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Strolling Mont Blanc's Balcony, July 7, 2013

Our final day of trekking, and the final day of real vacation (the next two days will be transition/travel days).  I'd say our trek designer saved the best for last, except it's all been pretty fantastic.
 
We took a cable car to the very top of Aiguille du Midi, the needle mountain in the middle of the Mont Blanc massif.  This involves three stages -- cable car to the middle station (where we will start the balcony trail after visiting the top), different cable car to the top station, elevator through the middle of the rock to the very top of the needle mountain.  (I left out the intermediate stages of waiting in line with a gazillion other tourists and climbers to get on the cable cars and elevator!). Saw many many climbing parties going up and down from their ascent of Mont Blanc, some climbing steep ice slopes, others trekking across a snow plain that actually looks kinda doable for folks like us.

Aiguille du Midi (see tower at very top)
Aiguille du Midi (see tower at very top)
 
Mont Blanc climbers
Mont Blanc climbers

Back down to the middle cable car station, which is one end of the balcony trail.  This trail winds its way around the flank of Mont Blanc through small plateaus and large rock fields.  You cross quite a few little streams running down from the glaciers.  The trail is pretty easy walking, as long as you're not constantly looking at the view.  The trail ends at Mer de Glace (sea of ice), the river-of-ice type of glacier we saw so many of in Alaska. 
 
A cog railway took us back down to town at this end of the trail for a stroll through the upper-end shopping opportunities in the town of Chamonix.  Another five-course dinner provided as part of the night's accommodation, including roast lamb, cheese course and a large dessert buffet.  Unfortunately we won't be able to pretend anymore that we're on a net-zero calorie intake, as the trekking part of the adventure is over.

Chamonix down below
Chamonix down below
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