“From a bare ridge we also first beheld
Unveiled the summit of Mont Blanc…
…The wondrous Vale
Of Chamouny stretched far below, and soon
With its dumb cataracts and streams of ice,
A motionless array of mighty waves,
Five rivers broad and vast, made rich amends,
And reconciled us to realities…”
-William Wordsworth, in The Prelude (1850)
Gray skies and an unexpected snow kept the mountains hiding for over a week after I arrived back in the French Alps. I knew that they were there—those colossal forms covered in snow and ice—but the low clouds kept me from catching a glimpse of them. When the Chamonix skies opened up over the weekend, I finally saw it: Mont Blanc, unveiled.
Rather—the entire Mont Blanc massif is what I wanted to see—its collection of peaks inspire me more than the sloping summit of Mont Blanc, itself. Jagged rock spires called aiguilles (“needles,” in English) run up and down the massif for as far as the eye can see, in both directions, and on both sides of the valley.
At night, after the sky turns from soft blue to inky purple to black, I still feel the presence of those forms. They loom—in a someone-watching-over-you kind of way—so that even when you can’t see them, you know that their summits are still there, touching stars or floating in the clouds.