Chamonix events: Fireworks with Les Commandos Percu

Chamonix has been in the global news because of the tragic avalanche that took 9 lives on Mont Maudit a couple of days ago.

The day after, we were bombarded with people asking if we were ok, what the news was.
Thankfully none of us, our friends or people we know were caught up in the tragedy.
Plus, luckily, it appears that no-one who lives in the valley was killed in the avalanche.

Events like that do serve to highlight how this beautiful valley can be deadly when you least expect it.
Our thoughts go out to those suffering loss as a result.

However life always moves on — and this week has held one of the highlights of the Chamonix calendar:  the annual World Cup Climbing competition here in Chamonix.

The “Best of the Best” climbers battle it out – head-to-head in the speed competition,  and also in the technical difficulty which is measured in metres up an over-hanging wall with ever increasing levels of difficulty….

Despite the rain, the final was last night and AGAIN, we are blown away by the sheer athleticism of these amazing individuals.
An aerial ballet – plus the delight when they fall OFF the wall as they reach the expression of the peak of their ability.

This was followed by a percussion band.  But no ordinary percussion band.

This was “Les Commandos Percu”!

6 guys.
Dressed as commandos.
Creating a trance-like almost tribal experience.
with fireworks!

very cool!

Les Commandos Percu – Chamonix 13th June 2012


Actually, in the immortal words of Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, “Frakking Awesome!”

Lots going on in Chamonix in Summer 2011….

Busy summer here in Chamonix with lots of spectacular events going on in the area.

Firstly, in July there was the Climbing World Championships
Both the speed and the technical events were held in the place du Mont Blanc…

I love the speed events – I think it incredible how these athletes can climbing SO quickly up that vertical wall…. So, so impressive…

That coincides with the Bastille Day celebrations with spectacular fireworks in Les Houches and Chamonix.

Then, we enjoyed the free JAZZ of the 2nd Annual Cosmo Jazz festival.
There were some superb jazz musicians playing for free in the town centre and up the mountain. They would set up a short walk from some of the main lifts and play for everyones’ pleasure!

We sincerely hope they continue this event as it is one of the most enjoyable events of the Summer.
(shame I actually missed the above concert though – held at Lac Bleu above Plan d’Aiguille.)

There was the annual fête des Guides over last weekend – to raise money for the families of guides who have lost their lives or been seriously injured at work – finishing with its light show at Lac Gaillands on Monday.

Just starting today (Tuesday 16th August) is the Chamonix Adventure Film Festival showing films at the Majestic.

This culminates with a free film showing at the Lac du Chavants in Les Houches on Wednesday 24th August.

and finally at the end of the month, is the Ultratrail du Mont Blanc.

For those that have not heard of this, the UTMB is 2500 runners running 166km around the Tour du Mont Blanc – with the best winning time to beat of 20 hrs 5 mins set by Dawa Sherpa in 2003 (when of the 722 runners in the competition only 67 finished…).

More Via-Ferrata…

Helen and I took nephew Tim (the photographer at our wedding) down to Passy for his first go at Via Ferrata…

Thrilling stuff…  Annoyingly my leg started shaking involuntarily when going over the “bridge”…

Tim on the three cord bridge

Tim on the three cord bridge

The things we do for fun!!

Tim on the two cord bridge, Helen in the background...

Tim on the two cord bridge, Helen in the background... Looks safe, heh?

I am still not confident enough to be taking my best camera out whilst hanging on… so photos from my iPhone.

Via Ferrata – walking on walls and swinging in the breeze

Just 20 minutes drive from our chalet in Chamonix valley, there is a “via ferrata” in Passy called Curalla.

For those that don’t know, a “Via ferrata” is like a footpath on a rock face…  They were first developed during the First World War in the Italian Dolomites for moving troops around the alps.  It literally means “iron road” in Italian, and consist of permanent metal cords, metal rungs (stemples) anchored into the rock face itself.

With a harness and special karabiners, you attach yourself to the fixed cord for safety, and “climb” the metal rungs, across wooden bars suspended over the sheer abyss, across rope bridges a few hundred feet off the ground….  ascending the ladders, traversing the mountainside clinging to the rock, to the rope, to the rungs…


James leading the way...

James leading the way... what you can't see is that we are already 200 metres up!!


It was our first go at Via Ferrata, and James proved his worth as our guide.  His calming voice giving instruction, instilling confidence, belaying parts to doubly-ensure our safety (we used a rope as an additional safety measure – which also helps to reduce how exposed parts of it felt), together with handy tips like, “Keep your eyes on me and don’t look down!!”…

Though parts consist of “ladders”, I am not used to being on a ladder attached to a rock hundreds of feet above the forest below, dancing from foothold to perch to rock, praying the glue they used to afix the rungs to the rock face is strong enough!!


Helen crossing the 4m wide "Pont du Mont Blanc"..

Helen crossing the 4m long plank called the "Pont du Mont Blanc"..

Both Helen and I were surprised by how exposed you feel.  Not surprising, really… but the rope bridge was something else!!  A single cord beneath your feet swinging in the breeze… two cords at chest level to cling onto!

Sure, our karabinas are attached to the cord so we can’t fall – at least not very far!! – but adrenaline kicks in, and my leg muscles start twitching!! Felt like a tightrope walker as the rope trembles and swings from side-to-side with the fear in my legs!

A better impression of the height...

A better impression of the height...

All in all – it was a fantastic thrilling adventure which, to me, felt surprisingly different to climbing… It is less strenous than climbing – not so tough on the finger muscles – but you still get to enjoy the most amazing views, enjoy the thrill of the height… the courage, the adrenaline, the fear of overcoming a challenge!!   Helen and I will both definitely be doing more!!

Not really for those with vertigo, or fear of heights, though!!