Mont Blanc (Solo) – Things I think about when I’m Swimming

Mont Blanc (Solo) – Things I think about when I’m Swimming

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 45.83270°N / 6.86430°E
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 21, 2009
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Summer


This is probably not a typical climbing report, but I have been thinking about it for a long time and finally I have decided to share my experience with all of you. Pictures are not of great quality as they were taken with my freezing blackberry and it is neither the purpose of this story to make a photographic report. This is mainly about things we think about when making tedious exercise and we get prepared for our dreams.

When I swim, which I do regularly once or twice per week, I do climb Mont Blanc in each swimming session. I do swimming as a sport which keeps me fit and does not imply too much logistics. I do lots of other sports but when I do not know what to do, I do swimming.

I do not know exactly why but I think this repetitive training helped me last year to climb without hesitation Mont Blanc for a second time and this time in solo


When I swim generally I do it for 1 hour and I cover a distance of 2 Kms. Whether I go faster, I change style, there is more or less people in the lanes, I generally do 1 hour and 2 Kms.

Swimming is boring. It is not as climbing, where the landscape varies every meter. So when swimming you tend to think and I started thinking about my first climb of Mont Blanc during my swimming sessions.


I sliced the 2Kms into the Mont Blanc’s key milestones. This depends on the length of the swimming pool. Generally I swim in a pool of 33’3M long which means that 60 lengths=2KM. So I sliced in 6 milestones (10 lengths each) the virtual ascent of Mont Blanc (Goûter normal route).

1rst 10 Lengths - 333m (Swim): Train stop “Nid de Aigle” (2386m) to Tête Rousse Hut (3167m)
2nd 10 Lengths - 666m (Swim): Tête Rousse Hut (3167m) to Aiguille du Goûter Hut (3817m)
3rd 10 Lengths - 1000m (Swim): Aiguille du Goûter Hut (3817m) – Mont Blanc Summit (4808m)

Here I take a breath and contemplate for a few minutes. Then start way down.

4th 10 Lengths - 1333m (Swim): Mont Blanc Summit (4808m) to Aiguille du Goûter Hut (3817m)
5th 10 Lengths - 1666m (Swim): Aiguille du Goûter Hut (3817m) to Tête Rousse Hut (3167m)
6th 10 Lengths - 2000m (Swim): Tête Rousse Hut (3167m) to Train stop “Nid de Aigle” (2386m)

Through each piece I recall moments of the 1rst ascent. It is incredible how minor details you may have forgotten come again into your mind.

Putting it into practice (summer 2009 in Alps)

In 2008 and 2009 I did around 25 swimming sessions each year, which means I climbed virtually Mont Blanc 50 times. So through this process I got familiarized by heart with the route up and down.

So the summer of 2009 came and, as usual, my brother Gabi and I went to Alps for an exciting week. My wife Florence joined us to do an initiation course in Alpinism. The target that year was Dent du Geant and Eiger. We did have an excellent week of sun and climbing with our guides and we summited both beautiful and thrilling mountains with success.

After driving my brother to Geneve airport I realized I had a couple of days open. I was back in my hotel alone, thinking about what to do when a light switched on in my brain.

Why not Mont Blanc again? I’ve done it already and our guides are occupied.
Why not in solo then? Ummm.

I started calculating time (1. My wife ended her training in 2 days too – perfect 2. What time is it now? 10am – so I am yet in time to go up to Goûter Hut), checking possibilities (how do I know the route up? I need to follow the trace, follow the ropes), analyzing weather forecast (Chamonix weather report forecasted good conditions-great!). Everything seemed ok.

Last thing, 1rst time we climbed Mont Blanc we did it from Tête Rousse Hut because there was no room in Goûter Hut, this adds a couple of strenuous hours to the climb. So I gave a quick call to the Goûter Hut and Bingo!! – There was room free for me. So I booked. I took my car and materials and up I went.

The "Real" Climb in solo

As if I was in the swimming pool, milestone after milestone were reached. I was on time and with enough energy. Everything went as expected.

The delicate point was the trace. I needed to follow the trace of other climbers not to get lost. So in the initial phases of the climb I followed a couple of ropes. Way up, slowly but surely, I was gaining rhythm and confidence.

I was feeling great and in control. Just before the Vallot Bivouac Hut I accelerated and passed the rope in front of me. For a while I was alone. Weather was ok though pretty cold. When I reached the summit my emotions were high and, as in my 1rst Mont Blanc summit, I cried. There was only another rope there, we shook hands and they asked me to take them pictures. My fingers (hands and feet) were in great pain. I took them the pictures and barely was able to get out my Blackberry and give it to them.

My feet, stick and axe
Mont Blanc summit - cold

and few minutes later way down...
Mont Blanc - Les Bosses

Between jumps and whirling my arms finally recovered my extremities and reached back Goûter Hut where I took a hot soup and drunk a beer. I was happy and very happy when I reached back my hotel in Chamonix.

Closing notes

I am not sure or 100% certain about the correlation between the 2 stories. But I feel yet that thanks to the swimming exercise and to going through the climb mentally 50 times in the last years reinforced someway my confidence in making this solo adventure.

Sometimes when I swim now I think in other mountains I’ve climbed. Cervino is my second best, maybe one day I’ll do it in solo too.

I understand this is not a typical report, I would love to hear your comments and maybe as well you share what do you think about when you are preparing for your next thrilling climb.


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