A few months ago, my friend Karl invited me to climb Mont Blanc with him and some of his closest friends. I accepted the invitation without a hesitation. We’ve been on a few vertical adventures together, which have often resulted in tears and made me question the resilience of my existence. Wild, scary and exhausting, these experiences heighten my senses and are very addictive. Karl is one of those guys who doesn’t speak much, but who radiates a strong sense of composure. Disciplined and precise, he is the kind of guy you can trust in situations where you life relies on a piece of rope. A great companion.
Mountains are special to me. Austere, wild, sterile and hostile, they provide the perfect ground for self-discovery. My attraction to them also stems from my father’s strange love for rocks as a geologist and his Himalayan experiences at my age. Needless to say that adventures like this one are essential to me.
Our week of mountaineering was split in 2 phases: the acclimatisation and the ascent.
The best way to enjoy these kinds of expeditions is to be prepared, physically and mentally. Weeks of cardio and strength exercises were followed by a three-day period living above 3500m to boost erythropoiesis. Living on a glacier is fun, and weird. Ice and rocks become the only elements composing the landscape. The scale of the physical things surrounding you is difficult to comprehend. These environments provide a glimpse at the insignificance of a human in relation to nature.
Back in the valley after three days up in the mountains, we took the afternoon to assess our equipment, shower (well needed), and refuel.
That same evening, we were back on our feet to climb to the Tête Rousse Glacier, the base camp before the Goûter couloir. An essential part of our daily activities had been to follow hourly weather forecast updates in order to plan our ascent the best way possible. Thunderstorms were planned for every evening that week. We actually had a very intimate encounter with the sky the moment each of us felt an electric discharge across our bodies on our hike up. We managed to race to a refuge near by where we waited for the weather to improve. Mountain goats came to visit us. Gaining awareness of one’s own vulnerability when exposed to the elements is a strange feeling.
The weather forecast also posed a problem for our original intentions to bivouac on a snow ridge during the second night of our ascent. The exposure of the camp in a thunderstorm would seriously compromise our safety.