Mont Blanc Diary


The Journey

Fri July 05
Sat July 06

Mer de Glace

Sun July 07

Albert 1er

Mon July 08

Aig du Tour

Tue July 09


Wed July 10

Mont Blanc

Thu July 11

The End

Fri July 12




We had decided to spend a night at altitude in order to improve our acclimatisation.  By staying in a refuge we hoped to get used to the lack of oxygen, then an early morning ascent of Aiguille du Tour (3544m) would see how well we were doing from both the technical and fitness points of view.


The traverse to the Glacier du Tour

Jonny and Lisa on the traverse round to the Glacier du Tour


After breakfast at La Bagna we put the kit we were leaving behind in the garage of the hostel, and set off to Le Tour to meet Lisa.  From there we caught the Télécabine de Charamillon then the Télésiège du Col de Balme up to 2186m, before traversing around the mountain for an hour or so then climbing up to the Refuge Albert 1er (2702m), named after the eponymous Belgian king who was apparently a fan of the area.


The Glacier du Tour

The Glacier du Tour from the Albert 1er refuge

We stopped at the refuge for a while, enjoying another day of beautiful sunshine, and met various other groups being guided by people Lisa knew.  The combination of a night at the refuge and an ascent of Aiguille du tour seemed to be a popular warm-up for an attempt at Mont Blanc later in the week.


Eventually we climbed up above the refuge until we got to the edge of the glacier.  Being 1000m higher than the Mer de Glace, the Glacier du Tour is covered with snow, hiding the smaller crevasses and making a rope essential for any groups crossing it.  We put on our harnesses and roped up in glacier-travel mode (aimed at catching people falling in crevasses - the idea is that only one member of the party should be over a crevasse at any given time, enabling the others to arrest the fall - this involved leaving about 8m of rope between us, with Lisa leading as we travelled uphill and bringing up the rear when we were going downhill), then set off across the glacier.


The main aim of the afternoon was to learn how to self-arrest using the ice-axe.  When we had found a suitably steep slope we dumped our packs, put on our Gore-Text jackets and trousers and spent the next hour or so throwing ourselves down the slope to make sure we could stop.


We began with feet first, lying on our fronts, then on our backs, then tried head first lying on our fronts, and finally head first lying on our backs.  Finally we tried a fifth variation, without the axe.  This involved pushing the body up so that the only contact with the snow was the hands and feet.


Al relaxing

Al relaxing on the way back to the Albert 1er refuge

When we had had enough of self-arresting we climbed back down to the refuge over the rocks, and sat in the sun again.  We spoke to some other English groups there and discussed the various routes up Mont Blanc.  One group attempting the climb without a guide had failed to get places in either the Cosmiques or Goûter huts and asked Lisa for advice on attempting the climb from the Tête Rousse hut. When they asked which route we were taking Lisa said we were aiming to go via Cosmiques, which was the first indication we had been given of our intended route.


Al in front of the refuge

Al sunning himself after dinner in the refuge


We had a reasonable dinner at about 18:00, then after sitting in the sun for a while Al and I turned in.  We’d been warned earlier that the altitude could cause headaches and problems with the digestive system. I was suffering from both of these, so was glad to finally drop off.