Zoe J. Hart
Heart of Winter 2007
I woke to rattling windows and the thundering sound of bombs. Chamonix, France, was no longer the winter wonderland that existed in my romanticized mind. The freezing level had risen, and all the white fluffy snow had turned to peanut-buttery mush. Soon after the resonations of avalanches settled the phone rang. A British accent excitedly uttered, “Get your chalk bag, your rock shoes, your harness, flip-flops, sunglasses and sun cream. Limestone, the Mediterranean, coffee, gelato, red wine: We’re going to Italy.” I hardly needed convincing. The ski lifts were all shut and black flags – designating the avalanche hazard as extreme – fluttered in the pouring rain.
Three of us piled into a small Renault, stacking a few ropes, quick draws and a handful of clothes in the back. Plowing through the flooded streets of the Chamonix Valley, we drove to the Mont Blanc Tunnel and the respite of the Italian border. We stripped hats, gloves, scarves and puffy jackets with every kilometer we covered.