Saturday 3rd September 2011
After an early morning flight to Geneva, and transfer by road the four of us finally arrive at our starting point, Les Houches. The drive into Les Houches is lovely, with large mountains of a different character to Scotland rising up from lavish flat valleys.
Our accommodation for the night is in the Chalet-Refuge Michel Fagot, situated in the centre of the rather small town, and owned by “Oliver the Responsible”, who Jo suspects might be some kind of superhero. Turns out that “the responsible” is just a bad translation of the French word “le responsable”, meaning the person in charge. Still it’s kind of a cool signature for his conformation emails.
After settling into the hostel, and having a quick lunch we start our search for a key piece of equipment which we seem to be lacking: a stove. From a previous trip in Europe we have discovered that Methylated spirits is rather hard to come by – not to mention the word being difficult to translate. For that reason we did not bother to bring our Trangia Stove, but instead decided to by a gas stove locally. That way we could be sure that buying extra fuel would not be a problem.
We start our search for a stove round Les Houches, but finding the town small (although the road does go on quite a way before you reach the supermarket) the cheapest stove we can find is way out of our price range. Fish and Alan volunteer to take the bus up to the next slightly larger town of Chamonix where they manage to acquire a cheap €17 gas stove at the “Super U” supermarket. Meanwhile Jo and Jen socialise in the hostel, finding the owner Oliver very friendly, and meeting a roommate who introduces himself as “Pear” – not sure what his real name is, but we’re too polite to question further. Pear tells us of his plans to climb Mont Blanc when the weather clears, something which appeals to us all, though none of us have any winter mountaineering experience.
On returning from their trip to Chamonix, Alan and Fish set out to cook some kind of squash concoction which brings about some odd remarks about, “English cusine”. We spend the evening drinking hot chocolate while Jo enthusiastically instigates a planning session where she goes over the two possible routes for tomorrow. We decide on the standard route, not wishing to push ourselves too hard on our first day. Fish and Alan look rather like zombies having got very little sleep the night before due to staying up very late packing, and getting up very early for the flight.