The Alps – Week 2

The last time I wrote a regular blog, I did so daily and I moaned a lot. This time around, I would really like to be a bit more positive. Not only would it be better for everyone involved, but I’ve also realised that I don’t really have anything to complain about (without sounding entitled). That picture is the view I’m looking at whilst writing this. I’m in the French Alps, training on some big hills.

Writing about grievances is easy, in the same way that laziness often leads to people complaining rather than taking action. So as an added constraint for myself, please call me out if I ever get too moany about anything. If I do find myself being grumpy, I suppose I’ll at least try to draw something meaningful from the topic.

I feel at home here – even more so than in London I think. I’m not sure if that’s just because it’s so pretty, or whether something does particularly resonate when I find myself in the shadow of Mont Blanc. Perhaps everyone who comes here feels the same way. Regardless, I couldn’t wait to spend time here as soon as my degree and coronavirus regulations allowed.

Included in my 26 hours of training this week, was a big, 3-hour run. If it had been flat, it would have ended up as a marathon. Instead, it was slightly under half of that. I ran up a mountain to where the trails end, the rock becomes glacier, and running (or hiking) becomes mountaineering. This spot is called La Jonction. Then I ran back.

1,700m below, I can see la jonction from where I’m now writing. I paused at the top to take a breather and to take in the views. A few minutes after I stopped, someone that I’d passed not long before the top arrived too. Of all the walkers I’d seen on the way up, he was the only one that hadn’t responded to me gasping Bonjour (or merci if they’d been kind enough to move to one side of the path). At the time, I thought perhaps he was despondent at being overtaken. He wasn’t going up slowly and he looked capable. I know from personal experience that athletes have fragile egos at the best of times. This tends to be less common in Chamonix, but perhaps he was from elsewhere, like me.

He didn’t acknowledge me when he reached the top either. He walked straight to a rock, sat down with his back to the valley and looked up towards the glacier and the mountain summits above him.

As he began to tuck into a sandwich, I realised he wasn’t just being miserable. He’d gone up there to be in the mountains, not to be around people. Sitting up there offers a feeling that I can’t really put into words. The immense scale of the mountains makes everything else seem insignificant. Problems momentarily vanish and are replaced by a sense of peace that is only interrupted by the creaking of the ice or the surprisingly frequent avalanches. It’s an escape, and it’s one that I have often found myself craving. I don’t think there are many places on Earth that offer quite the same je ne sais quoi…

That’s how I prefer to think of it anyway, maybe I did actually do something to piss him off.

The bloke on the hill

I arrived in France ten days ago, and I’m already tired. I’m not quite at the stage where I can feel it right through to my bones, but meal portions are ever-increasing and I’m already craving more sleep. I truly love it here. It’s simple, it’s happy, but it’s not easy – you’ve got to earn it.* 

I had a few ideas for what to write about this week, including a couple of anecdotes from the last few days that I thought could be related to some interesting themes. I realised though, that none of them would have had any context. I hadn’t introduced where I was, nor what I was really up to. So, like with any good story, I thought I’d set the scene. I’m in France, and it’s good here.

Tom

* Yes, that is perfectly crafted metaphor for how I see my life over the next year. Aren’t I clever!

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