It’s not everyday that I leave my house at 2am and set off to climb the the highest mountain in Western Europe, Mont Blanc, 4808.75 m (15776 ft 9 in) This majestic white mountain happens to be the backdrop from my home in Chamonix. The majority of the summiteers choose to stay at a hut prior to sumitting, using lifts or trains to access part of the way. This is the beauty of Chamonix. Mont Blanc and the high mountains are accessible by day; one can enjoy a cafe in the morning and a nice evening meal out at night, hence one of the reasons Chamonix proves to be one of the best places to live for a mountain guide, as they can climb or ski by day And be home with their families in the evening.
I have had the chance to ski Mont Blanc’s North Face twice now, once from the traverse up high crossing Mont Maudit, sleeping in the Refuge du Cosmique and descending the North Face on skis. This was a great way to summit. The next time was Mont Blanc in a day from the tunnel of Mont Blanc and returning by the Aiguille du Midi mid station lift. I have had my heart set on leaving from my house round trip in less then 12 hours. The first woman to climb mont blanc was in 1808, a maid servant, named Marie Paradis clearly more than a maid servant, also passionate about the mountains.
I left my house at about 2 am in my Hoka One One running shoes and met up with some friends at the Chamonix church. We made our way to the Mont Blanc tunnel with skis and ski boots strapped to our packs. Some of our most challenging obstacles were the enormous amounts of blown down trees after the high wind storm we had a few weeks ago.
This resulted in many obstacles to cross and detours to make as we made our way up the Old Chamonix Aiguille du Midi Tram line. I was using the Petzl Nao head lamp for the first time and it’s reactive lighting was excellent for the objective in front of us. At the top of the tram line we put on our skis and traversed with ease across the “le Jonction” of the glaciers.
Ahead we could see the lights of parties climbing The Arete du Dome and the Grand Mulet route . These folks left early from the Grand Mulet hut. We passed by the Grand Mulet hut about 6am.
We had chosen the Arete du Dome, as it is an aesthetically beautiful route, a little safer from serac fall, but also a bit longer than the Grand Mulet route.
The conditions were solid on the Arete with little ice. We arrived at the top of the arrete about 8h15, a long 700 meters of climbing.
Once on top the winds began to really howl. Until then we were almost warm, with no winds. Within about 45 minutes we happily took shelter at the Vallot Bivouac hut to re-warm and consider our options.
The winds were blowing over 140km/hr and just too strong to make a summit attempt; even thought the summit was less than 500 meters away in elevation, less than an hour in time, the most important choice to make in the mountains is to be safe.
We chose to descend down the Grand Mulet route, getting a good look at the uphill tracks. It was a lovely ski down toward the Mulet Hut, and then it was less than lovely onwards. Let’s say a good thigh burner!
Nonetheless all in a good days work, we made our way back down across the junction, back to our shoes and down through the forest back home by lunch time and plenty of time to pick up my boys at school.
A great day out, a good reconnaissance for the next time with hopes to do it round trip under 10 hours. We climbed over 3,330 meters (my Suunto Tc6 watch recorded 3600 meters of up w/ all the undulations) of the total 3,775 meters. Here is a link to my Strava record of the climb, sadly the App drained my battery so it does not show the last bit of the route.
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