August 2003 was a pretty bad month for alpine climbing in the Mont Blanc Massif. Lots of rock falling in the "classic" routes of most peaks. Beacuse of the increased risk conditions and to discourage climbers of going up, CAF closed the Gouter Hut since mid August (no guard or food/water, front door was left open as well as two dormitories).
Nevertheless, having checked the Grand Couloir's rock fall conditions a day before my friend Jim and I give it a try very early in the morning of Wednesday 20 (took first tramway to Nid d' Aigle) and by 11AM we were crossing the 15 second, 40-meter traverse dash in 20-25º terrain of Le Grand Couloir (the crux of the climb). Doesn't sound as much of a deal but trust me, they are the scariest 15 seconds of your life. Once we've crossed, it tooks us 1.5 hours to scramble (max. II) to the Gouter Hut at 3800m. Thursday 21 was spent in the hut as the weather was really bad for a summit attempt (wind, snow, fog, the works). Conditions on Friday 22 morning were completely the opposite from what we experienced the day before: completely cloudless, windless and a very bright moonlight. We departed at 3:50 AM from the Gouter (no need to get up earlier as the mountain was almost empty). The mountain was ours! By 8:20 AM we were first for the day at the summit! A great experience! By the time the last group arrived about half hour later we were ONLY A DOZEN PEOPLE IN THE SUMMIT! A unique and probably unrepeatable moment! We stayed for a full hour taking pictures and enjoying our uncrowded summit. On our way down we did a half-hour stop at Vallot to drink/eat and by noon we were back at the hut.
By 2:00 PM we were heading down the couloir ridge and an hour later taking our chances in the Bowling Alley for the last time. But this time it was different: it was 3:00 PM (hotter), instead of 11:00 AM (colder) when we crossed the first time, and the rock fall sounded like a continous symphony of bullets whispering around us. I have to wait for a while before I could cross as the rock fall seemed to be never ending. SCARY!
Very probable I would never try this particular route again, as I doubt I could ever experience it again in such great conditions (uncrowded Goûter hut, no risky passing on the thin Bosses ridge, dozen people in the summit). CHECK MY TRIP REPORT FOR ADDITIONAL POINTERS.
My first experience with alpine climbing left me with mixed feelings: yes it was great, and well worth the effort, but the mass of it all along that specific route made me decide that I wanted more of this, but in a different way.
frost line at 4000m Snow bridge on mont Blanc Tacul colasped required 5M serac climb and 30 m ice pitch on Mont Maudit, normal graded around PD. French Alpine Cub say out of condtion requires "True Technical Skill" dont know if that's true, found it rather easy, all though long. left the Cosmiques hut at 02:00hrs and returned at 18:30hrs.
We (Gilbert, Jan,Luc and myself ) started at 3.30 am from the Gouter hut after a terrible night sleeping on the floor. We reached the summit at 7.50 am with splendid views of the Alps. Wasn't so difficult but nice.
We reached the summit via the nowadays normal route. It took us 2 days with bad weather and strong winds (42 km/h) in the beginning but good in the last hours of the summit day. For our descent we followed the same route and we arrived in Chamonix the evening.
My first 4000 in the Alpes . Training in the Pyrenees helped me to acclimatize ( a lot of climbers feel AMS, some don't leave the Hut at 3800 m ) .
Easy walk from the Eagle's Nest to Tete Rousse .
Then, a long scramble on rocks until the Refuge du Gouter ( be careful in the Couloir, and just below the refuge, when stones are covered by a thin layer of ice ) .
The second day : almost 4 hours in the wind, the clouds, a bit of snow, and eventually the mist when reaching the summit ridge .
Be patient ( and lucky ), and after a few minutes, the mist will vanish . Just smile the way we did, me and my friends from Ales ( we're French ), breathe, take pictures, look all around you, breathe again...
Back at the Refuge Vallot, we could not believe we had climbed that steep ridge . Sometimes, it's good to climb at night and not to see well what you have to face !
It's a wonderful summit to climb, even if you're not French nor Italian .
I was climbed with my girl-friend.
It is very long but not so dificult route:
Les-Houches->Bellevue->Tete Rousse -> Aig.De Gouter->Mont-Blanc summit.
Climbing Gear: crampons and rope 20 meters between climbers. Reccomend plastic boots because
it is very cold on the route at 2 a.m.
I wish to all climbers a nice weather and successful climbing.
We left Cosmique at 0220 behind the fire trail. Perfect weather. We reached the summit in 12 hours. This is due to a hold up at the technical portion on Maudit. It bottle necks pretty bad. We were there 3 hours. Guides who come up behind you will push their way through. You have to be aggressive. My partner also had bad AMS. I recommend leaving Cosmique at 0300 or 0400. You'll miss the line at Maudit and go right up. Of 30 starters, about 15 made the summit. Many turned back because the distance and altitude gain was more than they had anticipated. It was beautiful. A must in the Alps.
5 hours 50 minutes to the top (hut to summit) in tough conditions. Strong winds all the way but almost no wind on top! The steep ice at the top of Maudit was the most challenging bit.
After the the unsuccesful attempt of 1997 (bad weather), this year we ignored the us of cablecar, and started for Les Houches. We spent the first night in the filthy hut at appr. 2750m, and the next in the Gouter Hut.
On the summit day we got up early and reached the peak in the morning hours.
Went to the top of Mont Blanc for the second time but this time I started frmo from Aiguille du Midi, via Tacul, and Mont Maudit.
Went together with Thomas Nederman who unfortunately never made it to the top due to altitude sickness.
The walk / climb took 26h which is far to long but hey... The top was reached!
We started 1am on Saturday morning and I was at the summit 17.15pm. When we were back to the tent the time was 3.10am on Sunday morning. People were wondering what we were doing walking downwards in that hour instead of upwards.
PS. More pictures can be seen here:
Having been stuck on the Gouter ridge for a couple of days in a horrendous strom two years earlier i was back to climb Mt Blanc. With a really good weather window we climbed over three days. The first day took us up to a camp point high above the Eagles Nest. The second up to the Gouter ridge with an awesome sunset high above the clouds. The third was summit day, which was a little disappointing as we thought the route would take longer. Myself and a friend were so well acclimatised, having been out in Chamonix for a month, we summited when it was still dark and that included a half and hour stop on the way up. So if you are fit and well acclimatised don't leave the Gouter ridge until 2am, we left at 12:30!
Bit dodgy as on the way down as there were many clients being hauled up by their guides not looking where they were going!
A great route to tell your friends you've done but spend any length of time in the Alps and other routes will stick more firmly in your memory.
Perfect climb in two days
Climbed with Mole, Bayntun and Christoph. Last good day of the season - motorway conditions. But given crowds on the way up, remarkably few people on the summit. Arrived at 0720; sun rose at 0726. Spectacular sight.
Starting as early as 2:00 in the morning. Summit around 9:00 o´clock. We were a party of three, Mario. Jesús and myself.
after taking a group of (non-paying) clients to the summit we saw a handful of climbers being pummeled by a huge rockfall in that nasty big gully below the gouter hut. we had just run across it with our hearts pounding and was safe under an overhang when it did its thing. worst part of that route for sure. don't linger there!!
almost killed when a moraine collapsed and obliterated the trail low down before the midi middle station. had to hurl myself under a shallow rock with the ground trembling from the slide. swallowed a pound of dust but was unharmed. third time i've had a close call from rock fall in the hot and dry summers of todays mountains.
met two american guys at snells who really wanted to bag m.b.
after shopping for some crampons etc for them, we did a super enjoyable ascent and traverse to the cable car on midi.
ski tour. great conditions. first time on m.b
Climbed with my Dad and French guide Yannich. Fantastic week climbing around Chamonix and culminating in Mont Blanc. We summitted at 6am on my Dad'd birthday, what a great present.