Mont Blanc

neil On July - 28 - 2011Comments Off

We started off with an not so early start on Sunday, we got to the cable car at approx 10.30am, we hopped off the top and started the long walk to the Albert Premier Hut. It’s a two and a bit hour slog to the hut, walking at an easy pace, we blasted up there in just over one and a half hours. This season the snow was as far down as the cable car, it had been bad weather up until we arrived with large snow coverings up in the mountains. The Albert Premier hasn’t changed a bit; they treat you so bad, and then charge you to stay there.

I had prepared myself this year though, by the time that we reached the hut, I had consumed more than 4 litres of water, this is to combat altitude sickness, and you’re also supposed to climb 500 mtrs above where you intend to sleep, as they say climb high sleep low. So this was my intention, we ate our dinner at 6.30pm and after we were finished I said to Radek “I’m going to climb the ridge behind the hut” it was a great night, the sky was clear and there was no wind, so I headed up a reasonable scramble, I knew that I that the ridge wasn’t 500 mtrs, and I topped out at 250 or so mtrs, the clouds then came in less than a min, and I thought it was best to head back.

It was a mixed climb, the face was covered in snow with rocks jutting out of the snow, to be honest it was more technical than I had predicted, and if I had read it better before setting off I would have put on my crampons. About half way down, I started my way down a large sloped face, which was half covered in snow, as I placed my first foot onto the snow I slipped and slid down the face and off the end, in the panic I instinctively put my hands down, but as I slipped off the end into what I expected to be hard snow, my left hand went straight through, but as it did my thumb took the weight of my descending body on what must have been a rock below the Snow, bending it back until it gave way, letting the full weight of my body land on my elbow, onto what I presume was a sharp rock. I knew instantly that I had hurt my hand pretty badly, I lay in the snow for a min of so, the feeling of nausea hit me and I sat up, I watched my hand swell up like a balloon and felt the burning sensation in my Elbow grow, I sat there for a min thinking you idiot! I got up and as I did my phone rang, it was Radek, I had been gone now for over an hour and the visibility was poor, I answered it and said “I’m good” but the reception was poor and I couldn’t hear him.

As I made my way down, I run through the ideas of whether or not to mention it to Radek, I was assessing my hand all the way down, convincing myself that it would be fine and that it would sort itself in a day or two, I kept saying ” as long as it’s good for Mont Blanc at the end of the week” my elbow didn’t matter, but you need two hands to climb, I suppose that I was a little embarrassed to tell him, after all we had just arrived and I possibly had put our expedition at risk of not going any further.

However I did tell him all be it in a matter of fact kind of way, I played it down, but the truth is I couldn’t move my thumb very much, and I defiantly couldn’t use it for even the basic of tasks that I would need to perform over the next few days. My altitude sickness wasn’t too bad that night, the thing with the Albert Premier is that there are so many people crammed into the rooms that it gets really hot, so if you feel a little off it seems to be multiplied by tenfold. Anyway I made it through the night and we headed off at about 7 am, this in mountain time is late, the first to rise do so at 4am and head out as quickly as possible, so we we’re some of the last to leave the hut, when we arrived the night before we had bumped into Veit, he was leading a team of 5 clients, Veit is the German guide that we used last year, I have kept in touch with him, so it was good to see him again.

He was first to leave that morning, and had to break trail, no easy feat to do with new clients. We had planed our route before we even came to Chamonix, but after talking to Veit we decided to change our coarse and head straight for a 3520 mtr peak, our route for the day would take us some 8 miles, with an altitude gain of about 810 mtrs, all round a pretty tough day. By the time that we got to the base of the peak we could see that the summit was quite crowded, so after accessing the surrounding area we made the decision to ascend a peak off to the right, as no one was on it, it also had a ridge that followed over to the peak that everyone else was on, so we figured that we would climb the ridge and bag both summits before heading to the Trient Hut.

The first summit had no technical difficulty in it at all, the ridge on the other hand was a different kettle of fish, and it wasn’t till we were across that Radek said casually that Veit had said not to cross the ridge as it was quite dangerous. By this time the second summit was quite clear as most people had started heading back to their huts, so we got to the top, took some photos and then headed for the Trient Hut, Veit had told us that there was an abseil point at the bottom of the second peak that would take us straight down into the col, avoiding the long walk around that you would normally have to take, which eventually meets up with the broken in trail.

So we stripped off our glacier travel rope, and set up the abseil, when we did so and dropped the two parts of the rope down the face, we realised that our rope was about 10 feet or so short, we both decided that it would be better to try and climb down the last of the steep face than have to walk around, so I went first, to let you understand, the point we were trying to get to wasn’t the bottom, only the end of the vertical bit, the slope went on for about another 300 feet, the trick is not to shoot off the end of the rope when you eventually reach that point, but to stop just before this and kick your front points in and make a good purchase with your ice axe, this all went ok for me, and then I down climbed the last 10 feet, before jumping about 5 feet down onto what must have been an open crevasse on the face of the slope, Radek didn’t have such a graceful landing, he rappelled down till the end of the rope, disconnected from it and feed it down to me, he then moved over the face and made his way down to the level that I was standing at, from where he was, he thought that he would avoid the 5 foot jump, this didn’t work, as the crevasse was all the way along the face, only covered in snow, so he landed on his rear in a pile, all be it at least he never tumbled the 300 feet down into the col!

We arrived at the Trient hut at about 14.40, we were about the last to get there, the weather had been great, the sky had stayed clear and the sun shone all day, the sun on the glacier is very dangerous, not only does it hit you from above, it also comes from below, this catches most first timers out, as it did for me last year, burning the underside of my chin, ears and even my nose, but even with factor 25 on everything, I still looked like a tomato when we arrived at the hut. The Trient Hut is much nicer, the people treat you like you are a guest, and make you feel very welcome, our stay there was good, and we went to bed at 20.00, as we had to get up at 4.30am, as breakfast is served at either 4.00am or 5.00am and no later, our plan for the day was to catch a 3570 peak before descending all the way back to Chamonix, it worked out at about 8.5 miles, we know these figures, as we carried a GPS tracker with us which can plot your entire trip, except when we got to the base of the peak, we decided to leave our packs at the base, with the tracker in one of them.

When we eventually got back to Chamonix it was about 15.30, we could have been back about half an hour earlier if I could have read the bus time table properly. I had a bath then headed down to pub across the road from our hotel and started writing this, about an hour later Veit arrived on his push bike and joined me, with Radek arriving two minutes later, to cut a long story short and about ten drinks later we eventually left at 1.30am, now this was fine for Radek and me, but poor Veit had 5 clients to meet at 8.00 am the next morning, he also had to take them up to the first hut at the Gouter side, that is if he made it home on his bike first! We will find out when we meet him at the Gouter hut on Thursday!!!! Neil

A Needed Break

neil On July - 4 - 2011Comments Off

Just a note to say that the McDonalds are away to Spain, we are having a break from the organising of the ball and from my intensive training, we will be back for a week and then I head off to Chamonix for 8 days high altitude training. It’s Radeks and my intention to do a couple of short expeditions before an attempt on the summit of Mont Blanc, unfortunately we have not got booked in to the Gouter hut which means that we will have to pay and sleep on the floor the night before we go for the summit, all be it we have got booked in to the Cosmic hut, but the route this season has been virtually un passable.

We don’t really want to go from the Cosmics anyway as the route is not so direct and is prone to avalanches, we also are not taking a guide with us on this trip, I have purchased a Garmin GPS unit at a reduced price, thanks to Craigdon Mountain Sports, who are kindly selling me all of out gear at cost price. Radek has done the complicated bit and plotted in all of the routes, so if we end up lost, then he is the one to blame! I’m really looking forward to this trip, I feel we are far more competent after having a full winter training session in the Scottish mountains un guided, staying in the mountains educates you a lot in mountain skills and the more trips that you have learns you to reduce your kit and only carry what you need, last time we went to Mont Blanc I think I carried half the shop up the mountain “just in case”.

This time we are kitted up for Alpine accent so we can move much quicker! Of course we are also both much fitter than the last time that we went, well I better be, I hope all the training that I have put in will pay off . I am going to be filling in my blog every day when we are up in the mountains and posting it when we have service.
Next time I we speak we will be on our way to Chamonix.

Return of the Veit

neil On October - 15 - 2010Comments Off

Thank the lord! We now have someone that we can trust to go back to Chamonix with and hopefully on to Anconcagua. I had sent him an e-mail about a month ago and had no reply, I had mentioned to Radek my concerns of not managing to get in touch with Veit and how big a disappointment it would if we couldn’t go back to Chamonix and meet up with him. But Radek is of the same make up as Veit, “very laid back” he just said “don’t worry he probably only checks his e-mails once a month” it ends up that he only checks them once every two months!

Is all good though this means we can plan plan plan, and no guide will stop us this time!
Oh by the way Veit is a German guide that we met in Chamonix in August, he’s a good guy though!

Rain in Chamonix

neil On August - 14 - 2010Comments Off

We left this morning at the back of 4.00am, I’ve been wandering as the time got closer for us to go on the first trip how I was going to feel, it was very strange leaving Linzie, Darcey & Finn. I wanted so much to go in and see them as they slept and I could see Linzie was starting to well up. So we said our goodbyes quietly and we left, I figured that if I hung around much longer Linzie would get more upset.

As we drove to Aberdeen it became quite apparant that it’s not the climbing of the mountains that fears me, it’s the leaving of my family!