15th to 20th July 2013
At 6am on Sat (20th July) Paul Hodges and I, led by our great guide Tim Blakemore reached the top of Mont Blanc 4810m, the sun was just rising and it casts a shadow of this massive mountain across the lands to the west, making the moment of time just a magical experience.
It is the hardest climb I have undertaken, lots of scrambling and when you are roped together it is so much harder. The weather patterns were incredible so we needed to change tactics as to possible routes to the top over the three day attempt (18th to 20th). Thunder storms in the evenings and a large snow fall on Friday evening saw me doubting that our 2.30am set off time might not happen but with head torches and crampons on and the three of us all roped up, away we went on massive steep and narrow ridges up and up and up - blackness all around with only the full moon and stars above us - just perfect conditions but ever so cold on reaching the top. The summit is a massive "whaleback shape" and has been covered in ice for about 3 million years.
The sun then stayed out all day and we made our decent back to our mountain hut (Gouter) at 8.15am. Tim (he had previously guided us successfully to the tops of Mera 6476m and Island Peaks 6189m in Nepal in Nov 2012) said I would do it (I was not so sure!). We then did a full scramble decent down Aiguille du Gouter, and a crampon run across the Grand Couloir (as stones were falling) to the valley, reaching there at 1.30pm (ever so hard with the fresh fall of snow); got the Mont Blanc Tramway and then the cable car down from Gare de Bellevue to Les Houches and back to our hotel in Chamonix, a shower and out on the town to celebrate our success.
I was so glad I had acclimatised on Gran Paradiso 4061m which was a two day climb (15th & 16th) to get to the top with two overnight stays in mountain huts. We were all roped up and away at 4.45am on Tues (16 July) and after a long and hard and very steep glacier ascent (1,300m) we were on the top at 9.30am. Again a wonderful day for climbing on this massive mountain. The decent was difficult as again very steep and a lot of soft snow. From time to time you disappeared up to the waist! Paul, James Whittaker (James came to do Gran Paradiso) and Tim did another mountain (Becca di Monsiair 3554m) on Wed 17th but I opted out, as I needed a rest before attempting Mont Blanc.
It is only now that the enormity of this challenge is sinking in and it is so pleasing to know that I was able to get to the top of these two massive mountains. A lot of planning went into getting our kit right. The skills of Tim in reading the weather forecasts correctly and his intimate knowledge of the mountains played a massive part in us all achieving success. It is just a wonderful feeling.
27th July 2013