The day of departure: Thursday 19 July – 5H – St-Gervais les Bains – 800m
The wake up at 4:15 is a bit difficult, we slept little, but I do not feel tired, because I’m very excited by the adventure that awaits us. At five o’clock sharp, we leave in 4×4 to reach the refuge of Bellevue which is at 1800m (it is already 1000m less to climb!). We wear our mountaineering boots and the walking sticks that make it easy for us; we must save our strength for the two days ahead!
We follow the tracks of the Mont Blanc Tramway, in which we would have preferred to be seated, to the refuge of Eagle’s Nest 2372m. It is here that we make our first break to have a quick breakfast; water and dried fruits. The breaks are not unpleasant, but we had better breakfasts. The view is clear and we now see the villages in the surrounding valleys. The view is already very beautiful and I realize that I start to take a little height, but I am aware that this is nothing compared to what we have to climb.
Since the Eagle’s Nest, we walk in relatively flat scree, the path climbs slowly, but it tires. This requires being focused not to hurt yourself and to find stable supports. We thus go up to the refuge of Rousse head, at 3167m, in which we take a second snack.
Greg announces that we will not take a break until the Refuge du Gouter which is at 3800m of altitude. He explains to us that, to reach this refuge, we must pass the “couloir du gouter”. This is a corridor in which rock falls are almost permanent; it is the passage that causes the most accidents on the ascent of Mont Blanc.
We then resume the climb, and arrive in this famous corridor. This moment is difficult for me, more psychologically than physically. All morning we see helicopters taking turns looking for a body. At this moment, I wonder if doing this climb was not too dangerous a challenge for someone not experienced like me.
After the passage of this corridor the path is not really traced and we have trouble following Greg, who is very fast and seems little attentive to our difficulties. The climb starts to be really difficult. First on the muscular side then, very quickly, in terms of the oxygen supply that we are starting to miss. On the psychological level, even though we have passed the couloir du gouter, we feel that the danger is still there. We see many commemorative plaques that remind us at every step that we are on a dangerous climb. Nobody has the right to miss! This part of the climb is not a pleasure; we do not have time to look at the landscape and we are tired.
However, it also allows me to find the sensations of top level sport; the realization is always more satisfying when you remember how much you suffered to achieve it.
We then cling to the rhythm of our guide by the will, and perhaps a little by pride. This will allow us to observe an incredible view of the snowy plateau on which is the Refuge du Gouter.
We arrive at the shelter around 13h, the program is simple: eat in 20min, then sleep or at least rest until 18h, take dinner, then go back to bed and sleep to be ready to leave at 2:30 and finish the ascent. But it is not so obvious, the altitude sickness is felt, the slightest movement runs out of steam and I can not sleep. I then ask my climber who climbed Kilimanjaro (5891m) last year. The solution will be for me 7 teas at 5 euros each and 2 aspirin tablets. It is not very cheap, but it will allow me to sleep 6 hours to leave as fit as possible !