The Chalet des Anglais is a little-known Oxford institution: a large wooden structure, still with no electricity, at Le Prarion near Mont Blanc. It is used by Balliol, New and University colleges (the properly old set). My friend Owen has just been there, and it brought back some great memories.

  1. A group of us walked up from the Mont Blanc tramway in shorts and walking boots, no supplies having finished a packed lunch earlier in the afternoon. We met a Dutchman with ropes hanging off him coming the other way. We asked “where should we go next?” He looked at us and laughed. We said, “Can we carry on, what is there further up?”. He said, “I think you will need more professional kit: the ice bridge 20 feet away disintegrated yesterday and two people died”. We turned back. (I think we were between the Nid d’Aigle and Tete Rousse refuges, but can’t be sure). Despite the warning, we went a different route back which ended up with us having to traverse across a vertical face (two or three limb holds in most places) and a semi-vertical scree slope at the glacier’s edge. At one point I jumped from one hold to another with a fifty foot drop below me. Stupid.
  2. “Shaving water”. There was no running water outside the kitchen, so every morning a couple of guests would get up early (in rotation) and put the porridge and water on. When the water was hot, it would be decanted into ewers and placed outside each room. A knock on the door (c. 7am) would be accompanied by the call “Shaving water!”. Sounds like the suspended bucket shower is still in play, too.
  3. Chalet tennis: a very random mix of fives and real tennis played out at the back of the chalet with some absurdly angled walls.
  4. Telling the train to stop at the halt so you could get off and walk up to the pav, or was it to the telecabine to the pav?
  5. Playing the scariest game of bridge in my life: Jonathan Barnes, the Oxford bridge captain, a Canadian Go master. And me. I bluffed my first hand and after that seemed to be OK. They didn’t ask me to play again, but did teach me Go. Hmmm.
  6. The discussions: we all read the same books in the morning to discuss over lunch, before walking in the afternoon. Brain pain deluxe.

Here’s the chalet on Google Maps.
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