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Sunday, July 20: Chamonix to Boston

 

Epilogue: Final Thoughts

I joked before the trip that if the climbing didnít kill me, the stress would. That turned out to be not that much of a joke. In the end, the climbing wasnít nearly as bad as dealing with the stress and the lack of sleep which resulted.

In light of the stress and the effort that the climb required, I would definitely say that this was my last “big mountain” climb. I canít think of any peak that would merit putting myself through this level of stress again.

But I can finally say, that although it was very difficult for me, I finally did manage to summit Mont Blanc as my big mountain climbing swan song.

Part of me wishes that I could have summited via the more technical route (from Midi) and experienced the technicality of it, but realistically the Gouter route was probably the more appropriate one for me. At least I donít have to worry about “chickening out” of the more technical route; due to the avalanche danger, that route was not available.

It turns out that climbing Mont Blanc via the Gouter route is very similar to climbing Mount Rainier:

Mont Blanc

Mount Rainier

le Nid d'Aigle

7,756

Paradise

5,400

Tete Rousse

10,390

Aig du Gouter

12,523

Camp Muir

10,080

Bivouac Vallot

14,311

Mont Blanc

15,781

Mount Rainier

14,411

Climb Day 1

4,767

Climb Day 1

4,680

Climb Day 2

3,258

Climb Day 2

4,331

Total Climb

8,025

Total Climb

9,011

One starts out roughly 2,400 feet higher on Mont Blanc, the first dayís climbs are almost identical in terms of height gained, and then on the summit climb, Mont Blanc is about 1,000 feet less, although the final altitude of Mont Blanc is about 1,400 feet higher.

For future reference, I decided to compare the effective (including fees) exchange rate between four different means: One was the currency exchange desk at Logan, one was ATM withdrawals, and one was buying things with VISA in Euros, and the last was buying things with VISA in dollars.

Not surprisingly, by far the worst rate was at the exchange desk. This was more than 14% more expensive than the other two methods. Both VISA and ATM withdrawals were roughly comparable, although the ATM was on average about ĺ% better. I only have one data point for buying things with VISA, but having the merchant put it through in dollars. This was marginally worse than the worst VISA in Euros.

Interestingly, I wondered if there was a difference based on the amount (e.g. that large amounts were better than small amounts). This turned out not to be the case. In fact, the best rate I got at the ATM was for 20 Euro. For the ATM, there seemed to be no correlation between the amount and the exchange rate. Perhaps it depends on the bank? The variation was also about ĺ%. The same is basically true for VISA purchases. Most were fairly comparable, but the largest one was about ĺ% worse.

So the short answer seems to be to avoid the exchange at the airport. Either ATM or VISA are comparable, but there is a slight advantage to using the ATM and buying with cash. Based on skimpy data, it looks like it is better to charge things in Euros (and let VISA do the conversion) rather than having the merchant do the conversion and charging you in dollars.

But all of the differences between the various VISA/ATM methods are within a percent or two. The big (but not surprising) message is to stay away from the kiosks in the airport if possible. It is much better to hit an ATM at your destination.

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Sunday, July 20: Chamonix to Boston