Okay so maybe it was pretty silly to tell my pro mountaineer buddy and his fearless machine of a sister that you want to climb Mt Blanc and summit before anyone else – you know, to enjoy the ‘serenity’. Well lucky me he took me seriously, and set about planning our mission that involved us climbing to the top the fastest he’s done it. It nearly killed me …I guess I mean that figuratively, although when we came across the infamous death corridor, some wanna be alpinist (like me!) nearly got his head chopped off by a cascade of falling rocks from 600m above. The local gurus had been calling it a lottery these last few weeks, with rocks falling in the corridor at incredible speed a good 15% of the time.
To be honest, while doing the climb I was thinking this is not for me. The getting up at midnight after a 1h bivouak was fun and a bit surreal with the full moon… the 800m vertical climb/scramble between Tete Rousse and Gouter in 1h45 was not hard technically and kind of fun although bloody fast to pass a few cordees… The real problem came on the Dome du Goute where I just couldn’t see the fun. We overtook some more crew, gasping for oxygen (which is my own fault since I’ve been living at 0m above sea level for 15years and am not necessarily a cardio freak) and ‘raced’ to the top which realistically was probably at a pace of about 1km per hour on that terrain. Luckily it was still dark until pretty much the summit which helps psychologically as you can’t see the endless arrete in front of you. Coming down was fast and fun despite a bit of altitude sickness! All up, it took us 12h on the second day to get to the top and back down to Les Houches…5h faster than last time we attempted the same in terrible conditions, where we got lost, mildly frostbitten and didn’t quite make it to the top.
I don’t think Mont Blanc is considered a great climb for the purists…”it’s just hard physically” they say, and although I am no expert, I have to agree…but similar to surfing, the after-the-action feeling is exceptionally comforting. Making it to the top for sunrise was magic too. I loved it!
2 thoughts on “Mont Blanc, Chamonix – France”
Ben, Stoked you continue pushing new personal limits. As someone who has spent a fair bit of time in the mountains, I – like you – find the “gratification” part to be much more reflective than in the moment. Generally, I file my mountaineering experiences in the category of: “Be careful what you ask for… you just might get it.”
That said, it’s a stoker you’re exploring new muscle memory and not simply doing the rinse & repeat of your eminently more casual/comfortable surf trips. In short, you’re an inspirational dude for me and many. So, good on ya, mate.
All is well here in Montana. Snuck out for an early mountain bike ride this morning. T’was cool & dewy which makes the wildflowers extra electric. Planning to spend a few months in Ecuador this coming winter. Did you make it there on your Central America/Mex/Caribbean tour? If so, send beta.
Casey Smith and Jan Krieger would want me to send you double shakas.
Keep the exploratory flame hot.
Su Amigo, Miguel H.
MIKE HARRELSON m 406-581-2879 mikeharrelson.com
LikeLiked by 1 person
Gday Mike, Thanks a lot for your good words – much appreciated! So much to see out there it is actually a challenge to stay home and stop “exploring”! Re Ecuador, I have been a couple of times. Both the surf and the mountains are good (Cotopaxi was beautiful), but my favourite memory over there is the Galapagos… you must go. It can be done super cheaply too, and uncrowded waves! Say hi to Casey and Jan…I might hit Casey up for another Alaska trip (in winter this time). Mucho suerte Hermano