Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Day 3: Downward struggle...

Day 3: A really rough start. As cosy as it was, the Trient hut was a horrible nights sleep. I got some shots of the sunset then dived to bed,  it was freezing cold. I seem to be the last one to bed every night, but my enthusiastic early rise yesterday with the 'I feel great' soon bit me in the teeth this morning. The wind really picked up and was howling against the wooden cabin all night. I nodded off but woke up at 4am feeling drained. It was dark, cold and I just felt sick. I fell back to sleep for an hour then reluctantly at 5am clambered off the bunk bed, which was an abseil in it's own right, and got myself kitted up in the corridor. My head was throbbing. Some hot cereal and tea helped, then we were outside again getting gear on. The glacier this time was an intimidating and gloomy grey, coated in thick cloud and not at all like the glistening panorama we'd had the previous night. We posed for a team photo and set off down from the hut over the glacier, roped as always, to a col near the Aig du Tour.

 En route our guide Greg saw 'Orny' written on a rock alongside an arrow, giving directions to the Orny hut further down the valley. He giggled and said it was missing a 'H', then said he missed his wife... It was slow and freezing cold to begin with, as we left the hut the sun was rising to the left leaving layers of yellow shadows on the hills below, absolutely stunning but still no sunlight. The snow was slippy and soft due to the heavy winds and fresh snowfall. After a short stop at the col I tried to relieve my headache with a litre of marsh tea from my water bottle but it was acidic and didn't help a great deal.

Then it was a short scramble over some rocks whilst still in crampons and as we topped it we got some sunlight and a great view down to the Aig du Chardonnet. As we hit the snow again it was steep and very loose, so with me leading I kept slipping and falling backwards, until I realised I needed to kick my heels into the snow which worked well. I slipped again but arrested the fall quite promptly with my axe. We passed lots of groups of climbers on the descent and the weather improved, with a down jacket soon becoming too hot and like a rug. Curving round we reached the glacier again, this time we changed the lead so I was at the back, but kept falling over on the slope and eating snow, it was slow and tough. We found ourselves passing crevasses again and we were soon removing the crampons for the scramble up and down to the Albert 1er hut, 2712m. The rest of the group were waiting and after a short rest and drink we were descending on hard terrain again down the route we'd walked up on Sunday.

 Greg got bored and found a slope of snow, so with his walking poles as makeshift ski's, he put his skills to the test and found a quicker way down the hill than the repetitive cartilage-burning walking we were enduring.
We had the glaciers to our left. The weather was much better this time down the sweeping, steep and beautiful Alpine valleys, with wildflowers, streams and wildlife. Beautiful.

Mont Blanc was in the distance, like a shadow, but unmistakeable. Absolutely stunning, and slightly intimidating. It gave me goosebumps but I took a moment to contemplate what I was about to do. A rush of excitement but a slight nervous apprehension. I was seeing it for my very own eyes, it was smaller than I'd expected but deceivingly peaceful. I kept looking back with a smile on my face until we reached the chairlift and gave our feet a nice rest from the rocky paths. My shins were sore, unsurprisingly, with my shin splints making a vicious return. I've had enough grief off them for 3 months so they could sod off now.

The chair lift was fun then me and Graham took the cable car for the rest of the journey to Le Tour. Feeling tired and achy, we waited around in the car park until Nikki and Dave from Adventure Base, the lodge we were staying in, came to pick us up. We'd had a great two days but it was nice to return to civilisation, besides the Marmot's scattering around the hillside looking at us in disgust. Best of all they said Adventure Base wanted to sponsor me for my climb, which is fantastic. So I'll be getting a donation off them in return for photos of the climb. Although it'll sound like I'm just saying it, the lodges really are great, so homely, modern, well kept and the food supply is better than my house. Definitely a choice for staying in Chamonix.

Moods were lifted and a well deserved hot shower felt like amber nectar but the opportunists meant that I was last in queue! When we could be bothered we packed out bags, which seemed like an expedition in it's own right. I needed to ensure that I wasn't bringing anything I didn't need, but it's difficult for a Brit. You need to err on the side of caution, nothing worse than getting in a pickle up the mountain and not having something to help. I also had to get the Orangutan costume in. I'm really eager to get the picture and the guides are fine, albeit a little surprised, by it. It's not heavy but it's bulky. After a while the bag was packed and organised properly, but full to the brim and heavier than our first couple of days out. I had to bring more of the kit as the weather would be more demanding on summit day, but I only brought what I felt was important. The bag weighed a ton which isn't ideal. Thankfully on summit day I'll have most of the gear on, which should prevent losing too much cartilage in my back... I gave the rest of the team a surprise by walking upstairs in it. It's caused some good mischief up to now and it's due to make Mt Blanc or even global mountaineering history on Thursday too...

Got back and reloaded the calories before going to buy some more batteries for the headtorch I'd left on in the bag, and some blister plasters, because I've got 2. After a surprisingly unexpected and hard downpour in Cham the team went out for a meal in town, with a good chat and reminisce about our experience so far. The food was great, carbo-loading for tomorrow. I'm with a great bunch of people and we get on well,  with the oldest being 65 and the youngest being me at 17. I'm by no means the strongest or fastest in the group, although I've acclimatised well. After the pasta and some dessert (I'm on holiday so enjoying myself but need to sort my diet out when I get home), it was back to the lodge then an early night, our last chance for proper rest before the push to the roof of Europe.... www.mountainboot.co.uk

1 comment:

  1. keep on the good work alex, you are an true inspiration to everyone and all who know you.