Saturday, 19 September 2009

Mont Blanc, Mountaneering Epic!

This is by far the most extreme terrifying thing I have ever done. I met Andy Brown in Verbier, he is a GP in the Marines and has done some seriously cool expeditions including making it to the South Pole and getting most of the way up Everest. One night following a few bottles of wine he talked me into doing a mountaneering trip in Chamonix. To set the scene heights terrify me, I cant deal with exposure and the small bit of climbing I have done before hand scared the shit out of me. This was set to be one hell of a weekend.

After hiring the gear and getting the Aiguille de Midi lift up to 3800m it was about mid day. Crampons were put on in an ice cave joining on to the station. To get onto the mountain a metal barrier had to be climbed over this was covered in warnings, danger signs and made it very clear we were on our own after this point. Over the barrier was a ridge just wide enough to put both feet on, one side it dropped straight down to Chamonix and on the other it dropped away to a load of Crevasses. This was a serious initiation into mountaneering. My tactic as happened a lot was to fixate only on the snow a couple of feet in front and not stop moving.

The route we did was called the Cosmic Arrette it took us through the Vallee Blanche and then up the rock face back to the midi station. The rock section was nutty. The 3 of us were roped together however the length of the route meant we could only use gear on the most serious sections. There were some really quite committed moves that had to be made, there was also a hell of a lot of massively exposed bits of rock. The scenery was absolutely incredible but I admit I didnt spend much time looking at it unless I had a very solid grasp of a rock. The climb took us well into night, the top section was tackled with a head torch. Mine however was knocked off by the rope and I watched it fall away down a cliff face riccocheting off rocks as it went. This meant the rest of the climb had to be tackled by moonlight. Luckily we had a full moon and it was a beautifully clear night. The relief of making it back to the lift station was amazing. I was absolutely buzzing, the exhileration from pure fear the whole way up.

We bivvyed up in the station and got a good dose of army rations. The next day started at 4am, we were back out in the vallee blanche walking by moonlight. It was such a peaceful and stunning environment. A little trail of headtorches could be seen dotting all the way along the path up towards Mont Blanc. We were heading for Mont Blanc de Tacul. The climb up was nice, just steady plodding. There was far more chance to take in the scenery and it was trully spectacular. This is the heart of the Alpes and in every direction there was this incredible jagged skyline. We more or less made the summit of 4248m however the winds were hauling and the windchill was really bad. It was a matter of getting there getting the photo and then turning straight back to find more sheltered parts of the hillside.

As an experience this was absolutely fantastic and I thank Andy for inviting me as it really is something very few people get to try. It is however something I am glad to have done but wouldnt rush back to do it again. For me the dangers are too high and I was so far out of my comfort zone the whole time. Once in a while this is good but I dont think I could deal with that level of fear regularly.

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