Our first ascent of Mont Blanc.
On the back of our very good experiences on Kilimanjaro we booked a weeks “Mont Blanc ascent course”. Here we had our first, real mountaineering experience in 2011 in Chamonix.
How hard can it be ?
After being in 5.895 m we thought: how hard can it be. We were absolutely sure we just had to jump over the yellow fence at Midi top station and stroll up the last 1.000 m. How naive can you be. Short story was that the weather closed the Mont Blanc for weeks, so instead we did a lot of great introduction to rock climbing, mixed and technique instead of just being hauled up MB. In other words: we got a lesson on enjoying the journey and learnings – not only the check mark of having summitted.
You are ready to do it yourself
Since then we had our eyes on getting up MB one day. A few years later we asked the guide we had in our first intro year to take us up. To our surprise he said: You are ready to do it yourself, you don’t need me… and he was right.
After more hard training trips we finally were ready to make a bid in early August 2014.
The day before the summit day it was with stunning weather, but during night ascent and at the summit we had zero visibility and high winds.
The weather was quite bad when we stuck our head out of the Gouter Hut at 2.45 AM, but we decided to give it a go. My wife and I climbed alone and thanks to the previous climbs we had under our belt, we continued upwards when many of the other teams turned around. Not sure why, but my wife follow me and trust me fully when we are on the mountain. Back home it’s a different story.
Keeping our routine
In several training trips we had developed a routine of pace and breaks. It’s enabling us to fine tune the highest steady pace we can maintain for a long time going upwards. Keeping our routine with steady pace of 5 m height gain per minute we did the summit bid in less that 4 hours – faster than the “standard” time.
Just above Vallot hut we lost the the track for a moment and had to sweep the small plateau to find the direction and track upwards. Rest of the climb we just followed the thin track. Thanks to the total lack of visibility we did not have to spend much energy and concerns on the exposure and crevasses around us.
Summitting was quite an anti climax as we only knew we were at the summit because it was flat – and the few others arriving just before us put down their backpacks. No visibility at all, only grey fog building up icing. It was impossible to see where the mountain ended and the sky began.
Up there we met two great guys again, the brothers James and Jon Ellis we had met before when climbing Cosmique Ridge. Also two guys in the start of their climbing “careers” who have had several great outdoor experiences since the Mont Blanc.
After a few minutes we went down and finally saw the first sun light at Vallot hut plateau. We went further down to the Gouter Hut for lunch before finally going down to Aiguille Nid’aigle train station.
Great experience and learnings. I can only recommend doing it with your spouse.
Please visit our movie from the ascent days:
Key take aways
- Do not underestimate the skills and condition you need to climb Mont Blanc
- Find your own pace for your team and do not get stressed by other parties pace or decisions
- Respect the weather forecast and adapt to it
- Enjoy the training and learnings underway – not only the summit (most of our summits have been without nice views)