and later a breakfast. It turns out that I got a dinner and a breakfast. The dinner cut down on my sleep time, however. I found the seats on the A330 more comfortable for sleeping that the planes I normally take in the US.
I have a very short connection in Zurich. I had to take the train from the E concourse to the A concourse, and then go through passport control. Then when I got to my gate, it was only about 10 minutes before boarding started, although it was a good half hour before the scheduled take-off time.
I have to wonder about the plane that I’ll be flying on. This is a little “internal” gate with no jetways. I’m guessing that we’ll get onto some sort of shuttle here, and then get driven to the plane. I wonder if it will be a prop plane?
Well, it turns out that the connection won’t be quite as tight as I thought it would. People were just beginning to board the shuttle bus, when the attendants started shouting “Stop! Stop!” Apparently there is some issue with the plane. It was scheduled to leave at 12:15, but now we are scheduled to get an update on the status at 12:15. This isn’t that much of a biggie for me as I don’t have a connection in Geneva, but I would like to get the traveling accomplished and arrive in Chamonix, so that I can relax a bit.
I am definitely more excited about the trip now that it has started and I’m beginning to experience it, rather than when I was fretting at home. Although I have to admit that looking at the altitude of the plane and the outside temperature as I was coming in, I could not help thinking “16,500 feet?!!! What was I thinking?!!” We’ll see how things look in Chamonix (once I can escape from Zurich :-).
Now they are just toying with us. We got on the bus and drove out to the plane. Then we sat there. They opened the doors on the bus, but told us to stay on the bus. We stood around for rather a while longer. Finally, they told us that one of the engines on the plane had had a bird strike and that it needed more inspection, so we were returning to the terminal. So here I am once again. They are getting another plane for us, but it is going to be another 45-60 minutes.
I’m getting rather hungry (it is now 1pm local time), but I don’t think there is quite enough time to wander off and look for food before we will try for a third time to board the plane.
I just got in. It has been a long day. I didn’t have to worry about falling asleep while driving, as I was so tense about driving in a foreign country where I don’t know the language, and trying to navigate at the same time. I’m about to meet the guide to talk about tomorrow’s hike. Then I need some dinner, and hopefully crash early.
Unfortunately, the Gustavia is a “quaint old” hotel, which means no A/C. I have the windows open to cool the place, but being in the center of the square, there is a lot of noise from the nightlife—music, people talking, traffic. Sleeping tonight should be interesting.
One strange thing is the way this hotel numbers the floors. I am on the third floor, and my room number is 301. But when I was walking up the stairs, it always seemed a bit off to me. Turns out that I’m on the 4th floor. There are no guest rooms on the first/ground floor, so they call the 2nd floor the “1st floor” and number the rooms there in the 100’s.
This is definitely shaping up as an adventure. Luke told us that it looked rather iffy for a summit attempt, due to the weather, but we’ll see what happens later in the week. In any event, we’ll be doing something every day. He said that the previous week, the weather was OK, but his client wasn’t up to it, so they just hiked around without going for the summit.
My climbing “buddy” summited Elbrus a week ago, so it is probable that I’ll be the weakest link.
On one hand, if we don’t go for the summit, I’ll be disappointed, as I’ve been working towards this for months. On the other hand, that would also take some of the pressure off, and it might be more enjoyable. This is definitely a case of what will be will be; just take it one day at a time.
It is strange to think that down here in the valley, we’re between 3,000 and 4,000 feet in elevation, but that you can take a cable car up to around 10-11,000 feet.
After meeting Luke and the other client (Kelvin, both from Canada), I went out to look for food. I noticed that there was a space open in the hotel parking lot. So I ran over to get my car out of the pay lot and park it here.
That was the start of the adventures. I hadn’t yet hit an ATM, so I tried to pay my parking ticket with my credit card. It didn’t work. It gave me a receipt, so I think it charged my credit card, but it didn’t give me back the ticket. Fortunately just then a guy came along (who spoke French) who wanted to pay his ticket. He couldn’t with mine gumming up the works, so he was sort of forced to help me (although he probably would have anyway). He called the help person, who ended up rebooting the machine. After that it spit out my ticket, but it still wasn’t paid. I didn’t trust the credit card, so I wandered around until I found an ATM, got some Euros, and then paid with that. Fortunately, the space was still open at the hotel parking lot.
My next adventure was trying to find food. It seems that just about every “restaurant” is a bar, and that a large number of the people here smoke. The fact that menus were all in French didn’t help much. I wandered around a bit, but nothing really caught my interest. Eventually I ended up back at the hotel restaurant/bar, where I got some Thai Chicken (not very French, I know).
Now I just want to update this trip report, check my email, and then get organized for tomorrow’s hike. Then I plan to close my windows (to try to cut down on the noise) and get some sleep.