The next day I start moving towards Bellevue to take the mountain train to Nid d’Aigle and the Goûter route up to Mont Blanc. After about 700 meters of ascent, you reach the Tete-rousse glacier, which I pass to spend the night in the Tete-rousse hut at 3167 meters altitude. There I have dinner with four Britons who, with the help of two French Guides, are going to climb their first mountain outside of the UK. We have a good time, discuss climbing and eat well. The expectation of tomorrow’s climb is great and the excitement hangs in the air.
3:45 am. My Garmin clock is sounding the alarm. It’s time to get up and have breakfast, and then begin the siege of Mont Blanc. The night before, I repackaged and went through all the equipment. Placed a bag of chili nuts in my breast pocket and filled the fluid system with water and sports drink powder.
I fill up with a big breakfast, visit the toilet one last time and then put on the crampons.
A group of climbers going up the arete.
Outside it’s pitch black, with the exception of the starry sky. I can see the contours of Dome du Goûter and Aiguille du Bionnassay in front of me. The back up to the Goûter hut is gilded by climbers, like small glowing fireflies.
After passing the Tête Rousse glacier you pass an arête, and then reach the Grand Couloir, the most feared place on the Goûter route. I listen carefully for rock fall while letting a Japanese group go ahead. The situation is a little stressful.
When the group has crossed halfway over the couloir, one of the climbers crampons tangles in the group’s rope and is forced to bend down to try untangle it. The guide tries to contindue, shouting “NO STOP, NO STOP” with a stressed voice and a clear French accent. For about 20 seconds, they stand still, before the rope comes loose and they can continue to the safety of a large protecting rock face. I charge and run across the couloir, quickly take off my crampons and pass the Japanese group.
From here you begin what would be called climbing. With the help of a via ferrata and small exposed trails, you get up the approximately 600 meters high ridge facing the Goûter. In terms of quality, the stone is about as loose as on Swedish mountains, so you should be careful not to kick or pull down stones that might damage climbers below.
At 7 o’clock I have passed the old Goûter station at a height of 3800 meters, and continue up to the top ridge and follow it to the Goûter hut. When I enter it’s a pretty quiet station.
Goûter, as seen from Tête Rousse
I ask for the latest weather forecast. With a forecast of alternating clouds, 10m/s winds and the risk of thunderstorms in the afternoon, I make the decision to try to make a peak attack, as I feel I have plenty of energy. At 8 o’clock I have got the crampons attached again and start the attack.
The view is milky, on the verge of white-out sometimes and the wind is a little stronger than the forecast said. However, the trail is clearly visible, and sometimes I meet climbers who are on their way down from the top. The cold weather and the lack of direct sun means that the crampons catch well to the hard snow and that the glacier cracks I pass have strong and fairly reliable bridges.
After passing the Dome du Goûter, I sometimes get a short glimpse of the landscape in front of me before the clouds come in again to surrounding me. My beard has frozen, and is filled with ice and I am forced to pull my buff up over my face. With an estimated 15m/s wind, the cooling effect from the becomes noticeable. Up at 4300 meters in height I have to start counting the steps to keep a steady pace and not take unnecessary breaks. I count to a hundred and then start over to stay focused.
A short glimpse of the landscape in front of me.
As I pass the Vallot shelter I feel strong, vibrant and clear in my head. The weather is no problem and I am well prepared for the challenge.
On one of the Bosses ridges I meet a Latvian climbing group I met in Chamonix a few days earlier. They sit on an exposed flat, in the middle of of the wind on the cold snow and are exhausted. I get a little worried about them, so I go ahead and tell them that Vallot is close, and that they do better in seeking protection where it is sheltered.
At 12 o’clock I reach the top. I put my system camera on my backpack and take pictures of myself before I turn around and start going down again.