Mt Blanc Solo- no hut
Mont Blanc Trip Report 8/31/07 to 9/2/07
Mountain: Mont Blanc
Location: Alps, France
Dates : August 31st – September 2nd, 2007
Participants: Matt Reiter
Day 1 (Friday, August 31st):
Stayed at Terminus De Mont Blanc Thursday evening for about 60 euros. Prepared most everything the night before. Woke up at 5:45 AM to get ready. Put all but my pack in the car (hotel allowed me to leave in lot but lot by train station was free too). I brought my tent, stove, filter, sleeping bag, 3 nalgenes, and about 10 lbs of food). This resulted in a very heavy pack. Got to Mont Blanc Tramway (MBT) ticket counter at 7:00 AM but no one was there until around 7:25. Bought my ticket for the first tram (7:45) to le Nid d’Aigle for 24 euros. The weather was very cloudy and could not see much on the ride up. There were quite a few people (~40) that went in the train. Reached Nid d’Aigle arount 8:45 at an elevation of 2372 m.
Started up the trail around 9 AM. The first portion was just a rocky trail that was not terribly steep.
Reached Baraque Foresttiere des Rognes (a little hut) by about 10:15 AM (2768 m and 65 F). There’s a nice flat section for a break.
The next section was a little steeper going up to Tete Refuge which sits on a snow field. You put on your helmet, crampons, and rope up at this point (3167 m). About half of the people were just going to Tete. Looked like a very nice hut. I put on my harness just in case I needed to rope in or clip on for the trail. I then went up a small snow field to the base of the clip to the Gouter Hut. About 10 minutes in, you get to the Grand Coulier (the most deadly part). It is a very steep snow field that runs between two rock areas. The crossing is about 40 feet wide but rocks come down very fast and there is only a narrow path to cross. If you slip, you go straight off a couple hundred feet drop. I crossed without anything happening and began climbing up. This was VERY steep clip on mostly rocks.
You had to pull yourself up almost the whole way. Luckily, most of the first train group was ahead of me. With such a section, it was hard to pass people, especially when they are all roped up. You don’t use you ice axe at all. With my heavy pack (tent, stove, filter, etc) this was very hard. Most people had a very small pack (~3000 in3 or less). This would have made things much easier. A few people made comments about how large my pack was and a female guide said that even though she had been up many times, my pack would have killed her. I was pretty good but was getting very scared of the climb down, since it was so steep. A few areas, I could barely squeeze myself between the rocks.
I ran out of gas near Gouter Hut. The last 300 ft were very slow since my legs were so wiped. I reached the hut around 1:30 and walked up behind the hut to the trail to the “campsite” (about 60 F and sunny). I walked about 400 yards to the site where there was one tent. I later found that the real campsite was about 200 yards further. Anyhow, you definitely need a shovel and I spent about 30 minutes getting it flat and deep enough. It is on a ridge so you do not want to be blown off. It took me another 30 minutes to put up my tent since it was the first time. I used snow pouches for the four corners and 2 snow stakes to pitch out the vestibule. It was very study so I didn’t see much use in putting in the other guy lines.
I put all my stuff in and began to melt water. After about an hour I filled all 3 nalgenes. I then cooked up a big can of chili that I bought in Chamonix. I ate most of it and then made hot chocolate. I went to bed around 9:30 AM as it had gotten cold (~ 40 F in the tent). I wore my 2 base layer, soft shell and stocking hat to bed.
Day 2 (Saturday, September 1st):
I woke up at 1 AM. It was very cold (20 F in the tent). It was a little windy but not too bad. I melted some snow to fill my nalgene and boiled water for 3 oatmeal packets. Everything was frozen (food) so I didn’t eat anything else. Some people came by around 2 AM but most around 3 AM. I started at 3:30 AM. You go up a steep snow field. There was not many switchbacks, but rather a very steep ascent. You get up the Dome de Gouter (4304 m), where it is rather flat leading to the very steep Vallot Bivouac Hut 4362 m). Some people went in the hut for a break. I stopped and ate/drank outside. I reached the Hut around 6 AM where is was getting very windy. A bunch of people were turning back at this point. I started up the next section which was the steepest to date. I was thinking about turning around since the wind was so bad that the ice particles were burning my face and my eyes. Luckily, I had put on my balaclava, which was essential. If you fell here, that was it. The snow was so hard it was difficult to find the trail. A few people turned around near the ridge but I decided to get to the ridge and then decide. I made it to the top to the Bosses when the sun was coming up. This section had very narrow, steep ridges. This section was very hard as you were exposed but each step was so steep. At one point, only one person could cross. This wasn’t too bad since only a few people were coming down from the summit. After a few times thinking that the ridge was the final one, I made it to the summit at 9:00 AM. It was about a 50 foot flat ridge. I was very cold and no one else was on the top. I took off my pack and began taking a few pictures. Fortunately, after about 10 minutes, a Romanian came up. He was by himself since a few of his friends got sick and had to turn back. He waited 3 days for good weather on Mt Blanc to make his ascent (rainy the first 3 days). We took pictures and I left after about 20 minutes on the summit since it was so cold.
The way down was very steep and I had to make certain of every step. A bunch of people were now coming up, but I didn’t have too much trouble getting out of the way. I ran out of gas again after I made it down past the refuge.
I stopped for awhile and felt better. I made it back into camp around 11:30 AM. My feet were pretty beat up with open blisters on both heals.
I tried to get some rest but I didn’t get much. The rest of the day I just tried to rest. I went to bed around 10:00 PM. That night was the coldest yet. I looked and saw 17 F inside the tent.
Day 3 (Sunday, September 2nd):
I woke up at 5:45 AM and began melting water to fill all 3 nalgenes. I then packed up and started down. It took awhile to get everything done. I just had a power bar and was too lazy to make oatmeal or tea. By this time, it was 8:30 AM. I wanted to beat all the people coming up that day. It was very hard. A bunch of blind footholds were required. After about 30 minutes down, a guy/girl were coming up. I waited for them to make it up a section so I could get by. Just as the guy made it to me, a little flat rock (about 2” diameter) wizzed about a foot from my head and hit the guy right in the chin. It was like a Chinese throwing star. A little blood spray happened as it hit him (about 2 feet away from me). It cut a deep cut in his chin. I asked him if he was alright. He said yes so I started down. As his girlfriend came to him, blood started running out of the wound. I bet it would require stitches. The rock may have been knocked down from a group coming down. After this, I wanted to get down ASAP. It was hairy in a few sections but I made it down to the Grand Couloir around 11 AM. Here I saw a few softball rocks go zipping down. Now I know why everyone is so scared of this section. I looked up, didn’t see anything and just went across. That is all you can do. Luckily, I made it across fine. I then made it down the snow field and took off my crampons. The rest of the way down was a bore/pain since my feet were getting turned into hamburger. I did see a couple of goats. They were about 10 feet from me at one point. I made it to the train station around 12:45 and got the 1:25 PM train. As I was waiting, a bunch of paragliders were coming off the mountain. Boarding the train was a pain since the damn Europeans all plow to get on. No lines. Irritated me. I made it down about 3:00 to the hotel. Unfortunately, the reception was closed 2-5 PM so I decided to make the 6 hour drive to Stuttgart, Germany. The autobahn was cool (went about 175 km/hour) but it was chore since I was so tired.
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