Chamonix-storing gear

11:06 a.m. on May 28, 2009 (EDT)
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Have a trip planned to Chamonix in July to hike the Mont and some of the other trails. Trying to go self contained but may have some extra travel stuff that we won't need on the hikes (attire for airplanes and possibly a few in town nights). Anyone know of a place in Chamonix that we may be able to rent a locker or some space for several days at a time to keep our non-essential gear. Would appreciate any help.

D.

11:51 a.m. on May 28, 2009 (EDT)
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You can store gear at the train station ("gare") , as you can in most train stations in Europe. Some of the hotels will also store gear, as will the youth hostel ("AJ" in French). If you stay at the hotels or hostels, they usually will store your bags for free, where the train station will charge a small fee per bag (1 or 2 euros - I have had them count my sleeping bag strapped to an external frame pack as a separate bag).

If, by "the Mont", you mean Mont Blanc, be aware that this is a serious mountain that involves crossing a seriously crevassed glacier. It is a climb, not a trail hike. You will need crampons and an ice ax, plus be on a rope with partners who know how to do crevasse rescue. Yes, people do it solo all the time, but people (and bodies) get hauled out of crevasses on the Bosson several times a week in summer, and people get caught in the almost daily afternoon storms. There are some really beautiful hikes on the trails up to the Plan d'Aiguille, to Montenvers, across the valley, and elsewhere that give spectacular views of the glaciers and close-up of the Aiguilles.

Don't forget that July 14 is Bastille Day, France's National Holiday. The French take their summer "vacances" and holidays very seriously. Cham can be very crowded during July.

12:43 p.m. on May 28, 2009 (EDT)
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Bill,

Thanks for the quick response. Yes I did mean Mont Blanc. We are experienced winter climbers, well versed in crampon, axe, and rope use, and have some glacier experience, but I understand your concerns. I have read some horror stories of both the prepared and unprepared, many that have made me cringe. We intend to climb the mountain and then hike the area. Bad choice of words on my part.

We are well prepared, HOWEVER I neglected to catch the Bastille day date, (being from Canada I should have remembered that one) so I much appreciate the info. We are leaving the US on the 12th and will be in Chamonix for the 14th. I think with this in mind we may now climb the mountain near the end of the trip and not the beginning, to try to avoid at least some of the crowds. We have been looking at the Haute route for some time, which also sounds like a beautiful adventure.

Any good tips on the climb or on any hikes would be appreciated.

Did not expect a response so fast. Very much appreciate your info.

Cheers

D.

3:11 p.m. on May 31, 2009 (EDT)
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There are some alternate routes, which you can get from any of the many guidebooks on the Mont Blanc area. The standard route tends to get crowded all summer. I would suggest you join Club Alpin Francais to get the member discount if you are not members of Canadian Alpine Club (I think ACC has reciprocal hut privileges). Couple of nights in a hut discount pays for the membership, plus allows you to make reservations. You can do the climb from the Plan d'Aiguille and back in a day if you start about 1-2 AM, but it is easier if you stay at the hut halfway up the Bosson (mob scene when I was there!!). Several good campgrounds in town these days (crowded in summer, of course). The hostel used to be good (haven't been there in years). For hotels, the Hotel Albert 1ere looks kindly on climbers, if you aren't too scruffy (or used to anyway).

There are so many hikes and scrambles that you can pretty much head up one side of the valley or the other and take your choice. The Mere de Glace is an interesting hike - on the glacier, so ropes, crampons, etc are needed for safety. Take the train to Montenvers, climb down the loooonnnnng stairs (glacier has receded a lot), and start hiking up the valley (you might want to plan on staying at a hut if you want to do the whole thing).

Hopefully, Brian in SLC will chime in here, since he has been there more recently than I have.

10:36 a.m. on June 1, 2009 (EDT)
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The mer de glace sounds inviting. We intend to bivy as much as possible and avoid the huts. Do the Campgrounds in Chamonix require reservations? I'm assuming they do, especially around Bastille day.

Im going to look into Plan d'Aiguille route. Thanks for the tips.

11:53 a.m. on June 1, 2009 (EDT)
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I never had reservations for any campground I stayed at in Europe. As long as you could find a spot large enough for your tent and paid the fee, they let you stay. In the old days in Cham, you could pitch your tent in the Biolay and avoid paying any fee. But then the Biolay is some sort of amusement park these days. Too bad, since it was a very short walk to the Bar Nat (primary climbers hangout). Only campground we stayed at that was "organized" was in downtown Hamburg, where the tents had to be lined up in nice, neat rows (something about the German approach to things, I suppose).

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