16/July/2019: With excellent weather, but no partner to join me for training in the middle of a work week, I opted for the fastest access from Geneva to a glacier and some wild back country. I aimed to set up overnight camp as high as possible near the Glacier des Bossons, which is a rapidly retreating steep glacier on the north side of the Mont Blanc massif, and practice the typical routines needed for an expedition such as Pik Lenin – pitching a tent inconspicuously, sourcing water, cooking, night-time procedures, breaking down the camp, and finally some crampon training on the glacier itself. Subconsciously I must also have been drawn to the location for its traumatic history, as two Air India flights crashed in practically the same spot in 1950 and 1966, a fact I was only alerted to on a previous hike (scroll down to the blog post from 21/June/2019!).
The glacier edge about 250 meters away from my tent is a very ‘live’ reminder of the effects of climate change, as the glacier is shedding tons of ice and embedded rock every day. The ‘crack & thunder’ bangs woke me several times during the night, as the debris crashed down the couloir to the right – fortunately well away from my 2x1m somewhat flat tent area.
Just before dawn the next morning I climbed down to a flatter part of the Glacier called le Plateau des Pyramides, surprising a Chamois, the smaller and more timid of the two Alpine wild ruminant species. It was my first time on this part of the glacier and I was startled to discover dozens of pieces of aluminium wreckage, many in a distinct green colour, and some several feet long. Based on the larger piece of green wreckage displayed at the hut at the bottom of the climb, it would appear the majority were from the Air India 101 Kanchenjunga crash in 1966, rather than the AI245 Malabar Princess flight in 1950. The distinct red and white lettering of the Air India fuselage is clear on one of the pieces.
Some anecdotal references to efforts to remove the crash debris from the site refer to ‘several tons’, but there is clearly much more being uncovered by the melting glacier.
The most human reminders were a part of a blue bag with a zipper and this shoe, which seemed to be of high quality leather, and a size 41.
I felt it would be macabre to bring home any of the items, but intend to bring anyone interested to the site, as it is accessible in just over an hour from the trailhead near the Mont Blanc tunnel.