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A day after our 6-hour ordeal, with 3 hours spent on descending from Mer de Glace to Chamonix, we returned to the scene of our adventure – by the Montenvers mountain train that we missed the day before. Sue was kicking the train that left us stranded at 1900 meters.

The attraction at Mer de Glace is the massive glacier which we saw. Also it has an ice cave (la grotte) that was created by carving into the side of the glacier.  When I first saw the glacier, it just looked like a valley full of rocks and dirt.  But when I saw the caves, I appreciated how deep or thick is the ice in the glacier (who knows how deep, but suffice to say very deep).  What we saw from the top is just debris that were washed on top of the ice as the glacier melted and slid downhill.

Apparently the glacier has been shrinking in thickness as markers on the side of the mountain showed where the ice was going back 5, 10, 15 or so years ago.  It was remarkable how much the glacier has sunk into the valley exposing more grounded up rocks on either side of the mountain. The result of the geological process was plain to see.  It is hard to see them in the photo below but there are two beautiful waterfalls right in the middle of it.  Just like what Olafur Eliasson said (see earlier post), because the waterfalls are far away, it looked as if the water was coming down in slow motion.

A cable car service takes 6-8 people at a time to a landing and then one has to climb down 400 steps to reach the cave.  There were numerous signs warning tourists of the number of steps down to the cave and then up. It was a quite a long way when you look from the top.

As you can see, there are at least four or five caves – the ones on the left were dug a few years ago and are abandoned – apparently as the glacier moves slowly downhill, the entrances of the caves moved away from the side of the mountain where the stairs are located.  Some caves had collapsed inside and new ones are being created regularly.

Glacier ice are super hard due to compression by the weight above and they have this bright attractive light blue color.  It was the same in the glaciers of Iceland (we went two years ago) except that most of the glaciers there were covered by black volcanic ash.

This piece of rock was trapped by snow and then ice probably eons ago and had been brought by the glacier to this point where the cave was dug.

Artificial lighting of various weird colors were used inside the cave.

One of the only and most unexpected commercial activity inside the cave was an opportunity to step into a smaller cave off to one side and have your picture taken with a large San Bernard – the Swiss national dog.  The cost – 6 euros. I just happened to have captured a glimpse of the dog – it did not seem to be wearing a casket of brandy around its neck.  With its thick fur, it was probably quite comfortable in the ice cave – mind you, it was late summer outside. I knew it is a large breed but according to wikipedia, the average weight is between 140 and 264 lb ! – but their life span on average is only 8 years.

The cave is just a few interconnecting tunnels. They lined the floor with some textile material to keep the place from becoming slippery.

After a slow climb back up to the station, we took the train back down to Chamonix.


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