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




Following a traditional French breakfast of bread and hot chocolate, we met Lisa at around 09:00 and went to hire the kit.  Al had borrowed an ice-axe, so we went about hiring a second ice-axe, plus helmets, harnesses and crampons for both of us.


Mer de Glace

The Mer de Glace from the top of the Montenvers railway

We took the Montenvers railway up to 1913m, towards the Mer de Glace, then set off along a footpath, gradually leaving the tourists behind.  The path dropped slowly for a few hundred metres then came to two ladders bolted into the rock face.  We climbed down these and the next two and eventually reached the glacier.  On the way to the glacier Lisa told us that a couple of hundred years ago the glacier had been at the height of the railway station, but had gradually receded down into the valley.  The height difference these days is several hundred metres.


Lisa showed us how to attach our crampons, then we walked a short way onto the glacier and dropped our packs.  We spent the next hour or two walking and running about on the ice, trying to get used to our crampons: learning to keep our feet apart, learning to climb normally, learning to climb with feet side-on or duck footed on steeper slopes, and learning to front-point up the steepest slopes.  Most of it was a matter of building up confidence in the grip of the crampons: using an ice-axe as well we climbed up and down some incredibly steep slopes, gradually realising how much faith we could put in the twelve little spikes on each foot.


Lisa explained that although there were little streams everywhere on the surface, we were actually on a ‘dry’ glacier, as there was no snow.  This meant that we could see all of the crevasses, so there was no need to be roped together when crossing the glacier.


Lunch on the Mer de Glace

Lunch on the Mer de Glace


We paused for some food then moved slightly higher up the glacier and found a crevasse to try some ice-climbing.  Just over the top we put in two ice-screws, which we covered to prevent the ice round them melting. We attached a sling and a karabiner then Lisa belayed while Al and I took turns climbing up the vertical face of the crevasse using our own ice-axe and Lisa’s technical one.


Lisa's ice-axe had a reverse curve pick, designed to come out of the ice more easily when the handle is lifted up.  It felt much more solid in the wall of the crevasse, and the reverse-curve certainly made it easier to take out than the more traditional-shaped walking ice-axes.


Ice Climbing

Jon and Al ice climbing

As we climbed up the wall we were relying on just the two front points of the crampons to hold our weight.  Although my boots were fine for normal crampon use, they were a little too flexible for the front-pointing.  The boots Al and Lisa were using both had very stiff soles designed for front-pointing and looked considerably more comfortable!


When we’d finished the ice-climbing we wandered back across the glacier and climbed back up to the train. Back in the village we had a beer with Lisa, who commented that our bags were both a bit excessive for the kind of climbing we were doing.  We went through the contents of my pack, gradually deciding that most of my kit was unnecessary!


After a few drinks Al and I went for another look round the shops, then headed back to La Bagna for some food on the terrace and an early night.