We awoke early to arrive at Col du Pillion for the first cable car at 9.00 am. The agent at the local tourism Office had suggested that Wednesday would be fine weather but this was outstanding – not a cloud in the sky and a predicted 26C.
Everything went to plan and we arrived just in time to share the first car with a tour bus of Indian or Pakistani tourists, a cross country skier and some grocery deliveries for the cafeteria on the mountain. We bought our tickets which was a bit of a shock as the cost was about 128€. And yes the car for the trip from Col du Pillion to the first base was big enough to hold more than a bus load and travel 1500m in 53 seconds.
So before we could get scared about the height of the climb or the sheer rock faces we were passing, we had arrived to take the second cable car another 1300m to the top of Mont Scex Rouge. Up there the hot spring day was forgotten and a below zero temperature was keeping the ice solid and the snow thick. We learned later that it had snowed over night with very strong winds. We could see the mountains opposite and the avalanche protection in the form of fences across the face of the mountains, we could see the suspension bridge and snow-capped peaks. Below we could see the verdant green valleys.
Gingerly we headed to the suspension bridge another 100 or so metres above us, A few more steps to climb but this time iced over with pools of melted ice water gathering in the morning sun. The bridge is made of metal suspended on four ropes and connecting with the adjacent peak roughly 180 metres away. At the end of the bridge is a large Tissot watch giving you the correct time but also the altitude. There is a viewing platform there covered in ice and snow but the view is spectacular including what I think is an old volcanic caldera now a lake surrounded by mountains.
After catching our breath and the views we gingerly crossed to the ski chair lift to descend to the glacier. The glacier is about an hour long at this point so we set off to walk to the Tour St. Martin and the café on the precipice. Buses ply the route for those not willing to walk and the snow dozers are preparing the snow for the weekend skiers – Yes we are coming into summer. About an hour into the walk we found it too hot to continue with jackets on. The Cable car station is now just a strange blimp on a white carpet stretching into the horizon. There are only two colours white and blue.
The tower appears close enough to touch but is still some 15 minutes away. We are starting to struggle in the fresh snow so it is with relief and excitement that we reach Tour St Martin and the end of the glacial ice. Here a café has been erected on the precipice looking almost 3000m straight down to the valley below. We stop at the café for barley soup and a hot chocolate and to soak up the atmosphere. We encounter a Swiss couple enjoying a wine which may have come from their vineyard in the valley below and chatter on not really knowing what we are talking about but loving it just the same. There are some Dutch and Korean couples and we all just embraced this special place. It was the waitress that told us about yesterday’s terrible weather and that the cloud was so low you could not see the Tour let alone Mont Blanc or the Matterhorn. She also explained that the hut is lined externally with metal to protect it against the wind blown debris which has left pock marks in the metal cladding.
We decide to head back and our return journey is much quicker. We also encounter our friend the cross country skier who passes and repasses us two or three times as we journey back to the Cable car base. As you would expect there is a gift shop and it includes a Tissot watch shop. Our friend at the Tourism office tells us that it is quite the fashion to buy your new watch at 3000m. We journey home and flop into bed exhausted by the walking and the sun. At about 7.30 pm we rise to get some dinner and have a glass or two watching the sun go down about 9.30 pm.