Tour du Mont Blanc :: Meeting The Group

Up at a reasonable hour and had a good breakfast with bread, yoghurt, fruit, boiled eggs etc. Set off back to the airport to meet the rest of the group who were arriving at around 11:00. After a bit of trial and error with different Exodus reps, we found our group and started the introductions.

Once everyone had arrived we piled onto a bus with the “hotel lot” – another group doing the same route, but staying in hotels rather than camping – and set off for Chamonix. We came into Chamonix from the south, dropped the hotel group off and continued on to our camp site at Le Praz where we met Charlie and Liz, our mammy and daddy for the fortnight.

Our camp site at Le Praz was Camping Mer de Glace, a 30 min walk from Chamonix beside a decent sized glacial river. Interestingly it was also beside one of the region’s mountain rescue centre, so helicopters were buzzing in and out the whole time. Clean, hot showers, somewhere to charge phones and cameras, free internet kiosks and wifi. One of the best, in retrospect.

At the camp site we were introduced to what would become a familiar sight – a big green van, a big white mess tent, a little cooking tent and ten two-person “3 second” Quechua dome tents. Our home for two weeks, which would have to be packed up every morning and re-assembled every afternoon.

We were quickly assigned our tents, shown how to take them down, given a quick overview of what gear we need and some other formalities before doing the usual group introduction thing. For once in my life, I concentrated on names and actually remembered everyone’s name straight away – Janina, Felicity, Neil, Valerie, Vanessa, Omar, Brian, Dean, Zen, David, Gary and Teresa.

The Group

The Group

All that out of the way, we were allowed wander off down the river to Chamonix for the afternoon. Everyone naturally split up into smaller groups, had some lunch and wandered around the shops.

We bought ourselves 1.5l water bottle (forgot our own one) and bought Catherine a second fleece and a nice, reasonable McKinley 35l rucksack, abandoning our plan of me carrying a day pack for both of us and her carrying a small CamelBak with the water. Definitely turned out for the best, since we often got a little split up and wanted sun cream or a jacket or whatever.

Back at the camp site we had Liz’s dinner of salad, bread, tomatoey lentil stew (suprisingly tasty) followed by fruit salad and cream. Drink for the fortnight worked by taking a can of beer or a bottle of wine from a cool box and paying either €3 or €5 into the kitty, which turned out to be a nice and relaxed system.

After dinner, Charlie showed us Exodus’s “system” of washing up which seemed to mortify the poor guy. Made sense with lots of people, though. Wash most of the stuff off in one sink, pass it to the next person to wash properly, pass it on to rinse in the next sink and then dry and pack it all up in crates. That way, we found 6 or 7 people would fly through it.

Charlie briefed us on the next day’s walk and everyone sat around chatting, mainly about their previous travels. It was quite strange sitting there listening to people rave on about the likes of Jordan and South America. We consider ourselves fairly well traveled, but some of the older people in the group had been to heaps of places we’d never even considered. Neil and Valerie, the only other couple in the group, seemed to have done a lot of trekking trips all around the world.

Neil and Valerie ... and The Pink Egg

Neil and Valerie … and The Pink Egg

Early to bed at around 10pm, as would become the norm and discovered the flip side to keeping yourself well hydrated while camping … getting up and dressed and heading to the loo in the middle of the night is a bit of a chore …

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