There was still no sign of a message when we got up in the
morning. The sun was shining brightly
but when we studied the forecast we discovered that the weather was due to
deteriorate during the day, before improving again over night. Remembering the words of Lisa’s boyfriend
regarding fresh snow we were a little worried over breakfast as the sky
darkened, then we became quite concerned as a thunder storm hit the valley.
We sat in our room for a couple of hours watching rain
tipping down, waiting for a text message from Lisa saying that Mont Blanc was
off. Eventually we gave up and sent one
to her asking what she thought. She
declared the weather was ‘OK’, and that we should meet up at 15:00 at the
Aiguille du Midi télépherique as planned.
About midday the rain cleared up and the sun appeared, which
raised morale. We packed the minimum
possible for the big ascent then caught the bus into Chamonix centre at about
We spent a while in the supermarket buying food for the next
24 hours then made a quick visit to a pharmacy to get some paracetamol to
combat the altitude-induced headaches we had both suffered from during the trip
to the Albert 1er refuge.
We ate a picnic lunch near the télépherique until Lisa
arrived, then moved to a nearby café for a drink and a discussion of the
plan. I was encouraged by the fact that
Lisa didn’t seem too concerned about the weather, so was quietly confident as we
put on our harnesses and gaiters for the ride up the mountain.
Mont Blanc Du Tacul from the Aiguille du Midi
Wearing climbing harnesses, carrying ice-axes in one hand
and packs in the other we boarded the télépherique looking pretty hard-core
compared with most of the tourists. We
weren’t the only ones though – there were several little groups of alpinistes
and we got chatting to some Kiwis who were also on their way up to Cosmiques
for an attempt at Mont Blanc.
The second half of the télépherique is the longest
single-span ride in Europe. Unfortunately
there were still some of the morning’s clouds hanging around the mountain, so
our views into the valley were limited.
Once above the clouds, however, the views were fantastic.
At the top (3777m), we crossed a walkway then climbed over a
small fence into an ice-cave reserved for alpinistes. As crowds of tourists wandered past and looked on, we attached
crampons, put on our jackets, gloves and helmets and roped ourselves together
ready for the descent to the refuge.
We climbed down a steep ridge to the Col du Midi (3532m), then
up about 80m to the Refuge des Cosmiques (3613m), which was far more impressive
than our previous experience at Albert 1er.
We stowed our outdoor kit in plastic boxes in the boot room,
then sorted out rooms: Lisa got a space in the guides’ room, while Al and I
were the first two to arrive in our room upstairs. Looking around we found proper toilets in the bathroom, a
pleasant dining room and a balcony with amazing views up to Mont Blanc du Tacul
and down towards Chamonix itself.
The evening meal was very impressive: to start with there
was soup and bread, followed by a pork chop with pasta and then a lemon tart
The view south-west from the Refuge des Cosmiques
Having eaten our last proper meal we sat around drinking
water we’d bought from the bar, hoping to reach a stage where we were fully
hydrated but not so much so that we were up all night visiting the toilet. We spent the time repairing the anti-balling
plates on the bottom of our crampons with zinc oxide tape and thinking about
the climb we were due to begin in six hours’ time.
Lisa overheard another guide being told that there were 45
people getting up for the 01:00 breakfast before setting off for Mont Blanc, so
we were hopeful that there would be enough traffic to trample any fresh snow
that had fallen during the day. There
was also a big group from the Chasseurs Alpins (the French alpine army) who we
hoped would also trample our route.
We went to bed around 21:00. I was feeling nervous but
confident, and considerably better than I had done when we slept at altitude
earlier in the week. Unfortunately I
found it hard to get to sleep, due in part to the noise from other people in
the room but probably also partly due to the nerves.