Category Archives: News

The Temple of Nature at Montenvers

The Temple of Nature was built in 1795 and represents one of the very first refuges in the Alps, located at 1913m altitude, overlooking the Mer de Glace.

Le Temple de la Nature

IMG_5167 Le Temple de la Nature

This octagonal shaped building of great historical interest, replaced a rudimentary stone construction which was built by the English gentleman Charles Blair, in order to offer a protection to the first visitors to the Mer de Glace.

The Temple of  Nature bore witness to many illustrious visitors during the late 1700′s and early 1800′s before the first hotel was built in the 1840′s.  Artists, authors and scientists were inspired by the majesty of the site and not least Mary Shelley, whose visit with Byron in 1816 led to Dr Frankenstein and his monster meeting upon the Mer de Glace!  The emperess Josephine de Beauharnais took shelter in the temple in 1810, the emperess Marie-Louise of Austria in 1814, Charles Nodier and Victor Hugo in 1825, Alexandre Dumas is 1832, John Ruskin in 1835, Georges Sand and Franz Lizt in 1836, and so it goes on!

Le théâtre optique

Le théâtre optique

The Temple has now reopened to the public and an innovative optical theatre takes visitors on a trip into the past where they will meet the likes of Forbes (the Scottish geologist),  Chateaubriand, Louis Pasteur and Agutte the artist.

 Before the Train!

copyright: Musée de Chamonix

copyright: Musée de Chamonix

The Montenvers was first visited in 1741 by William Windham and Richard Pocock, 2 Englishman who compare the glacier to a ‘Sea of Ice’, hence the name “Mer de Glace”! This event marks the beginning of tourism in the Alps.

Over 100 years seperate the first mule trail and the project to build a cog railway which finally saw the day in 1909! The magnificent  Montenvers hotel and restaurant was built in 1880 and conserves a bygone charm which delights today’s visitors.

Copyright: Gay Couttet

Copyright: Gay Couttet

In 1885, the site welcomed 12 000 visitors, essentially arriving by mule! At the time 380 guides and mule owners (along with 200 mules) were kept very busy throughout the summer months.

Times change, the glaciers are receding at present, but the majesty of this unique site is still there to inspire us!

Copyright Matt Burnet

Copyright Matt Burnet

A new downhill biking trail in Les Houches

As mountain biking becomes ever more popular, the Chamonix Valley has responded to the demand with a new downhill trail which opened on 20th July 2013. The descent departs from the summit of the Prarion Gondola lift in LES HOUCHES:

4 km blue run, 640 metres altitude difference, an exceptional natural environment and variants for expert bikers.

Other dedicated downhill trails at BALME-LE TOUR

Bikers and beauty queens rub shoulders!

Bikers and beauty queens rub shoulders!

  • LES MARMOTTES : Length 2450 m Altitude difference 363 m (Green run)
  • LES CHEVREUILS : Length 2540 m Altitude difference 348 m (Blue run)The day pass for bikers costs 17€ and offers unlimited upward lift use.For more information visit the lift company web site

Cross Country biking trails in the Chamonix Valley
EMD2010 1040-OTkids-212

The Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley offers 20 waymarked cross country trails for all levels of ability. There are trails suitable for family outings, trails that allow you to discover the villages and hamlets of the valley, trails that will take you to superb viewpoints…

On certain trails you may be cohabiting with hikers – please always give them priority! Respect pedestrians, cows, sheep, goats, mountain flowers etc… and have fun.

Transport within the Chamonix Valley is free of charge. Certain buses and trains are equipped for bike transfer. Please check timetables with one of the Chamonix Valley  tourist offices or visit our website. Please also ask the tourist offices to the Mountain Biking trail map.

Don’t forget that you can also hire electric bikes from the tourist offices. See previous article.

The Cosmo Jazz Festival – a phenomenal success!

The Cosmo Jazz Festival goes from strength to strength!

The ‘hills’ are alive with the sound of music and the bars are buzzing to the beat late into the night. Wherever you walk in Chamonix, jazz notes will reach your ears, and you will be enticed from one set to the next – it’s awesome!

JAZZ RACINES HAITI Brevent 31/07/13

JAZZ RACINES HAITI Brevent 31 July 13



The concerts in the mountains certainly are Cosmic! The locations have been carefully chosen to offer a natural amphitheatre and the accoustics are incredible. The experience is memorable for both the musicians and the public!


Chamonix 30th July

Have a look at the video of Korean singer YOUN SUN NAH as she performed to 1800 spectators at the Grands Montets on 1st August.

The Cosmo Jazz ended last night, Sunday 4th August 1014179_562904447100051_988336938_n

André Manoukian (organsizer and jazz musician) gave a surprise concert which turned into an incredible Jam session on the Place du Triangle de l’Amitié.

This year’s Cosmo Jazz Festival has been a huge success. A fantastic selection of artists, magnificent locations and glorious weather.

Keep and eye on the festival website and hopefully you’ll be here next summer to share the occasion with us :)

A new speed record for Mont-Blanc

Kilian Jornet, champion in the domains of ski alpinism and ultra trail running, has just set a new record, on foot, for the ascension of Mont-Blanc (4.810 mètres). Last Thursday 11th July 2013, he made the round trip – Chamonix to the summit and back in 4 hours, 57 minutes and 40 seconds.

Kilian-Jornet_MDalmasso DCIM100GOPROKilian (25yrs) set off at 4H46 in the morning from the church in the centre of Chamonix (1.037 metres d’altitude), wearing nothing but shorts and trainers! It took him 3H30 to climb the 3.773 metres positive elevation leading to the summit of Mont-Blanc. A final sprint through Chamonix saw him back at the church at 9H43!

The young ski-alpinism champion, Mathéo Jacquemoud, 22 yrs, who was  also attempting the record (this time without skis) alongside  Kilian, had a fall on the way down and injured his thigh so was sadly unable to continue. See previous article about Mathéo.

“The snow conditions were good. This helped for the descent as we were able to slide on our backsides and run”, explained Kilian Jornet on his arrival in Chamonix. “It’s a pity Mathéo didn’t make it. We ran virtually the whole way together. I think the record belongs to both of us, even if Mathéo didn’t quite make it to church” added kilian.

Climbing Mont-Blanc is usually a question of 2 days, with a night in either the Gouter, Grands Mulets or Cosmiques huts, subject to the chosen route.
The Mont-Blanc record is the first phase of Kilian Jornet’s project Summits of My Life which involves 8 legendary climbs in record times, using light mountaineering and trail running techniques. This year, Kilian Jornet will attempt the ascension of Mount Elbrouz (5.642 mètres) in Russia in less than 3h23 min and then the Matterhorn (4.478 metres) from the Italian side in less than 3h14 min. The ultimate challenge in the series will be Mount Everest (8.848 metres), programmed for 2015. The existing record for the climb is 20 hours and 24 minutes. The project will be illustrated with a series of 4 films produced by Sébastien Montaz-Rosset.

In addition to being World Champion of Ski-Alpinism, Kilian Jornet has won the UTMB (Mont-Blanc Ultra Trail) 3 times (168 km et 9.600 metres positive elevation). That’s no mean feat!

The UCPA holiday centre restored to glory!

Les Glaciers 12/07/2013

The UCPA Les Glaciers holiday centre, located in the village of Argentière will re-open on 22nd July 2013 after extensive renovations which will have lasted 14 months. Only the 19th Century façades of the original building have been conserved, the interior has been completely gutted and rebuilt for a total cost of 11 million euros.

Numériser 2 Numériser 1The hotel les Glaciers was built in the late 1800’s and extended when the train arrived in Argentière in 1906. It then became the Hotel Glaciers and Terminus and was one of Argentière’s leading hotels. It was purchased by the UCPA (National Union of Outdoor Sport’s Centres) in the 1970’s. The building has now been restored to its former glory but with modern comforts. The end result is stunning!

11/06/13 South facade

The renovations were necessary in order to fulfill safety and hygiene requirements and to improve the general facilities. The new building includes a superb restaurant, bar, leisure and conference rooms, a fitness area, an indoor climbing wall and a sauna.

The building is able to accommodate up to 300 young people, aged between 14 and 39 years, for various sporting activities.  The UCPA is operated by a staff of 60 persons, which includes 30 guides and instructors and 6 monitors who look after the juniors.

Summer activities include mountaineering, rock climbing, multi sports, hiking, MTB Biking, Trail running and even dancing! Activities in winter include Ski and Snowboard, off-piste, ski touring, cross-country skiing and snow shoeing.

Perspective from the park boise_DSC8872 compresse

The UCPA les Glaciers enjoys a prime location in the centre of Argentière, adjacent to the local railway station. Within the grounds are an outdoor pool, a Volley ball court and a wooded park area.

Adjacent perspective of the grounds.

New UCPA activity this summer : Trail running school

Trail running - Marathon

The label Vallée du Trail was initiated by the Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley in the spring of 2012. A logical evolution for a destination which attracts ultra marathon runners from all over the world. Trailers can now make use of 18 superb waymarked routes of varying lengths and positive elevation, reserved specifically for their use.

As a partner of the “Vallée de Trail” the UCPA offers a number of all-inclusive trail running courses, from beginners to coaching for the big races. New this year is the possibility to train with the UCPA throughout the summer without booking accommodation. Various formulas are available from age 12 years upwards.

UCPA Argentière
170 rue Charlet Straton – Argentière – 74400 Chamonix
Tél. : 04 50 54 07 11

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