My ski mountaineering race season finished up about one month ago with the Patrouille des Glaciers not quite finishing as it normally would due to mountain weather shortening the race. I am really happy about my ski mo race season, reaching my objectives and beyond with a world cup gold medal in the sprint, a 1st place ranking in France in my category of Veteran, 2nd overall for women, an overall ranking of 5th in the Grand Course, but there was something still not quite complete about the season. My ski gear still overflowed into more than half the space of the bedroom much to my husbands dismay. Why?
It was Mont Blanc, unfinished.
I have full view of the route and can often see ascent and ski descent tracks on a clear day. Some days, it’s socked in with clouds, high winds and heavy precip, other days it shines in all it’s confidence and beauty. I must say the moods of Mont Blanc are much like my own, with both good and stormy weather days. Like Mont Blanc, I feel best when I am shinning bright.
I had my heart set on climbing it from my house in Chamonix and descending the North Face on skis all in a day. I have done the North Face on skis twice now, in fact 2 years ago to this day of May 25th in 2010 via the Arrete du Dome (YouTube vid) and my first time via The High Traverse in 2007 . I will take the ski down any day over the downhill slog on foot. In fact I love skiing the North Face with all the commitment and respect for the mountain that is involved. Simply put, the challenge of the Mont Blanc summit for me embraces much that one needs in journey of daily life whether you are a mom, dad, athlete, anyone finding their path :
breathe, endurance, perserverance, confidence, fortitude,
grace, energy, vision, attentiveness, awareness, caution, respect,
experience, tenacity, commitment, presence
Let’s put it this way. Mont Blanc is big undertaking and, on a side note, one that I by no means take lightly. Even with my years of experience in the mountains, I choose to go with others with just as much or more experience than me. It is normally a 2-3 day effort, with the elevation of town at 1035 m (3395 ft) and the summit of Mt. Blanc 4,810m (15,782 ft). That makes for a total of 3,375 meters (12, 385 feet) of elevation gain and loss (you’ve gotta get back!)
I had one attempt already 2 weeks ago but we were turned back at 4,320 meters not far from the summit due to high winds at the ridge. So the ski gear still overtook the bedroom for two more weeks, but I saw a weather break and asked a fellow guide friend if he wanted to make a go. He was game but would shorten his route by meeting me at the tunnel.
- I left my house in town at 2h20 am with my Petzl Nao headlamp. Super excited with the reactive lighting and high battery life!
- RDV Tunnel du Mont Blanc with my climbing partner and ascend on foot with skis on the back, getting off trail many times due to the blow downs from the storm.
- Skis on about 3/4 of the way up the Old Aiguille du Midi lift line and made out way skinning up and then across the junction of the Glaciers (one of the more technical areas to cross)
- Just after day break made our way up past the Grand Mulet hut where most Mont Blanc climbers/ skiers sleep the night before and leave between 1 & 3 am.
- This time I chose the Grand Plateau route via the Grand Mulet instead of the Arrete du Dome. Both routes have their own dangers, the Plateau: serac fall, the arrete: exposure.
- Crossing the plateau
- Ascending upwards still…
Once we hit the Vallot hut the winds picked up. This is where I was turned around last time due to wind. This time it was windy, but manageable.
A good view of our route: Mont Blanc by the Grand Mulets
The last push from the Vallot Hut to the summit was the hardest. Here you are at the highest altitude and I sure felt it! To be honest the summit of Mont Blanc is not nearly as dramatic as some of the arretes you pass to get there.
When you arrive on top of the big white dome you aren’t really sure if you are there or not . The summit, a dome shape, is made up of thick, perennial ice, whose thickness varies, so no exact and permanent summit elevation can be determined. More fun Mont Blanc facts found here
- We took a few moments on top to take in the view and then it was time to put the heals in lock down mode and descend. The sun was shinning and the snow was softening. Plus, I had to get back to pick up my boys at school! Even though it was all downhill from the top, the descent took careful navigating through the hazards of the mountains. Our objective was only 1/2 way done.
- I returned home safe, after a successful summit day, with some tired legs, a little nauseated stomach from altitude, but very happy to pick up my boys at school at the end of the day. Now, finally the overflow of ski gear in my bedroom can be put away. Operation summer mode!
Nina, a Wild Roses Ambassador, embodies the brand’s philosophy to the fullest:
A women’s life is not about climbing the highest mountain or being the first on the top. It is about the passion of doing things for a greater reason. Life can be an adventure, but the greatest adventure is giving life a meaning.
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