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




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 13:45.


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

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 for desert.


The view from Cosmiques

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.