23 September 2007

Down from the Mountaintop

Apologies to my readers for leaving them hanging after my last entry. I was indeed successful in reaching the summit of Mt. Blanc at 10:10 the morning after my previous entry. All the training and preparation really paid off -- I got my pack reduced to a minimum, I was fuelled up, hydrated and mentally prepared when my alarm went off at 1:00 the next morning. I dressed and pulled on my boots by the light of my head-torch, joined my guide Jean-Pierre for a quick breakfast, and headed out the door of the refuge just before 2:00. The next three hours were an arduous 500 meter ascent to the Goûter refuge, on a route that was near vertical in many places. We were so fortunate with the weather -- it was clear, cold and still, and as we climbed we could see the lights of civilisation far below, even as far as Genéve in the distance.

From Goûter, the route switched to snow and we put on our crampons to climb the remaining 1100 meters to the summit. Dawn broke as we reached the Goûter Dome, and finally before us we could see the summit, which appeared quite manageable until you realised the tiny black specks that dotted its white surface were other climbers far above. But still at that point I felt 100% confident of success for the first time -- I had the time, I had the energy, and conditions were near perfect. All I had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other for five more hours and then sure enough we were standing there on the highest point in the Alps.

My one regret is that my phone battery died part way up so I was unable to get an appropriately victorious summit photo. No doubt this was due in part to the fact that I used my phone to tap out my previous blog entry. However, thanks to one of my climbing companions from the Swiss part of the course, I do have this really macho looking shot of me belaying down one of the mountains we climbed during the preparatory course.

Returning to Tête Rousse took another six hours, and I was exhausted by the time we arrived. However, I did manage to find enough energy and enough battery power in my mobile to snap one more picture, this one of a sign posted in the refuge's lavatory:

I actually have no idea what this sign means, but I am hoping our friendly language police over at Grouperism can help sort this out, or at least suggest some appropriate punctuation.

23 September 2007

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