My oldest son, Drejc is 18, so he got a brand new driving license and is willing to drive the four of us all the night across the boring North Italian plane. We turn south from Aosta valley at 5 a.m. into Valsavaranche, when a car appears in front of us. Both cars stop, but the road is wide enough. The other guy drives on and crashes into us. An older Frenchman, half asleep comes out, looks what happened, sits again in the car and drives on. Our novice driver rushes after him, but as he is too slow, I take over. While rushing down the valley the French guy comes up again, stops and we begin to bargain the damage. Anyway he doesn't have much money. He's offering a third of a sum we want, so negotiations fail and he angry drives on again. It's seven o'clock when the four of us find ourselves on a police station in Aosta. It opens at nine. All right, anyway we messed up everything! Who cares about money, we are on a ten day vacations.
So, it's already past ten when we start walking from Pont, 1950m. In Victor Emmanuel hut we reserved four (expensive) places, but we are carrying also sleeping bags. It's a beautiful day, the path is crowdy, but we don't hurry. We have a whole day and only 800m to make. Near the hut, which is looking like a big hangar, we loaf around, trying to think out how to spend the whole afternoon. But we can make it to the top of Gran Paradiso! Nobody is against. A few guys come by and it seems they are also going up. "How's the snow", we ask them. "Shecko! Mamo machki!" (Doesn't matter, we have crampons), they say in Czech language. Well, we have crampons only for three, the youngest son, 15 years old Martin will have to make it without them.
Jasmina, my wife, starts to walk so enthusiasticly, that she misses the direction. "I think we must go north, not east", I say. Again we don't hurry. On the bottom of the Glacier du Grand Paradis we rope up and start ascending. The traverse is very unpleasant. Not because it would be too steep, but because on the trail there is a stream of water. Being four on one rope we are not fast as used to be, and for the first time I think of a danger that returning late this part might get icy in the evening. But we are trained enough to proceed. The next part of the glacier is not so steep, we catch up a party before us, but reaching first rocks we must make a short rest. Nobody can eat much, but we know that we must drink a lot. With new forces we make it over the steep part, reaching an edge where new horizons open. Watching the mountain in front of us, Chiarforum, I overestimate its height and announce that we are already on the altitude of 3800m. (We are climbing without a map, because I know the description so well.) Expecting only good 200m of altitude (actually it was more) we hurry up again. Now we are taking over a few parties, although we all feel effects of high altitude. Not sleeping all night, we feel tired, but there are already the towers of Gran Paradiso top ridge, and the trail starts turning left for the final ascent. We planned to reach the peak at 5 p.m., but will be a bit later. The crevasse is an innocent one, slope is getting steeper and steeper, but we reach rocks without problems. A passage or two in a mixed terrain and we reach the peak.
It's a calm late afternoon. The north icy wall is falling towards Glacier de la Tribulation, we have a beautiful view towards east, where unknown peaks are popping up from glaciers, but from west some heavy clouds arrive, forcing us to shorten the well-deserved rest.
On a descent first meters are again tricky. Martin is going carefully, I am trying to belay him, and its more than 6 p.m. when we reach the snow. Still, I don't allow to release, so we stay roped. With long steps we lose altitude, on some parts we almost run, knowing that we must reach the lower glacier traverse before it gets icy. But all fears are too much, although the traverse takes us another half an hour. Finally we are over, reaching firm rocks where we can unrope. It's strange, how with lower altitude we don't get stronger, but more tired!
A little further down we are waiting Jasmina, who is around the corner. "Just vomited a little", she explains. All right, we don't need to hurry so much. The day is not over, only from north-east heavy clouds are coming. We comfortably reach the Victor Emmanuel hut, where Jasmina, Drejc and Martin fall down to a free table, but I have one more mission.
There are boulders around, why not to find one, where we could spend a night? I'm searching in circles, but nothing. I'm already 15 minutes away from the hut, where suddenly I spot an ideal one. It's huge, having on one side an overhang under which all four could be on a dry place. It starts raining. I'm running up and into the hut, raising up those three and the hut, full of mountaineers have something to see: Three half dead mountaineers take in a hurry their heavy rucksacks and rush out into a storm.
When we reach the boulder a big capricorn jumps from below the overhang. It's no time to be sentimental. "Sorry, old chap! Tonight we'll sleep here!" There's enough place for all four, it's dry and we can make ourselves comfortable. During the night I awake several times. Animals are trying to come under our overhang. A lightning strikes and big horns appear on a dark sky. And there's another one, ... and the third one. They are only a meter or two away. Will they dare to lay on our feet? There's no place elsewhere! They didn't dare. I'm afraid that the storm will get more furious and that they will have to come. But slowly everything calms down. In sleeping bags the night is even warm (on 2700m!), so in the morning we can even lie in a little.
Another beautiful day begins. It's such a great feeling that you have already done what you were supposed to do today. Yes, even after a sleepless night, yesterday we climbed up and down a 4000-er in one day. So we can move on today. In France. In Dauphinee and over the Alpes Maritimes to the Verdon Canyon and down to the Azour Coast. What a start of vacations!
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