the slowest ascent of Mont Blanc
because of me of course... but I'd like to think it's a blessing in disguise
Recap.. we left our hotel around 10.45am to catch a bus to Le Prarion. The normal chair lift to the start of the climb was closed ( they had fire at the bottom of the chair lift a week before we got there ). So Prarion gondola was our next option based on what the girl at the tourist office said (I cursed this decision later on ). From the top of this lift which is at 1860 m , we had to walk down to the Col de Voza at 1653 m . See where i'm going with this ? It means that on the return trip , we had to walk back UP . And after spending 2 days in the mountain, that's the last thing i wanted to do.
|me on the way to Tete Rousse hut|
Anyway, from Col de Voza , we took Tram du Mont blanc to Nid d'aigle at 2372 m where the start of the climb is. From there we hiked up to Tete Rousse hut (3167 m) for 2,5 hrs where we spent a night. Most people spend a night at Refuge du Gouter at 3835 m . But Br chose this itinerary instead because we rather crossed the Grand Couloir early morning where the snow is still firm and less chances of rockfall ( one of the crux of climbing Mont Blanc, grand couloir rest in between the 2 huts).
This was Br's first time sleeping in the hut ( it requires certain skill to sleep in the hut, and as predicted, he barely had sleep on his first time. An ear plug worked its magic for the 2nd night). The hut was huge and nice,it has full kitchen and also fit 120 people. There's even a golden retriever hanging out there.
After an hour napping, we woke up when they served dinner at 7 pm. It was lentil soup, pork stew of some sort , tasty potato gratin, and some sort of pies for dessert. I ate them all, of course. After dinner, it was time to re-pack my backpack then went back to sleep. Had to get up 1.30 am the next morning to start the summit day.
By that time, the whole hut was buzzing with sound of people packing their backpack, putting their layers, boots, drinking coffee ( or chocolate )that they served on the bowl, clanking noise from harnesses and carabiner, etc.
We joined in and got ready to climb. But i think we might be the last team to left the hut. It was clear sky,full of stars, and warm night. I looked up and there were lots of head lamp trailing from the hut to the gouter hut.
|Profile photos of our route Mont Blanc|
We started the uphill battle at 2.30am. I was sorta glad that we climb in the dark since i couldn't see how exposed it was. We got to the hut at 6.30 am. It took us 4 hrs to get to Gouter hut, twice the time that the guide book said. I was so bummed out and worried that we might miss our summit bid. There's a funny thing about hut in France. First you have to pay for water ( which is okay but odd compare to NZ's hut system) then the Gouter hut's kitchen were closed between 1st and 2nd breakfast serving. And they don't let you buy water or anything during that time. I was puzzled but ended up waiting so we can buy water for our summit bid.
After much discussion, we decided to push on. Left the hut at 7.30 am, we made a good time to get to Dome du Gouter (4297 m / 14.097 ft), then dropped down to Col du Gouter only to go Up again to Bossons ridge, then the long summit ridge slog. Finally we got to the summit at 12.30 pm. WOOT! Because of my slowness, we had the summit almost to ourselves( ignore the 3 other people on the other side of the summit ).
|the essential photos of br's gps|
on the summit
45 minutes was spent in the summit for some required summit photos, then we headed down. It took us 2,5 hrs to get back to Gouter Hut where we spent another night and we didn't even miss dinner time! At dinner we sat across a super nice old couple who was going up the next day. I think they pitied us for being the only non-french speaking couple in that table. It was a nice dinner with some of the best salmon meal in france ( based on what br said). Then sleep time for us.
The next morning we left the hut at 7.30am and headed down. Took us 5 hrs to get all the way back to Nid d'aigle. The trip down was highlighted by a sarcastic but funny french guide who yelled at 2 slow and old people's teams ( even their gear looks like it was from the 50's, BUT it did looks pretty rad and impressive). It was hilarious to see him tried to get them move faster and then got really sarcastic about how slow and dangerous they were. He had been rolling his eyes and made faces early on about his client ( behind his back of course ). funny dude. This whole scene happened at the Grand Couloir ( the one where we chose to cross it early morning on the way up) where you really didn't want to spend much time there. Honestly it made me nervous watching how things played out there, and i can see how accident can happen.
|br was amused by a border collie|
on the bus back to chamonix
Back at chamonix, hot shower was much appreciated by everyone. After 3 days of sweats and dirts, i believed we probably released some unpleasant smell to the environtment. Couple hours later, it started raining and thunderstorm-ing. We got out in good timing. All in all, it was great experience for me. Learning about how slow I was compare to everyone in the mountain that day ( a total slap in the face I would say! ), handling long day in the mountain, learning about moving in glacier and sharp ridges, never again to only put one layer of sunscreen ( half of my face is orange right now), up and down climbing steep rock face, and a lot more ( br had been really patient about all these, smooch! )