Travelogue: Engineering Marvell - Chamonix-Mont-Blanc of France

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By Ronald Saby
Pics by Jessica & Jason
Bellevision Media Network

Dubai, 15 August 2012: I had been to Switzerland and France few times in the past on my job assignments. When I travelled with my family first time to these places, it made a world of difference. It was relaxed leg of life and away from usual commitments and meetings, SWOT analysis and usual crap.


We reached Geneva on the  morning of July 6, 2012. My aunty, Sr. Eugene who is based in Geneva accompanied us to Chamonix the next day morning. We took a local tourist bus from Geneva to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc or commonly called Chamonix to enjoy the mountain beauty which was one and half hour journey. Mont-Blanc is much closer to Geneva than Paris.


Temperature in Geneva was 23 degrees C maximum and it was extremely pleasant. Upon advice we had carried jackets and it came handy since it was sub zero and to our surprise it was -5 degrees C at top where the height is estimated 3845 meters.



Human beings first set their foot on top of Mont-Blanc way back in 1786. Thereafter efforts to establish cable cars to this mountain top started in 1939. Cable Car Aiguilles du Midi was built in 1955 and  it still holds the record as the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world, from 1,035 m to 3,842 m.


There are two sections: from Chamonix to Plan de l’Aiguille at 2,317 m and then directly, without any support pillar, to the upper station at 3,777 m (the building contains an elevator to the summit). The span of the second section is 2,867 m measured directly, but only 2,500 m measured horizontally. It thus still is the second longest span width, measured directly. The tramway travels from Chamonix to the top of the Aiguille du Midi, an altitude gain of over 2,800 m in 20 minutes. During winter cable car does not operate due to heavy snow and bad weather.


Panoramic terrace table top certainly thrilled us, hot wine (warm wine was new thing for me) in the restaurants on the mountain top helped to manage the cool waves!


Avalanches are major disaster for mountain climbers (on foot) here. On 12 July 2012, at least nine climbers—three from the England, two from Switzerland, two from Germany, and two from Spain—were killed by an avalanche as they attempted a dawn ascent of Mont Maudit. Nine others were injured and flown to hospital, while four remained missing. The avalanche struck at 5am, as the climbers began their climb up one of the most popular, but dangerous, routes up the mountain.



It was pleasant to observe countless high rise road bridges and mountain roads where quality of construction is a witness to non corrupt practices.  On the other hand was sad thinking about our lousy implementation and poor road standards with thieves. (Shiradi, Agumbe and other ghat roads with project cost and 10 years repair we should have such roads if not better.)


On Sunday evening we went to France and then to Netherlands for three days each. However, Mont-Blanc remained as the best destination of our holiday, even better than Disney Land.


About Chamonix:

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc or more commonly, Chamonix is a commune in the Haute-Savoie département in the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. It was the site of the 1924 Winter Olympics, the first Winter Olympics. The commune’s population of around 9,800.


Situated near the massive peaks of the Aiguilles Rouges, Chamonix shares the summit of Mont Blanc with its neighbouring commune of Courmayeur in Italy, and owns the title of highest commune in France. The commune is well known and loved by skiers and by mountain enthusiasts of all types.


Chamonix is a popular winter sports resort town in France. As the highest European mountain west of Russia, Mont Blanc holds a special allure for mountain climbers, and Mark Twight described the town as "the death-sport capital of the world" because it is a base for almost all types of outdoor activity, especially their more extreme variants, such as ice climbing, rock climbing, extreme skiing, paragliding, rafting, and canyoning. Chamonix is famous for its spectacular cable car up to the Aiguille du Midi.


In the summer months Chamonix is a Mecca for alpine mountaineers, drawn to the area by challenges like the north, west and south-west faces of the Dru, the Frendo Spur on the Aiguille du Midi, the north face of the Grandes Jorasses and the massive face climbs on the south side of Mont Blanc.


Chamonix is also a destination for mountain bikers. Besides the obvious lift-assisted areas for Freeriders there are hundreds of kilometres of challenging hidden singletrack trails – often only found with the help of guides, although since the summer of 2008 mountain biking is only permitted on a small selection of trails during July and August.



Comments on this Article
Ivan Menezes, Moodubelle Thu, August-30-2012, 8:20
sabiyam..Nice article and excellent pictures.
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Thu, August-30-2012, 1:09
Hi Philip, thanks for the fact based info. Yes, NHAI should be more value based and stringent with whatever minimum guidelines and criteria provided. It is better to spend more on lasting roads than spending on repairs. About local roads we see a lot of concrete stretches, which is a good sign. But irony is unfinished edges. Most often it is a drive or walk on knife edges to almost feet of split level. I do not see any cure to this disease at least at planning level. Unfinished deep edges are common even in cities couple of years after inauguration of roads. I believe, proper roads and garbage collections are burning issues in India today though we have some isolated exceptions. With younger generation growing, we may be blessed with more accountability, computerization and transparency, plug leakage of allotted and allocated funds for healthy and result oriented completion of projects.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Wed, August-29-2012, 7:08
Saby, 1. A BOT cost for a 41Km brownfield four-laning of Hadapsar-Saswad-Belsar- Phata section of SH-64 and Belha-Pabal- Uralikanchan-Jejuri Nira section of SH-61 was awarded three weeks ago. The Unit Cost per Km of winning bid is 873.2 lakh rupees=USD1.58mllion. A greenfield project cost is twice as much for a four-lane highway following the Indian Highway codes (which you have sen at MIT library). And this in deccan palteau kind region, not a ghat; not in NER or J K or Naxalite infested region. Not in Himalayas. 2. At independence, India built 11km road per year. When we got richer around 2000, it built 11km per day. This has slowed down to half, mainly due to land acquisition resistance, spiraling land prices and agiitations as well as litigation on compensation. Thtat is on quantity and cost, to explain why we are laggards. (Remember our educated villagers with internet connectivity lambasted 70 lakhs cost for a rural road. A good road to the specification of you rphoto#1 requires 25 times as much. 2. Quality of roads: Who inspects, who approves, who releases bills, who issues project close-out? The PWD Engineer Team or NHAI Chief Engineer s team. We must join this team
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Tue, August-28-2012, 1:09
Dear Philip, I am glad you made a note of my frustration and serious comment! I love my home country and my town. We are gifted with pathetic roads! A tire will last only 25 thousand KM compared to my car managing 1 lakh KM and still looking good for another 25 thousand KM in Dubai.. Tire cost double compared too many other countries. I change it only due to safety point of view with the age of tire! Due to bad roads, bearings, shafts, gaskets, O rings and ultimately engine and gear box takes a beating! Hence money needs to be spent to move on... Same applies to the transport operator! He cannot run on loss! He needs to take money home in order to keep the family happy and going! I believe due to this reason we need to pay higher price for perishable and non perishable goods! IF RELIGION AND POLITICS ARE SEPERATED WITH BIGGEST POSSIBLE SCISSOR, we get things going better...We need younger generation growing and we need sustainable roads! One inch of Jally and few mm of tar will add more to these problems! Whereas other countries more than a feet of base material and pest control prior to that. Late 80's I had seen thick books on highway engineering and roads at MIT Library! Contd
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Tue, August-28-2012, 5:54
contd 3. Finding money: During Q-1/2012, India stood FIRST in global Project Finance market deals, attracting 29% of USD67Bn gross. SBI led at top bank slot and Axis Bank figured among top ten global arrangers. This despite the claim UA-II is ineffective. 4. Half a dozen of my contacts have returned from their summer holidays in Europe with organzied trips to at least one ALPINE PEAK, riding cable cars, cog trains, and train systems inside long tunnels bored through mountains. I myself did this at Zugspitze peak only two months ago. 4. The modern cost for a km strecth of this exceeds USD 1Bn. We need these types in our border more for security reasons than tourism, given our external defense environment (compared to European nuke based NATO system). 5. Our Railway Minster had to resign when he tried to raise fares. The PPP mdoels can only succeed when common man is willing to pay. My contacts spent between 15~20K USD for a family of four for 18~20 days tours in Europe, which is more than one MILLIOn rupees. Our common man with capacity to pay still wants to enjoy subsidies which are meant for the reall poor without any guilt. This should change first.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Tue, August-28-2012, 5:36
I return with a SERIOUS comment on Saby s travelogue remarks: It was pleasant to observe with countless high rise road bridges and mountain roads where quality of construction is a witness to non corrupt practices. On the other hand was sad thinking about our lousy implementation and poor road standards with thieves. (Shiradi, Agumbe and other ghat roads with project cost and 10 years repair we should have such roads if not better.) No doubt, we are laggards in physical infrastructure development. Apart from the chronic corrupt system (it is not fair to blame only politicans, but must take major blame because they are at the top of the pyramid), we have a resources crunch(skills, acess to technology, technology absorption level, adaptation to local topography, soil and weather conditions, money, people and contract management skills, a plethora: you name it). Quality requires a lot more than ethics. But good news: 1. Transparency in deals is increasing with a hawkish media willing to expose system. The RTI Act, a UPA brainchild, is a beginning. 2. The PRI institutions, a Rajiv Gandhi era initiative, will empower village level leaders to drive the process. 3. Contd
norbert, mangalore Sat, August-18-2012, 9:18
Hi Ronie nice and creative with excellent pictures.
Louis Lobo, Mangalore Fri, August-17-2012, 4:48
Hi Saby You have reminded our trip to chamonix Mont-Blanc in 2003. The place is awesome. Feel like to go again in this summer. Nice photographs and write up.
Charles D Mello, Pangala Fri, August-17-2012, 3:46
Hi Ronald Saby...Nice photographs...even I enjoyed Switzerland as you enjoyed by going through photographs.
Ivan, Moodubelle Thu, August-16-2012, 2:17
Mr. Sabi you have now become Yash Chopra of Moodubelle. :)
Manoj, Moodubelle/Dubai Wed, August-15-2012, 10:44
Good One Sabi, After reading and seeing those amazing picture felt like we had a virtual tour to Europe.
Benedict Noronha, Udupi Wed, August-15-2012, 6:26
Dear Sabi, I was lookig for you at Belle and you were far away. Any way you gave us a feast of scenes of wonderful natural beauties by photography and rich food of information. I felt I travelled with you to all the vallies mountains. But for your sharing it with B.V. the viewers could not have seen these beautiful Places. wonderful job. keep it up. Thank you for your fine work.
Edward Barboza, Kanajar / Auckland Wed, August-15-2012, 5:55
Hi Saby Porbu, Thank you for spending your valuable time and publishing such a interesting article and excellent pictures. Edward Barboza
Fr Paul Sequeira, Moodubelle Wed, August-15-2012, 4:50
Mr Ronald Sabi,Congratulations for making the trip to Switzerland other parts of Europe.The Photos express nature s bounty capturing them is marvellous.
Alphonse Mendonsa, Pangla/Abu Dhabi Wed, August-15-2012, 3:18
Wow Sabi, breath-taking photographs. yes, even after another 100 years our roads will remain same. Politics-corruption go hand in hand and only greedy are filling their stomachs. good naration of Mont-Blanc with a past history. Wonderful photographs of high altitude bridges and roads a marvelous to watch and enjoy. Hats off to the photographers??? Great job guys. One of the best travelogue i read recently..
Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle Tue, August-14-2012, 8:45
Thanks Sabi for great write up and excellent pictures of beautiful place and mountains.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Tue, August-14-2012, 2:30
Great Visuals, Sabi. Now, don t tell em you need warm wine a minus 5, chilled beer tastes just too good!
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