France – Climbing Mont Blanc I
A journey to France (to the foot of the white giant) takes about 11 hours. So far our destination was the town of La Fayet. From there the Tramway du Mont Blanc starts. In mere 70 minutes it takes you from 580 m above sea level to 2 372 m. From the upper station you can go to 3 167 m above sea level (even this hike is quite strenous; it took us 4 hours). Tete Rousse cabin is there and it is the only base camp. Tents are on rocks yet still one can find a comfortable enough spot to sleep. It is also possible to stay overnight at the cabin and buy something for the nights to come. But do not expect some great cuissine (we were offered a pizza and soup). Drinks are plentifule there
On the following day you should make an acclimationaztion cllimb to Gouter cabin (3 815 m), which sits on the top of the steep massif. The way to the cottage goes through depris and over the very dreaded Grand Couloir section (boulders instantly get loose and fall there) and then you hike up over rocks and boulders straight to the cabin. For most of its length the trail is not secured by rope. Nevertheless it is completely safe - it reminds one of a B difficulty via ferrata. For greater safety, climbers are attachech one to another with rope (ideal count is three). The trail leads directly to the old Gouter cabin. There the white snow paradise begins.
The vista over white snow covered terrain is wonderful and we felt wonderful. A though on the following hike on the glacier makes us joyful. One will also have an idea of the beginning of the snow road. We did not take crmapons therefore we returned back really slow. The journey was enjoybale to us.Dozens of people die in this section every year, but we found it really safe (that said when one is fresh and well rested). A few hours later, we changed our minds because we witnessed a fatal fall of a man in the Grand Couloir (and the campsite movements of the people on the rock wall is quite well visible). The helicopter was in place within a few minutes, and immediately rescued the stale body. We were shocked and became worried for ourselves. Howeover, we had to move on and tread slowly. The journey ahead was long.
The weather forecast is essential. Generally, it is known that you must set out early to avoid afternoon clouds. On the day of our trip, weather forecast was not favourable, so we got up at 1am, ate somthing, made tea, put on helmets with headlamps, expedition boots, and we went into snow adventure at 2 am. The way to Gouter cabin is a bit more difficult at night. Boots for ice don't help much as well. After two hours of hike we reached the edge of snow. We took ice axes and crampons. Perhaps it is for the better (at the beginning) that you don't see steep slopes around you. In the distance, you can see head lamp lights climbing up to the sky, so you know exactly where to go.
Basically, you can not get lost here unless you set out there as the first. The endless ascending up is terrible, really terrible. During this section, which I consider to be one of the most strenous, the sun came up. There may be the first problem with breathing and the first problems at a different pace of people bound on one rope. A beautiful view of the city lights below the hill will make you a little more comfortable. Although your motivation must be high, do not give up! When you see Mont Blanc, you immediately catch your second breath. In the next article, we will continue in our story.
Text and photos: Martina Brožková
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