Andy, my room mate, who is just embarking on a career as a maths teacher after being an engineer for eight years.
Four friends from around the globe:
Tony - a champion swimmer, and Donovan - a tall metallurgist, have flown all the way from Johannesburg for the trip, whilst Grant has come from Brisbane! Michael has had the shortest journey - from London.
There was no sign of our Jagged Globe leader, so we nipped into Chamonix for some group bonding over 'wonderful cold lagers'. By the time we got back, Dave had come - and gone back home for dinner with his wife. Fair enough. He had left Mara, the JG Chamonix 'Alpine Coordinator' to look after us. And she did. We got a good meal, after which the jet-lagged members of the party disappeared and Andy and I rummaged through our bags, looking for stuff to discard.
This morning Andy and I enjoyed a lie in until 8 o'clock before enjoying what can only really be described as a sumptuous breakfast at Hotel La Chaumiere. Dave was waiting for us after that, and whilst the overnight rain persisted outside we sorted technical kit - boots, crampons, ice axes, climbing harnesses, etc in the basement. I have all that kit, as does Andy, but the others needed to borrow/rent/buy some items, so it was a while before we emerged to a dry world. Luckily the rain had stopped, Mara gave us a lift into Chamonix and then on to Argentière. After hectic shopping (gear/lunches) for the others and a jog up to Balcon du Savoy for me, as I'd forgotten to turn the water off at J+J's apartment yesterday, it was good to jump on the cablecar for the 2000 metre ascent to Grand Montets.
Just below the top station, at a literally breathtaking 3300 metres, a steep patch of snow beckoned. This would be our home for the next 2-3 hours, whilst Dave - who is highly experienced and will be a great guide - put us through our paces by way of an introduction to ice axe, crampon and ropework techniques in a glacial environment. Lunch (pictured) was taken in a relatively sheltered spot by some rocks, with the Dru as a backdrop. It wasn't as cold as I'd expected; for example my Sealskinz gloves were more than adequate, despite a cool wind, so my kit for the trek will be refined later.
Then, after a welcome hot chocolate at the top café, we descended to Argentière for a beer before returning to La Chaumiere by train, with Dave going home and the other five stopping in Chamonix for more shopping.
Tomorrow morning our packed rucksacks will be emptied in front of Dave, and items deemed unnecessary will fail to make the 'cut' for our trek. That session could be quite entertaining, and I'm sure my gear won't be exempt from the discard pile!
Then we go to le Tour, for a 'Telesiege' to near Col de Balme, from where we start the trek. All very leisurely. So far!
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