Mont Blanc – August 2013

This summer Everest summiteers Mollie Hughes, Alpine skier Chris Lowe and Alpinist Calum Mallory set off to Chamonix, France. Our goal was to climb Mont Blanc the highest mountain in Western Europe, without the use of cable cars from and to the valley.

On the 7th of August at 4am we left London in Calum’s rusty old Ford KA, Bluebell. Bluebell was filled to the roof with kit, tents and food. We managed to squeeze in alongside and started out on our 660 mile drive to the French Alps. 13 hours, 5 baguettes and many gallons of coffee later Bluebell pulled into our campsite in Argentiere, a super little campsite just outside of Chamonix.

Mont Blanc stands at 4,810m tall, therefore before we start our climb we would need to acclimatise our bodies to the reduced levels of Oxygen experienced on the mountain. Being in Chamonix we were spoilt for choice of what peaks we could climb. In the end taking in to consideration the weather conditions, we decided to trek up to the Argentiere Glacier situated around 3,400 meters for some great ice climbing.

On our second acclimatization climb we headed for the Petite Aiguille Verte, a beautiful jagged summit peak full of mixed climbing. Standing around 3,850 meters the Petite Aiguille Verte made for a great acclimatization peak. We zigzagged up the snow slopes for an hour before coming to the bottom of the jagged rock section. Leading the beautiful Chamonix rock for 3 pitches we got to the top of the knife edge ridge line that led to the summit. With many hundred vertical foot drop either side of us and a jagged knife edge to navigate we all embraced the exposure and slowly made our way to the summit. After summiting we began to abseil back down the rocky face to the snow slopes where we slowly made our way back down to the base of the mountain.

With a couple of days to spare before we headed for the summit of Mont Blanc, we enjoyed some of the beautiful multi-pitch sport climbing in the sun in Vallorcine a couple of miles from the Swiss border.

The day we had waited and trained for was here, we were to make our way from the le’ Houches valley and trek the 9 hours to the Tete Rouse Mountain hut before making our attempt at the summit. The trek up to the hut passed through beautiful alpine forest and meadows and wound its way up to the rocky tracks of the Mont Blanc trails. Trekking up the windy, steep, rocky trails to the Tete Rouse hut was tiring but great fun and made even better when we were greeted with a tasty three course meal at the hut.

Our summit day started at 2am, leaving the hut the weather was calm and the sky was clear with nothing but millions of big bright stars and a full moon overhead to help guide us up the route. We scrambled for two hours up the rocky section of the climb to the Gouter hut. From here we started on the snowy path that gradually winded its way up to the snow dome which led to the final push up the narrow and exposed summit ridge line to the summit of Mont Blanc.

After many hours of slow snow walking we were walking up the final few hundred yards to the summit. The weather was perfect with clear skies and views of many miles around looking over the French, Italian and Swiss Alps. The wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped well below freezing making the whole experience even more exciting. With a smile from ear to ear and after many long and tough hours of climbing we were standing on the summit of Mont Blanc 4810 meters high!

After taking in the breathtaking views and many summit photos later we began our long decent back down the snowy slopes to the Gouter hut for some much needed food. From the hut we down climbed the rocky ridge leading back to the tete rouse hut and started the long trek back down the valley to our camp.

Twenty six hours after setting off from our camp for the summit we had made it back to our camp again totally exhausted from our efforts we headed for the pub and some much needed food and beer!

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