Mont Blanc Ascent with Gran Paradiso

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Mont Blanc For Mortals - The Ascent by Dan Aspel

By: Dan Aspel, posted 14th May '13

Last June I booked onto KE Adventure’s “Mont Blanc Ascent” trip. This spring myself and the rest of the team at Trail magazine are publishing a two-part feature on the experience. With part one already done (see the previous blog post, and the May issue of Trail) here’s a sneak preview of what to expect in part two…

Some interesting facts about Mont Blanc: at 4810m it is the highest peak in the Alps; its fastest ascent time is 3hrs 38minutes; its peak is a dome of perpetual snow and ice far above its rocky tip; its summit has housed igloos and hot tubs and aeroplanes; on 4 July 2012 at roughly 15:00 Trail magazine stood on top of it; this summer you could too.”

The cable car station had been a strange experience. Madness was in the air. So were elbows… that said, if there’s one ride worth a rumble, it’s the Aiguille du Midi. Climbing a staggering 2,800m over the course of twenty minutes it’s one of the most thrilling Alpine experiences on offer. You could even take your Gran. That is, if your Gran doesn’t mind dangling over gaping precipices and speeding past sheer cliffs it seems impossible mankind has ever climbed.

Crossing the broad whiteness of the Col du Midi the fat white face of our first mountain – Mont Blanc du Tacul – came into sharper focus. Small groups of climbers zig-zagged their way up its steep side in tramped-out paths of deep snow. We followed them. Klemen set a pace that would remain for the next twelve hours: brisk and steady without break. This was our first introduction to the steepness of our route, the space behind us creating a sucking sense of exposure and airiness that would only increase as the day wore on.

My rope went taut. Klemen’s voice shouted down from above. I buried my axe into the wall. My crampon points followed and I made my way upward. This 40m ascent is nothing to an experienced climber, but I am not that… by the time I crawled onto the ledge at the top I was gasping for breath. As I sat and recovered I fought back tears, partly because of the intensity of what I’d just done, partly because of what lay in front of me: a basin of infinite depth. The world spilled downwards steeply and without end. My eyes searched for the safe place but there was none. The visibility was menacingly clear.

>>> You can read the full story in the June issue of Trail, on sale 15 May.

>>> Visit www.livefortheoutdoors.com for more info.

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