Way back in 1995 my friends and I took an old MG Montego on a road trip from Scotland to Chamonix in the French Alps which also happened to be my first holiday abroad. I wrote about it a few years ago – The Spirit of Adventure. My abiding memory of that trip was taking a hike up the mountains to see my first ever glacier. I was expecting it to look pristine and white, not covered in rocks and debris so initially asked my friend where the glacier was before he pointed out that everything in front of me was a glacier! You can understand my confusion, this is the photo I subsequently took:
Wind forward to the Summer of 2017 where I had the pleasure of spending a few months living in France including a couple of trips to Chamonix. First time was with a friend for a few days and we went up to the highest point a cable car can – the Aiguille du Midi (which was too expensive for the John Conners of 1995 to afford) – and I was hoping once again to catch sight of this amazing glacier I’d seen over 20 years before. Turns out I should have looked at a map – the glacier was on the next set of mountains over. But it was pretty spectacular nonetheless!
A few weeks later I returned and this time I had a better of idea of the glacier I’d originally seen – I reckoned it was the mighty Mer de Glace. So I figured out how to hike there and one morning that’s exactly what I did. Rather than being a lazy tourist and taking the funicular railway to the top I walked – starting straight up a ski slope (those things are pretty steep and relentless to walk up). And after a couple of hours I found myself in truly spectacular scenery.
It was shortly after I was in for a bit of a shock. Turns out the glacier has receded dramatically over the 22 years since I’d been. To the point where there are signs on the cliff as you go down showing you where it was in a given year.
I couldn’t help but feel sad – upset if I’m honest – to see such a dramatic difference in such a short space of time (22 years really isn’t long at all). The sheer volume of ice that’s melted just boggles the mind, but it wasn’t until I finally got around to scanning in the negatives of my photos from 1995 that I was really able to compare the before and after as it just happens that I’d taken pretty much the exact same photo 22 years apart (I’m nothing if not consistent).
The photos were taken at around the same time of year and it’s pretty clear that the rock and green line is significantly further from the glacier than it used to be. When you multiply that by how long the glacier is, that’s a hell of a lot of ice that’s no longer there. When you look at a photo like those above and see the difference it’s pretty unsettling. But when you walk there and see it with your own eyes and remember what it looked like before, it really does bring it home to you how our planet is warming. We live on a beautiful planet, but it’s fragile.
A couple of generations from now that glacier will be entirely gone. Enjoy it while you can.
I was lucky enough to spend two weeks driving from Colorado to Las Vegas and back in a circular route taking in some of America’s most impressive national parks (covering 2500 miles in the process). Not only was the scenery scarcely believable (it was like being in a different country every day), but the people were incredibly friendly and generous everywhere I went and the food – despite stereotypes to the contrary – was superb, and healthy too.
The general route follows (usually a couple of days exploring in each place) and I’d highly recommend you give it a go – we could have easily spent 2 weeks in each park!
- Flew to Denver airport
- Drove to the Rocky Mountain National Park
- A long drive (via some scenic stops) to Canyonlands National Park
- An amazingly scenic drive to Bryce Canyon (what a place!)
- A few days in Vegas (which I wouldn’t recommend to be honest)
- Next up, the meteor crater near Flagstaff (wanted to go since I was a kid)
- The relatively short hop to the Grand Canyon (yes, it’s as stunning as everyone says)
- Then onto the south of Lake Powell and the famous Horsehoe Bend
- Heading east to Mesa Verde National Park
- Through Rio Grande National Forest towards…
- Great Sand Dunes National Park – completely unexpected sand dunes!
- Finally back to Denver and off home!
My favourite US state is definitely Utah as it has some incredible roads, scenery and every day was jaw dropping! I had a drone that I flew for some aerial shots when I could (they’re banned in National Parks). Anyway, some random photos of the trip follow – enjoy!
First food in the US – pancakes!
The views of the Rocky Mountains
I wanted a sporty 4×4, I got this!
Random stopping place by a frozen lake
Mountains and Ice
Some very very red rock!
Our cabin near Moab, Utah
Incredible views everywhere you look
Not even in the park, just at the road side!
Nice place for a team photo!
The first of many impossibly straight roads
Canyonlands National Park
Mesa Arch, Canyonlands
A teenager not even looking at the view!
Admiring the view
It’s a long way down!
A day of straight roads in Utah
Yep, a very straight road
Amazing the things you find at the side of the road
A cliché I know!
One of many Mesas – all spectacular!
An arch at the Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park views
Lots of deer around to avoid!
Bryce Canyon – spectacular!
A cheesy selfie in Bryce Canyon
Can’t get enough of Bryce Canyon
I could spend weeks hiking around Bryce Canyon!
Getting some gas…
More spectacular roads
The entrance to Zion National Park – It’s big!
Walk to the Emerald Pools at Zion National Park
Upper Emerald Pool, Zion National Park
This is my hero pose
Yet more roads!
Arguing in Vegas (for the camera)
Excalibur Hotel, Las Vegas
Some flower show in Vegas
New York New York by night
More pancakes for John!
Couldn’t go to Vegas and not see a show!
When in Vegas, go to the laundrette
About to hit the gym in the Trump Hotel, Las Vegas
Hoover Dam – not as impressive after seeing all the national parks
Another straight road!
Meteor Crater, Arizona
Always wanted to see this meteor crater since I was a kid
Meteor Crater from above (and far away)
Another straight road!
The Grand Canyon!
James getting some Zen at the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon at sunset
Random rocks near Lake Powell
A boy and his drone
No safety ropes at Horseshoe Bend!
Great Sand Dunes Park