Birthplace of western mountaineering, location of the inaugural Winter Olympics, basecamp for the first annual Yamnuska Mountain Adventures Alpine Camp in September 2015, and Chapter 7 of Barry Blanchard’s book, The Calling, A Life Rocked by Mountains.
Could it get any better? Two weeks in Chamonix with Barry Blanchard, Yamnuska Associate Director, and legendary backcountry chef Theresa Calow at the Chalet Chintalaya.
What made this camp so great? It was easy. In every way. First, having a dedicated chalet meant we arrived in Chamonix (via Geneva) and just had to settle in for a week (or two). The chalet is comfortable and tidy, sleeping 12 in shared rooms, each with its own ensuite bathroom and shower. Not only did we have views of Mont Blanc from our rooms, we had the option to gaze at the “Blancster” (as Barry nicknamed it) from the hot tub in the garden. And it was located within minutes of the two principal telepheriques in the valley – the Aiguille du Midi and the Brevent.
Having Barry Blanchard in residence, assisted by Andrew Wexler ACMG Yamnuska guide, meant that the alpinists climbed legendary mountaineering routes such as Cosmiques Aretes, Mont Tacul and Le Tour. For rock climbers, Barry and Andrew guided multi-pitch routes including L’Index, Aiguillette d’Argentiere and Hotel California on the Brevent side of the valley. Alas, the “Blancster” was out of condition this season, as the Chamonix Guides Bureau closed the standard route due to extreme rock fall (a consequence of melting ice due to climate change).
For self-guided hikers, there are hundreds of trails, both in the valley and higher up for greater views. Hikers in our camp ticked off the Grand Balcon Nord, the Grand Balcon Sud, the Nid d’Aigle above Les Houches and the meadows around Grand Montets.
All agreed that having the marvelous system of gondolas, lifts and telepheriques throughout the valley, got us to beautiful high places, in minutes, and saved our knees, both on the ascent and the descent! Best of all, there’s always a café or refuge within minutes of the lifts and the trails, to grab a coffee and sweet treat, or a beer and savoury snack at the end of the day. Not to mention that the lift system allowed us to be back at the chalet in time for appetizers and wine!
“It was the perfect alpine adventure, in every way!” Jo Dean H.
Then there was the food! Theresa Calow worked hard in the kitchen to serve up healthy, delicious and varied meals throughout the week, including dishes like baked French toast and chocolate croissants for breakfast, and creamy pasta topped with scallops to accompany roasted herb chicken and asparagus for our evening meal. Theresa cheerfully accommodated individual food preferences which included gluten free, vegetarian, non-vegetable lovers and lactose free foods. We packed our lunches from a sumptuous lunch buffet set out each morning following breakfast.
The camp was designed to accommodate both alpinists desiring professional guiding, as well as self-guided hikers. Participants had the option of choosing one or two weeks.
“Barry’s been guiding me for over 20 years, and this was one of the best adventures – classic routes on snow and granite, a cozy chalet to call home for a week, and excellent meals. I was well looked after.” John B.
Due to the great success of this camp, Barry and Theresa are reprising another Chamonix adventure in 2016. This is your opportunity to be guided by internationally certified Yamnuska guides Barry and Andrew, to be gastronomically spoiled by Teresa, and to be bowled over by the splendour and majesty of the Mont Blanc range and the Chamonix Valley.
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YMA Chamonix 2015 Trip Report