July 14, 2019
Hello friends and family! Bonjour from France!
We are writing to you from a train (imagine the train that goes to Hogwarts with the trolley coming down the aisle) that is traveling from Geneva, Switzerland to Girona, Spain. So much has happened since you sent your kids off to the airport and we are so excited to update you!
Let’s start from day one! We greeted the group in the Geneva airport, and it was amazing to see that they had already become good friends on their travel day from the states to Europe. We got a ride from Geneva to Chamonix, checked into our hostel and went straight into town for some food. We sat in a park and ate burgers/chicken sandwiches from a spot called Poco Loco and everyone persevered through their jet-lag. We took some time to rest and nap in the afternoon until our dinner time at the hostel. We watched the sun cast warm shades of pink and orange over the snowcapped Mont Blanc while we got to know one another and introduced our first Moonup. For those of you who don’t know, Moonup is something we do every night (facilitated by the leaders of the day) where we debrief the day and get to know one another.
We woke up to our first full day in France together full of rest and excitement. The blue skies and perfect sunny weather encouraged us to explore the beautiful wilderness that Chamonix has to offer. We packed a picnic lunch and headed up the trailhead to Mer de Glace, a glacier in the Mont Blanc Massif. We filled the enchanted forest, full of ferns and moss, with conversation as we trekked uphill. Our LODs, Tara and Russel, proved to be wonderful leaders as they set the perfect pace for the group and encouraged us the entire way up. Our legs and lungs warmed up quickly and it was obvious that we had a group of strong hikers on our hands. We enjoyed lunch on the trail and made it to the top soon after. As we exited the forest, we were greeted with towering jagged mountains above us and a grand glacier below us. After a necessary photo shoot at the top, we rode the cable car down to the glacier where we could enter a cave that had been carved into the ice. We toured the glistening blue tunnel of ice with nothing but childlike excitement. We sat at the cafe at the top for a bit before making our way back down the trail to Chamonix. Back in town, we treated the group to gelato as a reward for their positive attitudes on the trail today. We were so proud of them for cruising through 8-10 miles of challenging trail! We watched the sunset once again as Tara and Russel led us in an amazing Moonup and Jonas sang a song for the group.
With our bags packed for our trek on the Tour du Mont Blanc, we departed early the next morning for our trailhead in Italy. Our guide, Xavier, greeted us with the jolliest attitude and briefed the LODs on our hike for the day. Frances and Jeff, our LODs, were appropriately chosen to lead us on our first day of the TMB. They exploded the airways with enthusiasm and positivity, getting everyone stoked on the day ahead of us. This was also a special day because it was Steve’s 19th birthday!!!! We had sung happy birthday to him at least three times before 9am. Frances led the group in the front while Jeff took the caboose and kept everyone motivated on the challenging and steep uphill. We trekked uphill all morning until we made it to the mountain pass that marked the Italy/Switzerland border. We ate lunch in Italy before continuing into Switzerland. We traveled along breathtaking mountainsides with dozens of waterfalls in the distance. In total, this day was about 12km with 800m of elevation gain. A big first day! We arrived to our hostel by late afternoon and were treated to an amazing dinner. As the chocolate mousse came out for dessert, we sang happy birthday to Steve just once more before he blew his candles out. This day will go down in history because we ate breakfast in France, lunch in Italy and dinner in Switzerland. Talk about a day worth remembering!
Day two on the TMB: trek from La Fouly to Champex. This day had less elevation gain/loss which felt like a breeze for the group! We covered about 13km of trail and talked and sang the entire way. We were greeted in the town of Champex by the most beautiful lake we had ever seen. The lake water was very cold, but that didn’t stop Catherine and Steve (our LODs) from jumping right in fearlessly. We loved how they inspired the group with spontaneity. The boys had fun all jumping in together while Russel wow-ed us all by swimming across the lake. We then learned that he is indeed part human, part fish. We dried off in the sun and let our feet rest from the long day of walking. We then made our way to our adorable hostel. We played cards and ping pong in the lawn until dinner time. After dinner, Xavier surprised us with a campfire in the woods! We had Moonup around the campfire and eventually retired for the night.
We began our third day on the TMB following a beautiful river before we made our way uphill. The uphill was challenging but our LODs, Madison and Sinclair (truly a dynamic duo) kept us all motivated and excited. Xavier took us on a secret trail that no one else was traveling which was a fun adventure. We were rewarded at the top with a picnic table at an adorable mountain-top restaurant called The Bovine. We partook in fresh made cakes and pies and enjoyed our lunch together as we took in the views of the valley below. We cruised through the downhill trail and ended our day in the town of Finhaut. We checked into our hotel where we all slept in one big room on the very top floor. We had an amazing dinner and Madison and Sinclair had us all smiling and laughing during Moonup. It was a really good day.
The following day we began our hike up tree covered switchbacks with our goal set for the mountain pass above us. The group once again proved their strength as we cruised up the trail. We made it to the mountain pass (Col de Balme) so quickly that we all decided to keep going and summit a neighboring mountain. Our LODs, Walker and Larkin, were so amazing today and encouraged the group constantly. Walker earned his nickname “mountain goat” as he ran up the trail with Xavier. We made our way up the steep grassy trail winding through vibrant wildflowers. Once at the to, we were blown away by the panoramic view of the mountains that encompassed us. We could see blue glacial lakes below us and had a perfect view of Mont Blanc. We ate our well-deserved lunch behind a small hillside that protected us from the wind. After eating, we took about 1,000 photos at the top with a sense of accomplishment. Alec and Russel entertained us with their attempts at acro-yoga while Madison wow-ed us with her toe-touching skills (which Jonas couldn’t quite keep up with). We eventually made our way downhill into Chamonix valley where we ended the hike in a town called Le Tour. We checked into our rooms and strolled through the small streets of the tiny town. This hostel was super special because all of the food that they prepared was locally produced. They served us a fantastic dinner with a summer vegetable salad and green chicken curry. Larkin and Walker facilitated a wonderful Moonup and we all felt a little sappy as it was our final Moonup with Xavier.
We awoke to a breakfast of fresh baked breads, homemade lavender honey and jams, and lots of yummy fruits. Our LODs, Ellie and Alec, navigated their way through the town and the winding trail system back to Chamonix. They proved their determination with the map well as we followed the river all the way back to Chamonix. It was a beautiful trail and a very pleasant way to end our tour. Back at our hostel, Xavier said farewell with an award ceremony of certificates for everyone for completing our portion of the TMB. We took some pictures with our certificates and hugged Xavier goodbye with bittersweet feelings. He was the best guide and we were so thankful to have had him on our adventure. We dropped our packs and spent the rest of the day exploring Chamonix town. We ate lunch and looked around all the different shops. Some people did laundry, some bought souvenirs, and most ate gelato. We took some time to chill and shower before heading back into town for dinner. It was the perfect day for us to end our tour because the finals for the climbing World Cup were in Chamonix last night! Following dinner, we joined the masses in watching the world’s best climbers compete for first place. We cheered Ashima Hiraishi (18-year-old female climber representing USA) on with passion and were enthralled as we watched Adam Ondra (arguably the world’s best climber) take first place in the men’s round. It was so much fun to be a part of the excitement of this event and it ended with a fireworks show also celebrating Bastille Day. Alec and Ellie ended the day with a wonderful Moonup reflecting on our time on the TMB as we watched the fireworks from our hostel window.
Our time on the TMB was so special and it’s wild how quickly it flew by. This group truly amazed us with their positivity, unity and strength as hikers. There were zero complaints and no negativity. It’s so special to be a part of a group that exudes positivity and it’s been so fun to witness how quickly friendships are forming. We truly feel like a team and completing the TMB was a group accomplishment. We’re so thankful for the leadership that’s radiating from this group and the kindness that has defined our group dynamic. We are now headed towards Costa Brava for our sea kayaking section of the trip! We’re all so excited to be traveling on trains all day. We’re sitting in two little train carts as we pass by miles of beautiful French countryside. We’re having so much fun and we can’t wait for sunshine and salty water!
We’ll report back in a few days after our coastal adventure!
-Mimi, Jonas, Madison, Jeff, Sinclair, Russel, Frances, Catherine, Steve, Ellie, Larkin, Alec, Tara, and Walker.
P.S. Here are a few words from the group!
Hey mom, dad, and G! We just finished up our first round of hiking on the tour de Mont Blanc. To keep things short, it was the most amazing experience of my life and I can’t wait to share it with you guys. See you all soon and tell Oreo i say hi. -Jeff
Hi Mom, Dad, Anderson, and Bandit! I am having the best time here! We just finished our hiking on the TMB. Thank you so much for sending me on this trip, I am having the time of my life! Love y’all! p.s. hey Chloe and Claire!-Sinclair
Hey mom, dad, Anna, Liam, Fitz & Liffey! I miss you all but I’m having so much fun with my new best friends! Happy late bday junior! To sum it all up, I’m having the time of my life! Love you guys so much! Also, plz feed my fish thanks! -Tara
Hey Mom and Pop, I am having a good time on my Moondance adventure. Happy bday Pop and hope the mountain bike is fixed.
Hey Mom, Dad, Zach, and Massey! We just finished the tour de Mont Blanc and it was absolutely amazing oh my, I’m having the best time of my life with all of these amazing people I can now call my friends, thank you guys so much for this trip, I love you all so much! I hope Zach made it home alive from his trip but if not then can I have his watch? Jk I miss you guys so much and I can’t wait to see you again! I have
Many stories. -Walker
Hi family!!!! I love all you guys so much, we just finished the TMB and it was so cool (even though I wish I had that same green sweater mom wore). We are all super close already and I’m having so much fun. We are going to come back to Chamonix together and bring Buck of course. Anyways, I love and miss all of you and I’ll talk to you soon!!!!!! -Ellie
Hey! We just finished hiking the TMB and it was really hard but AMAZING. The views here are incredible! I miss Cisco and Buddy a lot, and I miss you guys. Dad you would love this, we watched the World Cup rock climbing finals in Chamonix, it was crazy. Tell all my friends I miss and love them! See you soon. -Madison
Hi Mom and Dad! I’m having the best time ever on this trip!!! We just finished the TMB and I realized I really like to hike! It was hard at some points but I loved getting to the top all together with the group! The towns are so cute! I love everybody in my group and we are all getting so close! Now, we are off to Costa Brava. I can’t wait! I love you all so so much! Thank you for sending me on this trip!! I miss you but will see you soon!! -Catherine
Hey guys! We are currently on a train to Girona, Spain. We are heading to Costa Brava for the sea kayaking portion of the trip. We just finished the 5 day hiking trip ( tour de mount blanc) it was challenging but so cool as well. We definitely got all of our steps in 🙂 Frances has been missing piper after seeing all the ponies they have here. We have definitely gained some leg muscles after all this hiking. We got to watch the world cup climbing competition take place last night In Chamonix, SOO cool! Last but CERTAINLY not least we miss our Finley so so so so much. ( and Kate )We have seen many puppies In the towns but they aren’t as cute!!!! Love you all so much and miss you. Tell MB we said hey. See you soon. -Larkin and Frances
Hey mom and dad! I live on. you guys are allllllllllllllllllllllllllll good In west. Tell others I love. Ok. -Russell
Hey mom. Just got on the train to go to Costa Brava where we will kayak for a couple days. I have had so much fun on my trip so far and made many strong friendships on our TMB hike. Our time in Chamonix was the best and I wish I could have stayed there longer. Have so much fun in Costa Rica with Barry and tell him “I know he misses me”. Miss u and love u mom.
July 7, 2019
Hello Chamonix 3A families!
This amazing group has arrived safely on their flight in Geneva and are on their way to Chamonix, France for the night! We can’t wait to hear about the Tour du Mont Blanc and the incredible French Alps. Stay tuned!