Our First Peak

neil On August - 18 - 2010Comments Off

The Tri’ent hut in comparison to the Albert Premier is like the park hyatt in Milan, there were only the four of us in a 7 man bunk, me, Radek, Lee (ex marine) and his mate Scott, this at least ensured a good nights sleep! We sat down to our evening meal soup, rice with marmout meat and tinned fruit.

I was starting to get acclimatized now and managed to eat my meal then off to bed by 8.30. We had to be down in the main eating area for 5.00am for breakfast. The weather report was still not good and a lot of snow had fallen during the night, there were approx 6-7 teams of men and women, ours being the smallest with only 5 in it. All the guides butted heads and made an agreement that no one was going anywhere so back to bed.

We were back up at 7.00am and Radek had been speaking to the other French team, they had plans to leave within the hour so we geared up to follow them, the other British team were going to follow us. Our intention was to head down the Col Sup De Tour and assent the Aigieille Dutour peak, the track had been broken by the French and two lone Americans but it was still hard work, the snow was still about one and a half foot deep and as we came out of the Col the Americans had broken off to the right so ‘Smiler’ made the great decision to follow them (big mistake!!).

We were all roped up in-case of crevase’s and it was a good job, Lee was the first to fall into one with Scott following about 20 min later, they only fell in to there waists but as we stepped over them we could see an endless hole disappearing into the center of the earth. We made it to the base of the summit, downed our sticks and prepared to climb axes in our hands, we topped out at 3560mtrs after a slow assent due to some slow climbers in front of us. At the top I geared up my head camera for the decent (much to our guides disgust!). Our guide ‘Smiler’ seems like a great guy as we sit at our table eating and resting, he has a thousand stories to tell and he has met everyone famous in the climbing and guiding world. But when it comes to guiding, his people skills and concerns for the paying client are zero. On the first day, albeit was in bad weather, we never got to stop once for a drink, food or a rest and he had no problem in telling you that our interests as first timers in the mountains was nothing to do with him, you dare not ask to stop for a photo or fix your kit! He’s a bit of a prat actually.

We did our peak and headed back towards and down the Col De Balme making a slow but steady pace back to the Albert Premier hut and then back down the mountains to Chamonix for one nights proper rest. All conversations on the mountain were not good, the weather is getting worse, almost one metre of snow has fallen each day at the top of Mont Blanc, our assent is disappearing as all of the guides are starting to bale out!

Neil McDonald

A Hard Beasting of a Day

neil On August - 18 - 20101 COMMENT

We left the Albert Premier hut and headed for the Col De Balme. It was approx 5 miles through knee deep snow all up hill. The snow kept coming all day, thankfully the French had broken trail. After about 4 hours we got to the base of the Col, it looked huge disappearing into the sky, we headed up. I was really struggling now I hadn’t eaten anything and my water bottle was attached to the back of my pack out of reach and the altitude sickness hadn’t left. I felt very weak and tired. We pushed on for another half hour until we met the French coming back down. They asked us if we intended going up as they feared for avalanche, we said that we were trying to get to the Try’ent hut, they shook there heads and headed back down the Col, we headed up!

After approx 20 mins we came to the end of the broken trail, where the French had turned back, the snow know was about 4 feet deep, we did an avalanche check on the snow to which ‘Smiler’ said we have to go down it’s to dangerous. So we headed down, as we struggled through the snow I could hear voices shouting from the top of the Col, but I said nothing, as we reached the base of the Col we met the other British team, approx 8 of them all young and fit.

As the guides spoke I turned to look up the Col I could see 5 people coming down from the top, it Was the Italians, they had broken the trail and also eliminated any avalanche risk. The only thing now was that we had to go back up the ‘shitty’ Col, It was about -15 wind chill and the wind at the top must have been about 70 miles an hour but I wasn’t cold. We struggled on for about 2 more hours through the Col Sup De Tour and up the final really steep last part to the Tri’ent hut, I can honestly say that I have never in my life felt so exhausted and completely drained, on the last 200 mtrs my legs were screaming at me and I felt very unstable climbing the rocks to the hut, a much nicer hut! We were now in Switzerland.

Neil McDonald