It’s 2am as the alarm sounds confirming one thing summit push , the tired heads of the team Clive , Francie & Keith ready themselves with a quick breakfast made up of black coffee ,brown bread & jam and ready break “a short supply brought from home to bulk up the simple hut breakfast supplied”.
In a frenzy of zipping & unzipping rug sacks & clattering of equipment we were set for off, the pale anxious but excited look on the teams faces in final preparation we roped up head torches on and stepped into the most beautiful still but chilly night, it was specular, the sky was crystal clear and the stars so bright .
Clive took the lead as we left the Gouter refuge now nearing 3.30am with a near perfect slow & steady pace.
Two hours of hard climbing seen us round the eastern slopes of the Dome du Gouter with minimal stops every now and again to let the hard working lungs catch up with the legs, the lads were flying working hard step after step. Shortly after the dome was a pleasant levelling and downhill section leading to the col du Gouter then a short steep climb up to the emergency vallot refuge. Still every one’s fine & spirits are high as we enter the Grandes bosses & petites bosses with no real altitude problems evident we push on to the bosses ridge it’s really cold now with a chilling wind coming in on our left ear. By now we could see other climbers in retreat as they became victims of the altitude, their body language telling the story.
The bosses ridge is now the most exposed section of the climb so slow & steady is the order as our head torches help us carefully navigate this narrow knife edge section of the ridge and out to our right the sun was setting with the most beautiful golden red sky.
It was perfect and we could smell sweet success ,closer & closer the summit loomed until finally we were there, a SUCCESSFUL SUMMIT.
The lads were overwhelmed as they punched the sky with joy as they shared this magical moment. The views were unreal & specular, high above the clouds with great visibility.
Then as a surprise i pulled out pride of all the donegal (Mt Everest) summit flag as we basked in the joyful photos marking this life long memorable moment. With that it was time to continue & decent mindful that we were only half way there. The route now was to decent via the three monts finishing at the Alguille du midi, the route was tough and very difficult in stages, but carefully we threaded our way down the Mont Maudit & mont blanc du tacul. The route is more technical and serious than the gouter route as it takes in step ground over snow and ice making footwork difficult with a generally higher exposure to serac fall (avalanche) for short periods on the decent.
The team were moving very well successfully dealing with the mountains difficult terrain & harsh weather conditions as it was a chilling -5 and an increased wind & snow added to the theater.
When just when things were going perfectly to plan we had our first casually , Clive when waiting up at the base of an abseil section below the crux step slipped on the snow and popped his shoulder ,it was so simple but in this remote location a real disaster as he wasn’t in a position to walk out due to the nature of the route ahead. After careful examination it was very clear assistance was needed, Clive been Clive was so disappointed been one of the strongest climbers in the team as he was so focused on completing the brutal decent .So Clive got a handy lift out by helicopter & after swift medical treatment was celebrating his summit success back in chaminox with Brian, beers in same hand….lol.
While the remaining Keith francie & myself slogged it out reaching the cosmicques refuge (3613m) after 16hours and 15min from first starting out earlier that morning.What a great days climbing ,tough challenging but so satisfactory in reflection… battered and bruised after a grueling decent but in complete euphoria we settled in with a well earned hot meal & bed early wrecked tired. 7am breakfast we set off for the final section of the decent but not before taking on the fearsome knife approach to the snow tunnel at the Alguille du midi leading to the cable car to chaminox where Brian & Clive met us as we all celebrated the sweet summit success of traversing mont blanc standing proudly at 4810mts.
Full credit must go to the team of Brian , Clive , Francie & Keith on the professional approach in their preparation & during the climb, resulting in them achieving there own personal goals.
We grew up as childhood friends & im so so proud of what these guys achieved today.
Thank you to all the support and good wishes throughout the climb.
Mont blanc ….thank you, you beauty.
“We will dance again sometime soon.”