Chamonix is one of my favorite places. We had time to do some sightseeing and enjoyed a delicious dinner in the city center. In France, there is a guarantee of great food! The city was over crowded. There were numerous trail runners from all over the world. The famous UTMB – Ultra Trail Mont Blanc is in one week. We were pleased that our accommodation was a nice French chalet called “Auberge Le Monatagny”. He was just outside Chamonix in a remote area called Les Houches with a great mountains view. It was very captivating.
After a nice breakfast and great hospitality of the Auberge owner, we packed our gear. We headed directly to the station of the Aiguille du Midi cable car. The owner scared us and said that in the main season, there are daily 3000 -5000 tourists going up. He added that we might not be able to get a ticket. This was definitely not the case. The ticket counter was almost empty.
Luckily, we got our tickets and went to do some shopping, mainly hand and feet warmers. Those were really amazing. It’s unbelievable that they stayed warm even in high altitude above 8000m. We took the cable car to Aiguille du Midi. It was very interesting to see the happy tourists. Seeing those being mountains standing just few meters far away from them. I was very happy to witness such epic view.
It was hard to find the exit in Aiguille du Midi. We had to take the direction of Col de l’Aiguille du Midi. A little exit was on the left. We had to jump over a short gate. For security reasons, it can’t be opened. From here, we put on our crampons, helmet, got roped and we started our descent towards Refuge Cosmique. It stands on the a beautiful Moreen. There were several crevasses on the way. Full glacier equipment is needed for that crossing. After 30 minutes, we were in this beautiful mountain hut. It was run by a private person and not the French Alpine Club.
We were surprised that the hut was almost empty. We became worried about this. One of the hut’s staff gave us binoculars to analyze the route. It lets you watch entirely from the hut restaurant. The hut manager gave us some feedback from the group. She said that the group went up the same day. She tried to comfort us. We had a concern about the icy slopes on this route, the seracs, and the big crevasses to cross.
At the opposite of Everest, here there are no ice doctors to fix all that. There must be some fixed lines in the critical parts. This is the most technical route to the Mont Blanc and we had to be prepared.
The First Obstacle
After a delicious 3 course dinner, we went to bed by 8:30 PM. In our dormitory, there were only two German young guys taking the same route as us. I slept only 3 hours. I woke up at 12:30 AM incredibly fresh. Got ready and head to breakfast. Only 4 of us in the dining room, seriously eating, all silent and very concentrated.
We started at 1:40 am. It was the earliest time for me to go in Alps. The two guys were ahead of us. They had some few meters away from us. This made me nervous. I was doing my best to be fast. Far above us, we saw two head lamps. Those were probably the climbers, who we saw camping below the hut. They were one hour ahead of us.
We met the two guys again after we reached the first technical spot. The said spot was a 4 m wall of ice with nice steps. They were arguing how to manage this part. Just below this wall, there was a large crevasse. You need to make a huge step to cross the crevasse and to reach the wall. Put a foot in the wall already and pull yourself up. This first step was a bit difficult for me. I didn’t have two ice axes with me. I had to pull myself using the fixed ropes. After this, the game was manageable. We felt relieved. All of us managed the first obstacle.
I took the lead on the rope to maintain a slow and steady rhythm. This is what I learned from all my previous high-altitude climbs. My buddy thought we would never make it to the summit with this speed. I proved him wrong. I felt really positive that time. We were making good progress. All of us reached the col of Mont Talcul and continued towards the Col of Mont Maudit. It was the steepest part of this climb and the most technical one. We met the two German guys again at the 40° steep wall. They were arguing how to tackle this.
We went up for 100 meters. We arrived at the start of the ice wall. There two fixed ropes. I was holding one fixed rope with my right hand. My left hand was holding my ice axe. There were nice steps in the wall.
My buddy had two ice axes and it was much easier for him to climb up. A 2 m long spot was very icy and it required much more technical skills. I had to kick the front points of my crampons very hard to have some grip. After 100m on this, we reached the top of the wall.
I had very cold hands and feet at that stage. I felt I was like freezing that time. The ice on the wall reflects cold. I recommend everyone to bring very warm gloves and warm boots for this tour.
The sun started to rise. It was very warming to our bodies and our souls. We had one of the best sunrises I had ever seen.