Mer de Glace, 1913m ~ France's largest glacier

Chamonix Travel Blog

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Classic view from Montenvers over the tongue of the Mer De Glace glacier in the direction of Grandes Jorasses

The Mer de Glace is the largest glacier in France at 7kms long and 200m deep. This funicular railway climbs from the valley floor throught the forest to Montenvers where the impressive Mer de Glace glacier is in about 25mins. The walking trail from the station was quite short and ended abruptly at the point where there were two steel ladders going down the almost vertical granite rock face to the glacier. The other attractions here were the Hotel Montenvers, the museum, the Ice Grotto which could be reached from a gondola down onto the Mer De Glace. As we were not interested to visit the ice caves or the museum, we decided to go down onto the glacier.

The climb down the steel ladder was rather challenging, or put it this way, scary. I chose not to look down the ladder to see how far away the ground was.

Getting down the steel ladder to the glacier. See the tiny people walking on the glacier.
As it was windy and cloudy that day and the steel was quite cold, I chose to keep my gloves on which made the holding on the ladder quite cumbersome. Well, eventually, we made it down the ladders and were on the glacier!

Since we had no crampons on, the walk on the glacier was quite difficult and dangerous, of course. We avoided the crevasses and ice and walked instead on the ice mixed with gravel to get more foothold on the glacier. Apparently, there were a number of people walking or having training on the glacier.

After a lunch on the beautiful glacier, it started to drizzle and we decided to make our way back to the train station. Climbing up the steel ladder was a lot easier as one could see where one was going. Midway upwards while moving from one ladder to the next, we met three Italian guys on their way down and they were contemplating whether they should proceed downwards onto the glacier in the rain.

On the Mer De Glace glacier

Jokingly, my friend told them that women go back when it rains while men go back when the sun shines, just to make the point that men are macho. After some deliberation, the three guys decided to go ahead and hugged each other, as though they would not see each other again, before proceeding down to the ladders. It was such a funny scene actually.

Reaching the village at about 5pm, we heard that the first Ultra Trail participant had already arrived back from the 155km run. Gosh, he had taken only a mere 22hrs 44mins to complete the race. We went to the finishing point and saw the second, third and fourth participant running in. The second guy looked really tired and worn out but the third one was all smiles with no signs of fatigue and as though he was just back from a 10km jog. Each time a runner came in, the “Conquest of Paradise” was played again and this time it was even more emotional because it was like a victory after a long battle.

By the time we went for dinner at 7pm, the 10thrunner had just arrived. It must have been an exhilarating feeling for them to complete the race and what an achievement! 

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Classic view from Montenvers over …
Classic view from Montenvers over…
Getting down the steel ladder to t…
Getting down the steel ladder to …
On the Mer De Glace glacier
On the Mer De Glace glacier
Walking on the glacier - Mer de Gl…
Walking on the glacier - Mer de G…
See the group of people on the mid…
See the group of people on the mi…
We have to climb up on the ladder …
We have to climb up on the ladder…
We have to climb up the ladders on…
We have to climb up the ladders o…
Climbing up the steel ladders onto…
Climbing up the steel ladders ont…
Chamonix
photo by: mountaingirl