Eagle Class Chamonix 2019
Monday 17th June
We had a really smooth journey here. All connections were on time and the children were brilliant. The noise on the coach inevitably rose as we approached Hotel des Lacs in beautiful sunshine. The extra time gave the children the opportunity to settle in their rooms and explore their surroundings before contemplating the adventures ahead.
By 7pm we were all ready for dinner, we were so hungry; thankfully the most enormous plate of lasagne was put in front of us and this was devoured by most children and all the adults. Dessert was strawberry and vanilla ice cream with a delicious compote of forest fruits. We sat in our groups of water, energy, waste, food and travel and discussed as a team how we were going to respond to the challenges of our focus (more about this tomorrow).
As the sun began to set we all took walk around the lake, then sat on the green to think about how we were feeling and of course, to set expectations, as were are staying in a hotel alongside other members of the public. This circle time allowed children the opportunity to share some of their feelings and trepidations for the days ahead.
As we talked, Mont Blanc loomed in the distance; clouds covered its majestic pinnacle ready to be revealed in the morning – hopefully. High above us, perched on the edge of a precipice, we could see the refuge looking like a Lego model where we will be staying on Wednesday night. All these exciting things to look forward to have left the children sleepy and ready for bed – lights off at 9.30 tonight.
Thought for the day: “The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir
Tuesday 19th June
We were woken by the sun glinting off snowy peaks on the horizon. We started the day with a delicious breakfast of croissants, baguettes and cereal. Carbed and loaded, we made our way to Les Gaillands where we spent a reflective ten minutes soaking in the atmosphere and contemplating our surroundings. The children shared how they were feeling after their first night in the mountains.
Serene . Calm . Relaxed . Anxious . Homesick . Worried . Excited . Peaceful . Privileged . Thoughtful . Joyful . Apprehensive . Happy
The children then shared their speeches about themselves with confidence with Mont Blanc looming in the background.
The focus for the day is ‘What do I need to be well?’ The children engaged in sessions focused around this theme and created fantastic posters that explored the things they need to be physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually well.
After a typical French lunch of baguette, ham, cheese, salad and the best chocolate brownie we have ever tasted, it was time for rock climbing! We asked the children before we started how they felt about it and many expressed trepidation and a little anxiety about the prospect of climbing so high. The five expert climbers soon put them at ease and the children couldn’t get enough of it! They went back for third, forth and fifth turns to climb higher and higher. The climbing teachers were so impressed with the children’s motivation and tenacity. Every single child achieved and climbed the rock face like a gazelle; we are so proud of them all.
This evening, the children made their pledges for individual well-being – some very carefully thought-out pledges were shared by all the children in a circle to round off the activities for the today. After a serious chat about what we all needed to pack for our big day in the mountains tomorrow, the children went up to their rooms to prepare!
We will be off the grid tomorrow so there won’t be another blog post until Thursday. Au revoir!
Thought for the day: “Let your smile change the world but don't let the world change your smile." Freya
Wednesday 19th June
After yet another delicious breakfast on Wednesday morning we all met on Les Gaillands to reflect on the day before and what our expectations were for the day ahead. We had our first team challenge. This was a real test of the children’s ability to work together in a team and listen to and respond to instructions – a big learning curve that would help with the motivation and positivity needed for the next two days.
We knew that Wednesday was going to be the best day in terms of the weather and that there was far too much snow in the mountains for the full trek up to the refuge. That didn’t stop us though, we had a day crammed full of excitement and adventure, this is how it went:
- Bags packed for the next two days, lunch packed and off we trekked into Chamonix town
- We caught the 10am funicular train up to the Mer des Glace – the children were astounded by the receding glacier and wondered at the beautiful ice sculptures
- We ate lunch in front of the wonderful view of this great glacier winding itself down the mountain
- After a hearty lunch we set off for Le signal – about an hour’s trek
- On arrival we discussed further what we needed to do to work as a team and we listened to the mountain talking – took in the fresh mountain air and listened to the mountain birds
- Next we trekked all the way back down – that was quicker! Only 30 minutes, returning just in time to catch the funicular train back into Chamonix town
- Next, we walked across Chamonix to the Telepherique station – where we caught the cable car all the way to the top of L’aguille du midi – coats on – it was freezing. What an experience and what a wonderful view of Chamonix
- We then descended to down to refuge – exiting the cable car we realised that we would have to trek through snow to get down to it
- This proved to be the highlight for some of the children – trekking through deep snow and supporting others along the way
- We arrived at the Refuge in time to find our rooms, unpack and have dinner – what an amazing day we’d had – and the dinner was delicious – making it all the more wonderful
Bed for all at 9pm – another VERY busy day ahead.
Thursday 20th June
As dawn broke on another day, we spent the first part of our morning amongst a blanket of clouds from which we could see the mountains peeking through the top. We shifted our focus for the final time to ‘What does the world need to be well?’ Looking over the valley, we prepared for the hike ahead of us down to Chamonix town. Once lunches were packed, we got ready to set off but not before a visit from the Gendarmerie helicopter team who had been called out to collect a hiker in distress!
We set off from the refuge at 10am wearing wet weather gear, prepared for whatever the Alps threw at us. As we zig-zagged our way down the mountain, the clouds cleared and we got a clear view of the town below. We passed a number of runners, including one with a little dog who was celebrating its birthday! We reached the tree line and continued down and (after a couple of rest stops, Haribo and a few sore toes later…) we reached the bottom at 1pm, 1200m below.
As we stopped for lunch, the sun came out in time for our next adventure, this time up the other side of the mountain! Our last gondola of the day took us up the lift to Planpraz where we had some time to reflect on our pledges for the planet and another amazing view of the town. With time for shopping next on the itinerary, we headed back down where the teachers settled down at a café, giving us a chance to roam around for souvenirs (and sweets) for 45 minutes. We realised as we got to a busy bus stop that it would be quicker to walk the one mile back to the hotel, giving us a final stretch of the legs – as if we needed it!
Having not showered for a couple of days, everyone dived into the shower to freshen up before our last dinner of the week – locally sourced vegetarian pizzas. Having had a final run around on the green near the hotel, we rushed back to our rooms to pack our bags as lightning flashed and thunder cracked.