On our second full day in Chamonix, Caroline and I had a little adventure out to Mer de Glace. And by adventure, I mean we basically pissed ourselves in the Alps, and if that sentence doesn’t get you to read the rest of this article, I don’t know what will.
For some background, Mer de Glace is a giant glacier in the French Alps that’s right on the slopes of the Mont Blanc range. It’s also the largest glacier in France, a country that I’ve honestly never considered to be a huge glacier destination. I guess we learn something new every day?
To visit Mer de Glace, you can take a train up the mountains from Chamonix. A roundtrip ticket, including a gondola ride to Mer de Glace, will set you back around 30€ per person. There are other tours and packages available for your perusal, but that was the option we went with.
This train ride is nothing short of terrifying. You’re basically rattling unsteadily in an upwards direction that sometime, I swear, got to be, like, a 90º angle up the mountainside. Plus, there’s a cliff on one side of the train for almost the entire ride up. SAFE & FRIENDLY FAMILY FUN!!
Still, the views are beautiful. Since you take a train up to the Montenvers area, which is at 1900 meters and has a hotel, restaurants, and viewing platforms, you’re still a long ways away from the Mer de Glace and Grotto de glace [our destination].
Step two: have multiple consecutive heart attacks on a gondola.
Now, I’m normally not one to be negative, since every day is a gift and I’m beyond blessed to be where I am and doing what I do, but oh God heights scare the shit out of me. Especially when you’re [again, unsteadily] rattling down a mountainside at a 90º in nothing but a rickety little gondola held up by what is essentially some strings and science. Seriously, by the time I got off that thing, my legs were shaking—but it was only going to get worse.
]By the way, there’s a video of Caroline and me screaming our heads off in the gondola. Keep an eye out for that vlog over the next few days!]
After the gondola, you have the stairs. Ah, the stairs. Before, I’d thought the gondola was the absolute toughest test of my fear of heights/possible vertigo that could ever exist, but no. With no less than 400 [FOUR. HUNDRED!!!] steps leading down to the glacier, all of them rickety and many of them made of plastic and perforated with giant holes so you can see the exact drop beneath your feet at all times, I found myself consistently holding up foot traffic as I clung for my life to anything that would hold me up.
Additionally, I’m pretty sure the fact that I have no pictures of the stairs or myself descending them is a true testament to how genuinely afraid I was while descending them.
Anyway, despite all odds, we made it down. And… It was all worth it, somehow.
I’ve genuinely never seen anything like Mer de glace, or the ice cave open to visitors, in my life. It looks like something out of a different world, inside and out. The frozen river of ice is so shockingly blue that it looks like someone dumped a giant vat of dye in it and was like, “Here you go!”
Inside, it’s been carved out in a simple tunnel system so you can go deep into the glacier itself and touch everything. So hey, that’s one thing I can cross of the bucket list that I never realized I wanted to do!
After sprinting back up the stairs and surviving another gondola and train ride back to Chamonix, we got dinner and I bought some postcards and other trinkets to commemorate our last full day in town. With an early bus ride to Geneva the next day, we were leaving Chamonix and all of its wonders behind, but there’s always next time.
Thanks for reading, and make sure to subscribe for more travel!