Tuesday, 13 August 2013

An impulsive day hiking..... up Mont Blanc!

First time to Mont Blanc summit!
Monte Bianco.... The most popular mountain to try and climb in a week long trip to Chamonix. Being the highest in Western Europe and not too technically challenging, it's easy to see the appeal! Normally people put in a lot of planning and training for their first ascent. I impulsively decided to join Joel on his solo, first bin, Mont Blanc traverse at 9.30pm the previous night...

Perfect morning on the Col du Midi.
Walking under the big serac, I had a super bad feeling in my gut. I was sad to hear about the fatalities when it collapsed the following morning. Just goes to show that quite often you should follow your instincts.
As I was pretty tired on Sunday evening and wanted to get some none mentally challenging expedition training in, Mont Blanc seemed like the perfect solution! Going from the Midi over the 3 Monts seemed like a fairly mellow day, and we completed it fairly fast. Snow conditions were good making the ascent pretty forgiving. That is until we became exposed to the 'moderate to strong' winds on the final summit ridge. As we both knew the suffering would be short-lived, we pushed on. As we were unroped we could just could deal with our personal misery in silence, not having to stop and start when the other person did. Foolishly I only had thin liners and powerstretch gloves which weren't so amazing in -20 degrees of windchill. My nose and cheek weren't very impressed either! Somehow, I avoided frostnip again and the numb-ness soon went away.

We summited at lunchtime and still beat a lot of climbers to the top, easy day done! Shame I didn't take into account the potential for 4000m of descent back to Les Houches. Which we walked the entire way! I wondered what the Grand Couloir fuss was all about, we saw very few rocks coming down it as we were descending the left bank, until we were about to cross it that is! Some fridge sized blocks came down the far side followed by some more chunks just as I was about to make the final dash across the middle. Trainers and a helmet were definitely much appreciated.

Positively Himalayan!
Doing the last 2000m without any water between us was the final straw. Not helped by our failure to secure a lift back home from Les Houches. Fortunately Bella came to the rescue with juice and snacks, I don't think I would have managed the final few kilometres back to Chamonix.
One of the many huts on the Gouter side, we have definitely left out mark on this mountain!
I'm pretty happy about how good I felt at 4810m. It means that the altitude in Kyrgyzstan shouldn't be a problem especially with several days gradually moving kit up to basecamp. Unfortunately we won't have Bella to drive us back home at the drop of a hat!

The view from the top of Europe! Mont Maudit is surprisingly far away.

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