So here you go! Here’s the promised article from Mt Blanc! I hope you guys are excited! 🙂
I wanted to climb the highest mountain of Europe for a really long time, so I started to plan this expedition two years ago. I planned it for May 2016, everything was planned, paid for and I was packed & ready to go, but on the day of departure the weather forecast totally ruined it, so I had to cancel the whole trip. I moved it a year later to the summer of 2017, but the weather was supposed to be crappy again, so I cancelled for the second time. Unfortunately, the climb is fully dependent on weather, so there was nothing to do.
I moved the expedition for the third time for June 2018. And on June 19th, I was finally sitting in the car in the direction of Chamonix. The forecast looked fantastic. No snow storms, no strong wind, snow conditions were perfect, the temperature fantastic and glaciers were stable. I was ready to do the toughest climb in my life. This has been my dream and I failed to fulfil it twice. And I was sitting in the car. My heartbeat was like 250. I had butterflies in the belly.
In Chamonix, I met with the French guide Mika. We did an equipment check to make sure I didn’t intend to climb Blanc in sneakers.
I had the rest of the afternoon free, so I decided to do some paragliding. Can you imagine a better place for paragliding than Chamonix? I cannot. We managed to stay in the air for an hour and a half thanks to the perfect thermics. That was like a first small miracle. I even got an instructor, who first jumped from the two-thousand-meter peak Le Brévent and landed on nearly five-thousand-meter Mt Blanc. I’m starting to like paragliding so much, that I’m actually thinking about getting the licence!
The next morning I waited for my guide in the hotel lobby and we started two training days. That’s the minimum you need to do if you wanna climb Mt Blanc, which makes sense since the guide has never seen you and doesn’t know what experiences you have. You usually have to spend a week with him, but I managed to persuade him by email that I had some experience, so we met just for two days.
We headed to the Italian side of Mt Blanc and took a cable car ride to Torino hut, where the training & acclimatization took place. After a few minutes Mika found out that I had absolutely no self-preservation and started calling me a chamois. We slept in the Torino hut. He took me to a slightly more difficult mountain the next day, whose ridge was barely half a meter wide.
We had crossed the whole thing two hours before we planned, and so the training was over, and we went back to Chamonix, where I spent the rest of the afternoon by checking my backpack, charging all the electronics, and being nervous about the next day. Finally I went to bed.
Of course I didn’t sleep for a minute because in my head I was replaying the moment, when I’m standing on the summit. I was terribly nervous. I had the same feeling the day before my state exam.
In the morning, for the first time in my life, I got up from bed without snoozing the alarm clock. I ran out of bed in a way that one might have thought that there’s a 3-meter anaconda in my bed.
Mika picked me up at 9:00am in the lobby, where I got about twenty minutes earlier. We originally planned to get the Mt Blanc from Aguille di Midi, but the cable car was closed. So we chose a slightly easier alternative through Gouter. We drove by car to the Nid D’Aigle cable car, which was partly closed. We took a ride at least to the first station in the altitude of about 1900 m and from there we had to walk to 4810 m.a.s.l. by foot.
We had booked the Tete Rousse hut (about 3200 m.a.s.l.). Most people sleep at Gouter Hut (about 3800 m.a.s.l.), but it was unfortunately fully booked, so this made our last (summit) day a bit longer. The first day we had to deal with altitude gain of 1900–>3200 m.a.s.l. and the next day (summit day) 3200–>4810 m.a.s.l. and then back to Gouter at the altitude of 3800 m, where we managed to book two beds at least on the way down. It would be a suicide to go back to Tete Rousse, so I was quite happy that we slept in Gouter on the way down.
The first day went great. I had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, so we got to Tete Rousse around 3pm. We didn’t need crampons, so it was really just a hike. The rest of the afternoon we were discussing our summit strategy above a map, weather, and other necessities. We went to bed at about 8pm.
The next morning we got up at about 4:00am and we were almost the last ones to leave the hut. With the headlamps we were struggling through the frozen snow, while steam was coming out from our mouths at an unusually fast interval. Breathing was harder and harder. We couldn’t see anything how dark it was, and the sky was full of stars. It was absolutely clear.
We got to Gouter at about 6:30am, and we had our first rest there that morning. Unfortunately, the forecast suddenly changed and it said there was a 80 km/h wind on the summit. I noticed his concern in his face for the first time. With such a wind the ascend was too dangerous, so we waited in the hut for further forecasts or messages from those who had started from here after midnight.
Soon the first mountaineers started coming from the top with a not too happy expressions on their faces. It was clear to us that conditions were not favorable. Nobody who had started from Gouter after midnight did not reach the top. Everybody turned around just before the last dangerous ridge at about 4400 m.a.s.l., where the wind was too strong. We decided to wait. It was about 7am and to get back from the summit to Gouter in time, we had to leave at 10:30 latest.
When I saw all the people who had to come back, I doubted that we would get to the top for the first time. Not because of my exhaustion and sleep deficit, but because of the weather. The freaking weather again. At Gouter we waited for over two hours, I even fell asleep on the table, but Mika’s voice woke me up: “Chamois, let’s go. It’s time.” It was about 9:15am. I got excited again.
It took me unusually long to put all the clothes and equipment on. At 9.30 we were already fixing the rope. “On y va ou pas?” Mika said, and we set off on a steep hill.
I couldn’t imagine what the 80 km/h wind meant, but as soon as we got to the first ridge, I found out how unpleasant this ascent will be.
The snow was completely frozen. Small ice needles were drifting through the air, directly into our faces. When my nose or cheeks accidentally got out of my jacket, I had to turn my back to the wind. It was like a thousand knives that were hitting my skin.
I was just staring into the ground, afraid to look up to see how much more walking we we had. But I knew it was a few more hours. I was staring at my shoes the whole time. Time went super-slow, and every step lasted for a minute. Every time I looked up, I saw only white color, Mika in front of me and the swinging blue rope to which I was attached.
When I looked up after three hours, I thought it couldn’t be that far anymore, but once we got to the top of that little hill, there was another one in the distance. And another one. And that’s what kept happening for several hours, before we had the real summit right in front of us. My heart beat rose twice as much and I literally stopped breathing. I just forgot to. I stopped staring at my shoes and looked around. Just a few steps before reaching the summit, the rope tangled into my crampons, and I fell into the frozen snow.
WE DID IT! AROUND NOON, WE MADE IT TO THE SUMMIT OF MT BLANC.
I threw away my ice axe and fell to my knees. I suddenly felt the tears of happiness on my face, and the first thing I thought was that my mom would be proud of me. Even though I didn’t pass my state exam, I was just standing on the highest mountain a thousand miles wide. We were all alone on the summit.
There was a really strong wind on the summit, so we were frozen after five minutes. We took some photos and started descending.
We got back to Gouter at about 2pm. After talking with some mountaineers, we got the impression that most people didn’t reach the summit because of the wind. I put my earplugs in my ears and fell in bed. I fell asleep immediately and slept until dinner. After dinner, I fell asleep again. I was totally exhausted.
We arrived back to the cable car station at noon, three days later. We knew we were safe. I called my family and friends to tell them everything, said goodbye to Mika and stayed at the hotel in Chamonix again. I didn’t want to drive back home this tired, so I stayed for another night and hit the road the next day.
But I wasn’t going home. There was another trip waiting for me, so I drove just to Zurich, where I took a plane to experience another adventure. Where? I’ll tell you the next time! Stay tuned, guys! <3
And if you have any questions, let me know! 🙂