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VII 2011 – Collecting in Alps, part I

 

   As we have already wrote Geological Society Spirifer provides free weekly lessons about the geology and mineralogy for kids. We also organize weekend field trips during the school year and every year we go together in the holidays for a longer trip. The person responsible for the `Young Spirifer` and organizes most of the activities is Krzysztof Dembicz. We have already described one of these trips (you can read it here). This time the idea of the trip appeared after an invitation from the organizers of St. Marie aux Mines Mineral show (who we would like to thank very much).
   As we were already invited to France we decided to continue the trip to Alps – to introduce the kids to classical alpine occurrences and the work of strahlen  Of course we had no ambitions to find any better quality specimens, but we were pleasantly surprised.

Alps 2011

   This summer the group of young and also little bit older `spirifer kids` set off to the geologic trip as we use to do every year. This time our destination were Alps and more precisely the alpine veins with beautiful quartz crystals. The first part of our trip was a visit at Ste. Marie aux Mines Mineral Show were the Spirifer kids were invited by the organizers of the show.
   Most of us have never been on any western show – so we were fascinated seeing how it looks. We spent the whole days going around and looking at all the booths – of course our base was in the Spirifer Minerals tent where we could get some rest surrounded by more great minerals.
   When Ste. Marie show ended our 15-person group set out further – our first aim was the Mont Blanc massif – more specifically Chamonix situated at the foot of the highest pick of Europe. After the whole day of drive – first leaving Alsace, then going by Lake Geneva, we arrived in the area of Mont Blanc, We stopped at the camping in Le Buet, about 20 km from Chamonix, where we could rest after the long drive and make plans for the coming days.
   Next day in the early morning we started preparing to go up in the mountains. When we packed the most important things we got on the train that took us in direction of Chamonix. From there we went to another cable railway to Aiguille du Midi (3842 m above sea level). When we reached the peak we could admire a beautiful panorama of Mont Blanc and whole Alps, we could also see the places we were planning to visit in the next days – glaciers Mer de Glace, Leschaux and Les Droites peak. After going down with the cable railway to one of the smaller peaks we set off in search of alpine veins. Unfortunately apart from seeing awesome views our research was not successful. Even though we found only a few small quartz crystals everybody was so excited looking for specimens that we were late for the last railway down. We reached Chamonix in the evening after many hours march.
   In the evening around the fire we discussed the last details of our next, this time longer trip to the Mer de Glace glacier. We got up very early the next day, even though the sun shone and the weather was beautiful at the time the forecasts were not too optimistic for us – it was supposed to rain soon. Of course we were not discouraged by this information, we packed quickly and set off to Chamonix from were we went to the station of rack railway to Le Montenvers (1913 m above sea level). When we got out a giant glacier Mer de Glace showed up in front of our eyes. We had there a while of rest and time to prepare the equipment before a few days trip in the mountains. We also visited there a mineralogical museum where many local quartz crystals were exhibited. The only way to the top of the glacier leads through a vertical wall. There are ladders and via ferratas attached to it so to go down we needed ropes, harnesses and tons of other equipment for assurance. Despite of an enormous tiredness all of the trip participants managed to get to the glacier with no serious problems. Unfortunately the clouds started to appear between the peaks and it started raining. In the disastrous conditions, in rain and thick fog we set of in the direction of Les Droites.
   After a whole day hike we put up the first camp on the contact of two glaciers – Mer de Glace and Leschaux. Because of the constant rock avalanches the only place suitable to put up the camp was a peak of lateral moraine – which was quite difficult considering the amount of the material that the glacier accumulates.
   The next day everybody woke up wet and frozen because the temperature at night dropped down to -5C. Fortunately after a few hours we saw the sun again. When we dried our stuff, examined the neighborhood and found a few specimens we went further to the Leschaux glacier. After a few hours marching we arrived in the area of Les Droites and put up a new camp there – also at the top of lateral moraine. It was our base for the next two days. Because of the extremely difficult climb only a few persons from our team managed to reach the walls of Les Droites. The rest of us looked for the specimens in the rock debris and walls of the glacier`s valley. The wreck of a helicopter found there by us shows how difficult this terrain is. Finally we had an award for our efforts – we found a few zones with alpine veins from which we collected many specimens of quartz, fluorite, calcite and titanite. Unfortunately as it later turned out we had so many specimens that we were not able to take them all with us – we did not even have the time to pick them over, as our camp was too far away and we had to go back as planned. After two days on the glacier we got back to Le Buet for the short rest that we surely deserved.
   The next place we planned to visit was the Giuv Valley in Switzerland. We set off at dawn from Le Buet to neighboring alpine country. On our way we stopped for a while in another locality where the alpine veins occur – area of Grimsel Lake. From there we went directly to Val Giuv.
   As soon as we got there we packed our backpacks and set off to the valley. After a whole day walk we put up the camp in the upper part of it and decided what we are going to do in the next days.  The next day we went in the direction of the highest surrounding peak – Piz Giuv (3096 m above sea level) looking for the veins with quartz.
   We were searching the whole day and we found only a lot of already empty cavities and veins. When we were about to go back we saw an old worked cavity surrounded by many fragments of very clean and lustrous quartzes. While digging in the dump in search of gem fragments of smoky quartz we noticed that somebody who worked on the upper part of geode did not see that at the lower part there was another vein with an enormous amount of smoky quartzes.
   When we dug out the debris we started to collect the specimens, what took us the full next 3 days. We managed to find quite a lot of specimens including a few big growths of quartzes and a few gwindels (the biggest one was 12 cm). Unfortunately most of them were not of good quality – most of the crystal faces were lusterless, and many specimens were also very cracked, they literally fell apart in our hands. Even though we were extremely happy we found this geode, as we did not expect to see anything like that on this trip.
   After a few days in the mountains we went down, pack our camp and set off to Poland – first stop was Lwowek where some of us stayed at the 1st Mindat.org Conference (which Spirifer Society was co-organizing), but this is another story...

Andrzej Korzekwa


 

 

 

The area of our trip. Google maps.

 

We set off in Warsaw for Ste. Marie aux Mines Mineral Show, where we were invited by the organizers. Google maps.

 

Alsace, the area around Ste. Marie aux Mines. G. Bijak photo.

 

Bergheim - a lovely town in neighbourhood of Ste. Marie. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Bergheim - a lovely town in neighbourhood of Ste. Marie. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Thanking the organizers of Ste. Marie Show - Michel Schwab and Flore Cottel - for inviting us there. For most of us it was a first visit at such a big and famous show and we were all fascinated by what we saw there. G. Bijak photo.

 

Thanking letter from the `Young Spirifer` to the organizers of Ste. Marie aux Mines Show. G. Bijak photo.

 

There were a few thunderstorms and heavy rains in Ste. Marie, then everybody moved to the theathre, but for most of the time it was sunny and warm. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

The booth of Spirifer Minerals - our base - we kept there all our preisless acquisitions from the show, and dropped in from time to time to get some rest after walking around and admiring the booths for hours and hours. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

We also helped distributing the free newspaper for collectors `Minerals`. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

The booth of Spirifer Minerals. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

The booth of Spirifer Minerals. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

The booth of Spirifer Minerals. Fluorites from Rogerley. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

The booth of Spirifer Minerals, a huge sphalerite from Trepca. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

The booth of Spirifer Minerals - new find of cobaltocalcites from Morocco. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

The booth of Spirifer Minerals - allargentum from Morocco. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

There was a Mindat party in Spirifer Minerals booth, everybody was invited and of course we were there too. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

There was a Mindat party in Spirifer Minerals booth, everybody was invited and of course we were there too. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

There was a Mindat party in Spirifer Minerals booth, everybody was invited and of course we were there too. J. Gajowniczek photo.

  

We spent the evenings with friends - here on the left Andrzej Korzekwa (the author), Scott Werchsky, Jeff Scovil, Leslie Albin, Krzysztof Dembicz and Tomasz Praszkier. J. Gajowniczek photo.

 

Our route. Google maps.

 

Finally we arrived to our first camping in Alps in Le Buet. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

From Le Buet we went by train to Chamonix - we can`t wait to see the first pockets. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

We are in Chamonix ! The train station. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Chamonix. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Aiguille du Midi was our first destination in the mountains. Note the galcier - Mer de Glace - our second destination. Google maps.

 

The cable railway to Aiguille du Midi. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

We are at the top. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Interseting tunnels connecting the buildings on Aiguille du Midi. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Aiguille du Midi. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

The view to Aiguille du Midi and Valley of Chamonix. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Aiguille du Midi. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

View to Mt. Blanc. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

View to the valley. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

View to the valley. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Alps are beautiful! A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Beautiful views - the northern slope of Mt. Blanc. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Lake on the northern slope of Mt. Blanc. G. Bijak photo.

 

Back in Chamonix after a long and exciting day. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Another trip in the mountains - the station of rack railway to Le Montenvers. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

The old train to Le Montenvers - the modern ones look a bit different. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

View from Le Montenvers to the end part of the Mer de Glace glacier. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Discussing the plan of the trip in the rack railway to Le Montenvers. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Some of us did not get separated with their camers even for a second. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

View to the waterfalls. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

We are at the top. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Our second trip - Le Montenvers and the galciers. Google map.

 

The glacier Mer de Glace - our destination - there is a zone with quartz at the end of it. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Preparing to go down to the glacier. G. Bijak photo.

 

Preparing to go down to the glacier. We needed a lot of ropes. Before the trip we trained a lot in Warsaw and in Polish Jurassic Highland - a popular climbing region. G. Bijak photo.

 

Going down to the glacier, ladders were very helpful. G. Bijak photo.

 

Going down to the glacier, ladders were very helpful. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Going down to the glacier, it was not as easy as it had seemed... G. Bijak photo.

 

especially with the backpacks and the perspective that they will be full of stones on the way back. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Going down to the glacier using via ferratas. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

The weather was getting worse every minute as we were aproaching the glacier... G. Bijak photo.

...more and more foggy. G. Bijak photo.

 

Finally we did not see alsmost anything. We were connected with meters of rope so nobody would fall down into the fissure in the glacier. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

The visibility was very poor but this landscape also had an incredible atmosphere. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

It was also not very hot... A. Korzekwa photo.

 

...walking through the glacier. G. Bijak photo.

 

Getting somre rest. G. Bijak photo.

 

Walking through the glacier - the thought of quartzes pushed us forward. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

First pocket with quartz. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

One of the first specimens we found. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Geode with quartz. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Happy Andrzej with quartz crystal. K. Dembicz photo.

 

Our camp. G. Bijak photo.

 

Fortunately the weather next day was much more optimistic. G. Bijak photo.

 

We had beautiful views just in front of our `hotel`. G. Bijak photo.

 

We had beautiful views just in front of our `hotel`. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Krzysztof working early in the morning. G. Bijak photo.

 

Smooky quartz. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Quartz with chlorite. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Quartz crystals. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

We were proud of each specimen. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Big quartz vein - note the size of hammer. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Big quartz crystals with chlorite. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

A famous alpine pink fluorite frozen in calcite - perhaps not the best specimen known from Alps but for us priceless :) A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Pocket. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Quartz crystal. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Sun, hammer and minerals - what more does Andrzej need to be happy? G. Bijak photo.

 

Beautiful views. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Evening is coming. G. Bijak photo.

 

Our camp at evening. G. Bijak photo.

 

Ice window to Alps. G. Bijak photo.

 

`Young Spirifers`. G. Bijak photo

 

Li

 Little lake in the ice. A. Korzekwa photo.

 

We admired also other things apart from minerals... but not too many :). A. Korzekwa photo.

 

Incredible lendscapes. G. Bijak photo.

 

Waterfall from glacier. K. Dembicz photo.

 

We looked for the veins also on the lateral parts of the valley. Jasiek and Szymon. K. Dembicz photo.

 

Happy geologists. J. Okraska photo.

 

A zone with typical alpine veins. K. Dembicz photo.

 

Geode with quartz crystals. K. Dembicz photo.

 

Krzysztof found a big pocket. P. Ducki photo.

 

And guess what he did afterwards. P. Ducki photo.

 

The geode was filled with chlorite clay. P. Ducki photo.

 

And the crystals were corroded. K. Dembicz photo.

 

Big quartz crystals in the pocket. K. Dembicz photo.

 

Glacier. K. Dembicz photo.

 

Quartz and green chlorite. K. Dembicz photo.

 

Quartz and green chlorite. K. Dembicz photo.

 

GO TO PART II




  Comments

Once again another great trip report. Well done guys!
Barrett
2012-04-03 21:35:48


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