Mont Blanc Adventures, Chamonix, France
The Alps 2008
It all began almost a year ago after an expedition in Fagaras Mountains at the end of October. We were on the peaks of the mountain at the alpine refuge called Vistea. When we woke up in the morning it was foggy, windy and a blizzard started. We wanted to climb Moldoveanu peak 2544 m, the highest in the country, but we had to descend as soon as possible due to severe weather conditions. Then we came up with the idea: " Let's climb Mont Blanc! ". We were stuck with the idea the whole year. We prepared ourselves in the Carpathians having physical and technical training till the day of our leave.
Then the day of September 5th 2008 came, day when we headed to France, more exactly to Chamonix which is located at the foot of the mountain, also called the capital of mountain climbing. We went on the route Oradea-Budapesta-Viena-Munchen-Ravensburg. We stopped in Ravensburg at a friend to have a rest and the next day we went on to Chamonix passing through Bena. We camped in Les Houces resort and the next day we started ascending.
We took the cable to Bellevue at 1875m and from there the little train called Tramway du Mont-Blanc that took us to Nid D'agle 2373m. From here we started the real climb. Immediately after we set off we realized that we were on the wrong path, there are no touristic signs, just a very obvious path and we missed the entrance to the path. Seeing other climbers we returned to the right way after we passed a little valley. The weather was excellent, sunny, perfect visibility and no wind. We saw a lot of black goats going about their way without minding our presence, the presence of humans does not scare them, they even made a strange sound as if to leave them alone. We went on climbing checking the altitude on our watch, it indicated 2745 m and we realized we passed the highest point in Romania, a new record in altitude for all of us. Climbers who descend start to appear coming directly from the top, it was a perfect day to reach the top, but we would try to reach it only after 2 days. We had to get used to the climate, to get our body used to thin air otherwise we would have risked not resisting over 4000 m or even get one of the altitude diseases. We got to Tette Rouse 3167 m, we put up our tents and start to melt snow for getting water. We were feeling excellent and were very confident. We often looked at the steepest part of the mountain we were about to climb the next day; a 700 m difference in altitude, very steep climb. We admired the sunset,
it was gorgeous! Immediately after sunset the temperature dropped about 15 degrees Celsius and we got in our sleeping bags to keep warm.
In the morning I was woken up by the wind that rocked the tent in all directions. It was warm and comfortable to be in the sleeping bag. I brace myself to get out, open the tent, outside was clear, no clouds and fog, but the wind was blowing very fast, a sign that the weather would soon change. We ate something quickly, drank a cup of hot tea, pack our tents and set off. In summer on this part of the mountain there is not much snow and you don't normally need special boots, but now it was snowy and all frozen. The rocky parts alternated the icy ones which made climbing more technical. So we put on the
hooks on our boots and kept handy the ice axe. The first nervous moments were when we had to pass the well known "Grand culoire"(The great pass way), a valley on which
rocks and ice fall from above with incredible speed and stop on the Bionassi glacier found 1000m below, then the winding track goes up through the rocks. After a 4 hours climb we get to the Gouter refuge 3817 m. the wind went of blowing all day bringing the clouds, it blew so heavily that it was too angerous to put up the tents on the edge, so we decided to put them up in an annex of the refuge; we also got a discount because we
were members of CAR Romanian Alpine Club. Supply is done by helicopter so everything is very expensive, especially for us: 1,5 l of water is about 5 Euros and a portion of spaghetti 15 Euros. So we melted ice to have water. We were a bit tired but we were fine, we also felt the altitude effects, I had a bit of a headache, but it was ok, staying at 3100m last night to acclimatize was a good thing. After we got hydrated with tea and soup and after a portion of potato flakes with sausages cooked on a small cooker for the outdoors, we went to bed. We went to sleep very difficultly. we could already feel the altitude, the effects appear after 4-8 hours of reaching a higher altitude. The weather forecast was not a promising one, but we had a chance to get to the top and get back till afternoon. So at 3 am we were up. Others headed towards the top but came back
as soon as they came to the ridge because of the wind that kept blowing even more severely. We said we will try, too.
At 4 am we were equipped and came out of the tents..you could see the stars, a good sign so we had a chance. Till we put our ropes around us the stars were gone and a blizzard
started. Relying on the weather forecast we went on climbing hoping it will get better, snow and fog were announced only for the afternoon. We went on and on up, it was foggy, windy and snowy. At the lantern's light we could see in the night about 4/5 m ahead. We got to the peak Dom Du Gouter 4304 m where we got lost. There was a big plateau and we simply did not know which way to go to get to the top. We decided to wait for the daybreak hoping the weather will get better. We tried to move continuously as staying in one place I felt my legs getting cold. After 6:30 am it got lighter, but the light is diffuse when there's fog so visibility got worse. This phenomenon is called white-off as everything is white, the fog, the snow everything around you.you can't see a thing; I could see the tip of my boot and I could not appreciate if the track was pointing up or
down, I just felt that I was descending. After about 30 min we decided to return. We just knew we had to go downwards, but our tracks were covered by snow so we went on and on not knowing where. Fresh snow deposited on top of the frozen one, so the possibility of an avalanche to occur increased and we did not know where we were. We reached the edge of a very steep and icy cliff, we got scared and we went to the right till froze still. There was a crevasse like you can see only on TV. We walked through it an at 3900 m we came out of the clouds and we could see the ridge that leads to Gouter refuge.
We stopped a bit to rest and eat and then we continued descending. The wind kept blowing strongly, we had to stop many times not to be knocked out. We were to descend almost
vertically a 700 m part till the place where we camped the first night. Step by step we lost altitude. We passed Grand Culoire and we continued descending till Nid D'agle to the train, then the cable to the base camp in Les Houices. We returned all safe, happy but still sad we could not reach the top. The next day we set off to Romania stopping to visit more touristic spots: Interlaken, Switzerland and Innsburk, Austria.
We will return next year to finish off what we started!
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