The Montenvers Glacier

The Montenvers Glacier or Mer de Glace resides below the peak of Mont Blanc and is accessible via railcar from Chamonix, France.

While snow and storms prevented a trip to the peak of Mont Blanc, we found the Montenvers railway still running, taking us over the giant mountain and through the fog to the socked-in mountain railway station. From there we took a five minute gondola down to a viewing platform where the glacier below became visible. From that platform it was another 485 steps down to the glacier itself and the caves carved into the ice.

10-Chamonix

Left: Montenvers railway, Right: gondola ascending into the clouds

IMG_3826

Molly’s parents

01-IMG_3837

Montenvers railway

02-IMG_3866

Entrance to the glacier, covered in a layer of dirt from the surrounding mountains

Every year the number of steps from the platform to the glacier increases as the glacier shrinks in size. On the rocks along the steps there are signs indicating the height of the glacier in previous years and as you descend, you begin to comprehend the massive amount of ice melt that has occurred in the last 20 years and continues to accelerate. Yet the glacier is still so massive and so heavy that it moves 300 feet a year, more than a foot per day during the summer.

04-IMG_3868

Molly’s mom standing at the height of the glacier in 2010

03-IMG_3864

More of the Mer de Glace

The glacier expanded rapidly during the Little Ice Age that lasted from the 16th to 19th century and even extended all the way into the Chamonix Valley. The glacier was a large source of tourism for Chamonix with painters, poets, historians and scientists flocking to one of the world’s easiest accessible glaciers.

Visiting the glacier today is still pretty cool. Even in the cold rain and fog the massive sheet of ice was overwhelming in size. And there’s a fantastic Glaciorium nearby (the best Glaciorium I’ve ever seen) that explains the formation and life-cycles of glaciers. But the descent to the man-made ice caves is what makes the trip so memorable. The carved out entrance gives you the opportunity to stare into the clear blue ice and see just how solid it is and within seconds you are suddenly in a small cave completely surrounded by glacier.

05-IMG_3856

But moments later the serene and awe-inspiring is replaced with electronic music and colorful flashing tube lights and you realize that although you’re in a completely unreal enviroment, you’re still in Europe.

06-IMG_3850

Advertisements

One thought on “The Montenvers Glacier

  1. Pingback: Adam & Molly (and Tom & Barb) Go to the Alps | Adam and Molly Go

Leave a Reply, we love hearing from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s