Sunshine was the forecast so we set off early to make the 70 minute drive to Chamonix.
Yes, today we were visiting Mt Blanc, the highest mountain in France.
All the advice on the Internet said "Go early, the weather can deteriorate later in the day ", so we arrived in Chamonix around 9:30, spotted the sign for Agueille de Midi, parked and were almost first in the queue for the first trip of the day.
About 25 people squashed into the cable car for the first stage of the journey which takes you to 2000metres.
You then transfer to another cable car and travel to the next stage at 3000 metres.( By now your ears have popped and you are beginning to feel a little light headed because of the altitude. )
But that's not all folks!
Now you get into a lift with about 8 other people and you travel the last metres through the middle of the mountain and come out on the top level at 3800+ metres!!
( I felt a bit off. Slightly dizzy and a little nauseous but it soon passed.)
AB - SO- LUTE- LY SPECTACULAR. !!!
We hit the jackpot! The sky was blue, blue, blue.
The snow on the mountains was dazzling.
It was COLD !
You could see huge mountains in all directions
Even the Matterhorn, a sight only few are lucky enough to chance.
We were among the first people there today. No crowds elbowing for the spot on the railings to see the view.
We took hundreds of fantastic photos.
We phoned the kids to say hello from the top of Mt Blanc !
We oohed and aahed and took another hundred photos.
I heard a couple of Aussie accents and found a fellow Brisbane-ite !!
After a while we descended to the second level for a hot chocolate -still feeling slightly woozy when faced with climbing stairs.......
And then the excitement began !
For the first time in 20 years the cable car had broken down!!
The one taking you down the last 1000 metres ! So we were all stranded on the mountain.
Naturally, no more people were able to go up the mountain. Such a shame as the weather was perfect.
We all had to be evacuated by helicopter !!!
Needless to say it was a slow process. Six people at a time jammed into a tiny helicopter then plunging the last 1000metres to the ground, then back up for the next six.
The helicopter landed on about a three metre square piece of level snow where the waiting passengers were crouched low and grimly holding onto each other. The wind buffeting you as the helicopter came in to land was incredible and strong enough to send you flying back into the wet snow without the support of your fellow travellers.
Next you crouched and ran to the copter, then came the scramble to get in.
A big step up from crunchy snow that gave way as soon as you put your weight on it. So instead of getting some purchase to make the big step you ended up at an even lower level and faced a bigger step !
But time was of the essence, helicopters cost a lot to run and there were lots of people still waiting in the line. Not very elegant, we all tumbled in the helicopter.
The lady in front of me lost her hat in the wind from the helicopter.
I planted my big wet boot on the seat as I struggled to get in, then sat on the snowy seat.
Tony was last in and they had trouble fitting his long legs in and he only had about 6 inches for his bottom ( which is luckily smaller than his shoulders !) .
A lot of pushing and he was jammed in, the door was slammed shut and we were away.
Straight up about 15 feet then plunging backwards and sideways down the mountain !
We had the ride of our lives as the pilot dodged down the mountain between cable car wires going in several different directions till he deposited us at the bottom.
Out we tumbled doing that stooped run from the helicopter you see in the movies and then he was away up the mountain for the next group !
A very apologetic representative from the company met us and then issued us with vouchers for a drink ... Hot chocolate, soft drink, beer, wine ... To calm our nerves.
Calm our nerves ?
We had the ride of our lives !
What a way to end our visit to this spectacular mountain.