Monthly Archives: January 2013

Chamonix, France

Taking the cable cars up to Aiguille du Midi is an interesting experience. I paid 35 EUR to squeeze into a cabin with 68 strangers. I fought my way in quickly, to stand close to one of the windows. On my left, a fully equipped british couple, ready to jump off piste and climb glaciers. On my right, a group of friends with massive backpacks.

Where were they all going?

Turns out, the Aiguille du Midi is not only an amazing viewpoint, but also the start of the famous Vallee Blanche off-piste ski run over the glaciers and the access route to climbing Mont Blanc.

Can you see the people at the edge of the mountain?

Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix (France)

Chamonix, France

As I arrived at the top station, I visited several terraces that allowed to take in a 360º view of the spectacular landscape of the Swiss (Matterhorn), French (Grand Combin) and Italian Alps (Monte Rosa). 3 countries in one shot – just like that time I visited Mont Fort!).

One of the terraces was accessed by a metallic staircase – the kind in which you can look through the holes and see what’s below you – in this case, an immense vertical wall and snow. The thin air made climbing these 20 stairs feel like you’re going up 2,000 instead. From here, I could enjoy a birds-eye view of Chamonix and the surrounding valley.

Chamonix, French Alps

But I wasn’t at the highest point yet!

An elevator rose me the final 42m to the top terrace at 3,842m – only.

Chamonix, France

Which is the highest point you’ve ever reached?

Aguille du Midi, Chamonix (France)

This time I rang in the New Year in a ski resort – surrounded by extreme snow and ice sport lovers. Every day, I woke up early to drive to the slopes, get my gear and make it through a day of ski lessons and practices with as little bruises as possible.

If you are anything like me – you need a day (or two) to bring down your level of adrenaline (and lets face it, to let your muscles and bruises have a break as well). Fortunately, Chamonix has more than just slopes and ski shops. Aiguille du Midi (or Needle of the South) is a mountain in the Mont-Blanc Massif that can be accessed by two cable cars starting in Chamonix itself. The first one takes you up to the Plan de l’Aiguille (2,300m) and the second traverses Les Pelerins glacier before rising up the North side of the Aiguille du Midi, landing at an impressive 3.842m above sea level.

This, dear readers, is the closest I could get to Mont-Blanc (for now…).

Note: taking the cable car may seem like a walk in the park, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Its steepness and speed can be scary for some. Add strong winds at the top and be ready to hear some squeaks!

Growing up on a volcanic island, it’s hard not to be aware of volcanoes – not just when I studied their formation in geology, but every single morning when I stepped into my front garden and saw El Teide (a volcano located in the centre of Tenerife).

El Teide is not only the highest point of elevation in Spain, but also the third highest volcano on Earth. It is currently dormant (that is, inactive) and has been fairly stable since the last eruption in 1909 (with the exception of some seismic activity that was registered about 10 years ago). If it ever awakened, it would be highly dangerous because of its violent history and proximity to cities and towns on the island.

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

In many parts of Tenerife, the evidence of these violent volcanic eruptions is clear; forming a surreal landscape that could be (and actually has been!) the scene of many Sci-Fi Movies throughout the years – such as Clash of the Titans and Journey to the centre of the Earth).

During my last trip home, I went to explore the lava fields created from the last eruption on the island – from San José de los Llanos to Chinyero (the site of this last eruption) and back.

We began the trail amongst the shade of pine trees, occasionally allowing us to get a distant view of El Teide.

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

About an hour later, we entered the desolate lava fields that surround Chinyero and reach as far as Santiago del Teide, Garachico, Icod and Guia de Isora, through shady pine forests. The ground became a fine black gravel and, around us, a field of surreal red and black tinted rock formations.

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

The combination of pine and lava fields is extravagant – the emerald-green, black and red tones against the bright blue sky make a color palette that I immediately associate to Tenerife.

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

To anyone that has only seen volcanoes on the news, these earth’s chimneys may seem daunting, dangerous and violent. And during (as well as shortly before) an eruption, they definitely are. However, the Canary Islands is a living example of the beauty they bring to a landscape.

If you want to read more about volcanic landscapes, I recommend you to read about my trip to Lanzarote.

Practical Information

Route: From San José de los Llanos to El Chinyero (circular)
Elevation gain uphill: 445m
Elevation gain downhill: 445m
Length: l5 km
Duration: 4 – 4.5 hrs
Difficulty: Easy
Wikiloc: San José de los Llanos – Chinyero

Have you ever walked on lava fields?

Happy New Year to Everyone!

Shanghai, China

I realize I’m slightly late with my 2013 resolutions; I took the past few weeks off to celebrate the holidays at home in Tenerife and in Chamonix. But, oh well, better later than never.

My last post from 2012 summed up my the moments I am most proud of in 2012, and to kick off the start of a brand new year, I want to share my goals and resolutions.

Sailing in the Canary Islands

 

  • Be capable of skipping a small yacht for a day. In 2012, I became a competent crew through a one week experience that taught me a lot – not only about sailing, but about history, weather forecasts and the Canary Islands. This year, I aim to take the next step and become a day skipper to skip a small yacht during day time and navigate along the coast side or between islands.

 

 

  • Erase “I can’t” from my vocabulary. Henry Ford is right: Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right. Sometimes, I catch myself repeating those words when something isn’t going the way I had planned. In 2013, I won’t let those words sabotage my chances!

 

The 1001 Uses of a Map, in Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

  • Travel solo. I have traveled solo before, but these travels have always fulfilled a purpose (education or work). When it comes to leisure travel, however, I’ve always traveled with family or friends. This year, I want to step out of my comfort one and take at least 5 days off to explore a destination by myself. I’m very much looking forward to the new opportunities this will enable!

 

 

  • 15 minutes of French every day. Not investing more time and efforts in improving my french was one of the things I most regret from my two years in Switzerland – but it’s not too late. I’ve got Rosetta Stone on my laptop and french movies on my shelf, and having a french flatmate won’t hurt the process!

 

Torres del Paine, Chile

 

  • Be fit for a half marathon. I’ve never had big plans of running a marathon – but this level of fitness allows for many other physical activities that I do want to do, such as the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt. Small weekly steps will hopefully lead to big results this year!

 

 

  • Put more effort into nurturing friendships. My final goal is to focus on nurturing the relationships that make my life better, despite the distance between us. I want to spend more time with them, remember their birthdays and prepare small gestures that will make them smile.