What a week it has been!
It all started on 15th July; 4am departure to catch the Shuttle train followed by almost 9 hours of driving to reach Chamonix, our base camp at 1000m over sea level! The acclimatisation started then. This is paramount when you are trying to climb high mountains. Failing to do so may result in altitude sickness which, at its worst, could cause the collapse of the lungs. Fear not, we were determined to do things properly and none of us was ill as a result.
So the following day, three of us went paragliding over Chamonix. I did not expect the whole experience to be so enjoyable. It was simply breathtaking!
The following couple of days the group, 10 of us including our guides, did some training on the Glacier de la Tour and stayed overnight at the refuge Albert Premier. The training consisted in learning to walk with crampons, ice axe techniques, how to use all the equipment: harness, belay device, carabiners, learning knots for various eventualities (including rescue) and of course safety and rescue techniques. The weather was superb (39 degrees celsius at 2100m - unbelievable!). Then we went back to Chamonix.
The Wednesday was our well deserved day off! On Thursday we started our ascent. The plan was to reach the refuge des Cosmiques (3,613m) by mid morning and start the climb to Mont Blanc the following morning at 2 am. The weather forecast was not great, a snow storm was announced. We all scrutinised the sky that day hoping they got it all wrong ... they didn't!! the following day the clouds were thicker then ever, we could't see a thing ... we knew then it was all over. No-one left the refuge early that day and no-one could be seen climbing. The risk was too high, we had to abandon the plan. The silence fell in our group...everyone was taking it all in.
Back at base camp in Chamonix, we celebrated what had been a superb week and a great achievement regardless. It took weeks of preparation under all weather conditions (mainly rain!). This was not going to deter us to try again, quite the opposite. It is just the beginning of a long mountaineering journey. Mont Blanc, we'll be back!!