All you need is money, good training and a bit of luck. But most of all, good weather. We had almost all of them the first time except the weather. In fact it so sunny they had to close down all the routes due to high temperatures.
Second attempt had to be done before the season ended and left us with one option – September. On the morning of 31st August I took the first tube to the airport and after 3 hours delay I was finally in the plane to Geneva. The forecast wasn’t very promising but there was no turning back.
The next day Cosmin joined me and we went up to Grands Montets for acclimatisation and some crampon technique practice. We only had a couple of hours before it was a total wide out. Mixed snow and rain and blasting wind forced us to retreat with low morale.
It rained all night and the valley was covered in clouds when we woke up but that wasn’t going to stop us. At 9am the Bellevue cable car opened and after a short ride we were above the clouds. 30 minutes later after taking the train to Nid d’Aigle the sun was shining and our trek was about to begin.
From the train station the path is well marked and turns left just after a few minutes making it’s way through the rocky terrain. It’s an easy hike, secured in the upper part with some iron chains that normally takes about 2-3 hours. Just before the refuge de Tete Rousse there is one last obstacle. The remains of a glacier that soon will be gone forever.
At 3167m the refuge is basic but sufficient with a few exceptions and quite expensive comparing to Italian side. a bottle of water was 5.5 euros and since there is no water in the hut you only option is to bring a stove and boil from the glacier. The rooms are cold and there is nowhere to dry your clothes. There are plenty of lockers that work with 1euro coin so you can safely store some of your gear. I used a stove for food and water but that did not pay off in the end. After I returned from the summit it was snowing so hard I didn’t have the power to stay outside and cook any more. Paid for the gas, for the frozen food and all that weight did not worth for 2 days.
After lunch we went straight to bed. Sleeping a few hours before our departure was a good decision. However we did the mistake not checking the route before and that was going to cost us. As the night set we start getting ready and about 12 our journey to the summit started. I had an idea of where the trail to Gouter was but during the night it took about 30 mins before we reached the ridge. Just before the Grand Culoir we did the second mistake and start climbing straight up. We realized we are on the other side and since we were alone decided is better to go back and cross the culoir. That costed us more than an hour. We finally rushed through the culoir but we did not find the route so decided to just follow the ridge up. On the way back I realized we should have been more on the left just above the culoir instead of climbing through the rocks.
After 4 exhausting hours we arrived at refuge du Gouter. About double the time it should have taken us. Next time I’ll definitely check the route before leaving. A valuable lesson in the end. It was so windy and cold took about 40 minutes to grab a bite and gear up. Last to leave at about 4.45am we left unroped trying to make up the time lost.
Is never good to leave 3 hours later than planned. Especially when the forecast is not on your side. I wasn’t prepared to give up so easy. But just when we start going up to Dom du Gouter Cosmin was falling behind. One of his crampons failed and he was starting to feel sick. He decided is better to turn back and there I was, alone on the way to the summit 3 hours late.
Was good visibility and clear sky but man it was a good decision to bring a pair of goggles. The wind was blowing snow straight into my face. I guess a pair of glasses would have been fine for my eyes but it doesn’t offer any protection for the face. And I was thankful for that later on. By the time I got to the col. des Domes it was dawn. I wished I was on the summit to see the sunrise. I could see the metal refuge and that gave me hope. I didn’t even stopped for water, but instead rushed towards it, almost falling in a crevasse.
After 100m on a steep slope you get at 4362m to refuge bivouac Vallot. An emergency shelter, however many people choose to sleep, eat and use it even as a toilet. Is very dirty and stinks but it gives some shelter. I haven had any water so far because was wrapped in my insulated jacked in a drybag. When I took it out it was frozen. I only managed to take a few sips and I could feel getting dehydrated. I forced myself to eat something without much success. Thank god I had some chocolate biscuits with me. I shoved a frozen powerbar in my pocket to warm it and left.
I start going up the Grande Bosse but after less than 20 minutes I turned around. It was just so cold. And the wind made it worse. Climbed back into Vallot and sliced my frozen hand in the sharp metal. But that didn’t even matter. I striped to my underwear and put my wool thermals, insulated trousers, fleece, softshell, insulated jacket and a hardshell. Took out my double gloves, checked the time and literally ran towards the ridge.
The weather was starting to close and in 1 hour ( 10.30 am) I was standing on top on Mont Blanc. Just below the summit the last climber coming from the top saved his life with a self arrest. I was all alone so I took my camera out. Shoot a few photos and a movie. I did it! My first solo ascent.
I was just half way. It was time to get back. So much hard work for a few minutes. The clouds were already above me. Was no time to be lost. On the last slope I tried to slide down to Vallot, I lost control and the only thing that saved my life was the ice axe. Lose your judgement for a second and you can end up dead. Terrible mistake that I shall never repeat again. After I passed the refuge everything became white. Not a good moment to be alone on a glacier. By now the wind had covered all the snow trails.
When I finally saw the Gouter refuge I was so relieved and tired I felt all my power gone. There was no point of rushing any more. It took me 5 hours and a half to reach the top after wasting so much time at Vallot. I was a bit disappointed because I know I can do it much faster but that won’t take away the success of reaching the top.
It was harder than people described it but a fairly easy route. Not too long either. However if I could have changee some things it would made it even easier. I thought having a stove will save me some money, and it did, but not enough to worth carrying the extra weight. I also wish I had a compact camera as my 1kg DSLR was an unnecessary extra weight and the only photos I took were on the summit. Therefore it does not justify the quality of the photo. But please don’t suggest using a phone. The new Sony RX100 should do the trick if you go over the price. I did manage my first solo but is nice to have someone to share it with. Too bad Cosmin didn’t make it. I will surely go back for a different route. Most probably from the south side.