ODD TRUTHS: THE CRYSTAL-HUNTERS OF CHAMONIX

Would you scale a mountain and battle ice-storms for a geode the size of a baseball? It’s a daredevil’s dream. Not everyone can pull it off. Crystal-hunters are an unique breed of adventurer; part rock-climber, mineralogist, and collector. In Chamonix, where the rest of the world takes to the ski slopes, the crystal-hunters grab their ropes, pickaxes, and camping gear and ascend into the clouds.

Two mountaineers on Mont Blanc. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Two mountaineers on Mont Blanc. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The harvest begins when they find a suitable cave. Known as crystal-ovens, these natural incubators provide the ideal setting for the geological processes (super-saturation and nucleation) that allow crystals to grow. Usually the caves yield small stones of quartz, but every so often someone finds a chunk of dazzling fluorite or malachite.

Shard of quartz. Photo Credit: Musée des cristaux de Chamonix

Shard of quartz. Photo Credit: Musée des cristaux de Chamonix

Fluorite. Photo credit: Musée des cristaux de Chamonix

Fluorite. Photo credit: Musée des cristaux de Chamonix

More Fluorite. Photo Credit: Musée des cristaux de Chamonix

More Fluorite. Photo Credit: Musée des cristaux de Chamonix

The rare ‘arkenstones’ mined from the caverns often end up in Chamonix’s Musée des cristaux (Crystal Museum). Despite its dangers, crystal-hunting has been a hobby for over two centuries and probably won’t go away anytime soon. Fancy having a go at it? Chamonix’s mineralogy club has its own code of honour for prospective thrill seekers. Just remember—no dynamite!

Quartz. Photo Credit: Musée des cristaux de Chamonix

Quartz. Photo Credit: Musée des cristaux de Chamonix

 

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