Initial impressions confirmed: Chamonix is a VERY nice place, even when one spends hours each day on conference calls :-).
For me Friday was occupied with errands (getting my new boots made Morton's compatible like my old ones, sending my old boots back home, getting a haircut, doing laundry, and so on), as well as wandering through the streets and various emails and calls.
On Saturday (today) I got up fairly early and by 8:45 was on the gondola heading up to the Aiguille de Midi (Russ wanted to stay off of his feet, and Sally seemed to regard any activity that would take more than an hour or two away from her rest day as being anathema!). Most of the next four hours were spent floating among and above peaks and glaciers and snowfields, marvelling at their beauty and also at the temerity of the little groups of people like ants trekking and climbing among them.
In addition there was plenty of time to wonder at the engineering and construction feats of the men who built the gondolas and cable cars that take one up to the Aiguille de Midi, and across to Pointe Hellbronner. At the latter, where you can look down into Italy, there was an exhibition with photos from the construction of the cable-car, as well as a display of minerals put together by a species of madman that I had up until now not known existed: the crystal collectors of Mont Blanc.
These guys scour the peaks and cliff faces, often above 3500m, looking for crystals of quartz and other minerals. In contrast the ultra-marathoners seem to me to be sane and sensible individuals. The photos of them at "work" were... sobering.
From nature pure at -4C on the 3840m Aiguille de Midi with views over half the Alps, it took a mere 10 minutes to come back down into the hot midday sunshine and culture and commerce of the town.
Folks: if you haven't been to Chamonix, and have no current plans to go there, you are making a mistake!
Tonight Thomas Bili and his wife Gabi join us for a couple of days hiking, and tomorrow the H2H continues on its toughest stretch: through the terra incognita, at least to me, of the French Alps down to Monaco. I'm looking forward to it!