June 20, 2022: Chamonix. Today we hike the Balcon Nord to Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice), where the glacier grinds down the north face of Mont Blanc.
“…a scene in truth of dizzying wonder… On all sides precipitous mountains, the abodes of unrelenting frost… they pierce the clouds like things not belonging to this earth.”
― Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelly
So that trail we saw from Aiguille du Midi yesterday? Today is the day; we hike, the Grand Balcon Nord (Big North Balcony) from the Plan de l’Aiguille cable car stop to Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) at Montenvers.
Mer de Glace is the largest Glacier in France, a beautiful and foreboding place. Mary Shelly visited in 1816 as she eloped with her husband, Percy. She was writing “Frankenstein” at the time, and in her story set the fateful meeting of the Doctor and his monster here on the Glacier.
Our hike was not so fateful; we enjoyed a blue skies, wildflowers, and lively marmots.
Glacier in Retreat
The impact of climate change on the glacier left us stunned.
Pictures from the early 1800’s, when the Shelly’s visited, show the valley filled with ice. By the 1988 that glacier had receded so much that a gondola was built to take visitors down to the ice. By 2015, just 27 years later, an additional 370 steps below the gondola were required. Now in 2022, there are 440 steps down, as the glacier continues to shrink. Plaques along the stairs mark the level of the glacier by year, a stark reality.
I’m glad we were able to visit this marvel. I wonder, if in 50 years, it will be there at all?