After Gran Paradiso I think everyone felt tired and was grateful to get back down to the valley in Chamonix to get a long hot shower and changed out of clothes we had been wearing the last couple of days.
That is another thing worth mentioning about hiking high into the Alps As mentioned before, you need to be efficient with weight and you don't want to carry needless extra weight. So, by wearing your gear a couple of days in a row, you save on carrying extra stuff.
This is fine and you can get away with wearing the same gear for a few days but I think it is advisable to take a change of base layer and socks. I am pretty sure the guides told us to do this too but it is worth mentioning. It is nice to be able to put on a clean pair of socks and top in the morning, that is for sure, especially on summit day.
Day Four – Chilling Out In the Valley
As already mentioned this day was really about relaxing after Gran Paradiso and getting organised for the march on Mont Blanc the following day. As Mont Blanc Guides told us it would, what the trip up Gran Paradiso definitely did was give us a real taster for the Mont Blanc experience.
At this stage we all had a good idea of what would be expected of us physically and mentally. We also learned a lot from the first run with regards to what worked well for us when trekking and what didn't.
We knew what extra bits and pieces we could do without and what we were missing and needed to get while back down in the Valley.
I think that was one of the great thing's Mont Blanc Guides were doing all the time but you don't really realize it till afterwards. As we prepared for and climbed Gran Paradiso, they were constantly drip feeding pieces of information to us all. We were taking it on board whether we knew it at the time or not and were adapting our plans as we went. It's a great way to prepare for a big undertaking like Mont Blanc, that is for sure!
The rest of the day was spent doing washing in one of the local launderettes and eating good food. With regards to laundry, I recommend carrying less over and washing stuff mid trip rather than taking twice as much gear with you.
Again, we got to bed early for an early start, about 6:30am if I recall.
Day Five – Heading to The Tete Rousse Hut
We got up on day five, had breakfast and were in a van to the valley below the Tete Rousse hut by 7:15am. I had slept OK but my cold was developing in the background so I was a bit chesty. I think we went to the town of Saint Gervais, not 100% sure about that, and then took a four by four up another bit of the trail along train tracks.
The train is a tourist train, the Mont-Blanc Tramway I think, in Chamonix than runs up part of the way during the Summer I think. It hadn't started for the summer season though as yet.
From there we began the hike up to the Tete Rousse hut. It was a pleasant hike. We basically followed the train lines the whole way up until we reached the snow line. We again then had another steep enough climb up through snow to get to the Tete Rousse hut.
The sun was again shining brightly though so it was another fine day. We got to the hut probably around lunch time or so. The hut sits at 3167 meters high so it was slightly higher for a base than the Chabod hut of the previous days.
As with the Chabod Hut, the Tete Rousse hut was fine. The food was really nice in it and the staff very friendly and pleasant. It was early afternoon the day before the summit attempt. At this point, we just had to sit and wait for the following day to come so we could get started. The plan was to have a meeting after dinner with all the guides to go over any final details.
Sitting And Waiting
I thought it was worth a mention here that we often spent time sitting and waiting for the following day to make our summit attempt. This was the case in Gran Paradiso and was the same when we went to Mont Blanc. You can't do too much other than sit around and enjoy the scenery or play a game of cards.
It was kind of funny actually, as many of us went outside to sit in the sun and enjoy the scenery. As the day progressed, there were numerous small avalanches on the side of the mountain leading up to summit of Mont Blanc. I don't think this was near anywhere we would be hiking over but you couldn't help but wonder!
While at first glance, sitting about doing nothing may just seem like it could only be frustrating there are actually very sound reasons for taking this approach. First off, your journey to the hut is made easier by going earlier. As mentioned before, the earlier in the day you're hiking, the harder the snow is and therefore easier to walk on.
Secondly, you get to spend a bit more time at altitude before really exerting yourself, so I assume that extra bit of time relaxing at altitude before making the big push, helps the body to further acclimatize. Sleeping at altitude also plays a big part in the acclimatization process. Finally, you get to rest for the afternoon before you go and so you have plenty of time to get organized for the morning.
These are all very sound reasons but one thing that is inevitable is that with time on your hands, you start to think about whether or not you'll make it to the top the following day. The mind starts to do what it does best and starts to query and ponder!
- Will I be OK?
- Will I handle the altitude?
- Will the weather hold?
- What if this or that goes wrong!?
- etc., etc.
This of course is just human nature so don't worry if you do this type of thing and have a train of thoughts running through your head. My best advice is to just put it out of your head. You're going to make it or you're not, it's as simple as that. No worrying or thinking about it will make any difference. I know this can be easier said than done though 😉
The Plan Of Attack
After dinner, the lead guide put two of us to every one guide. It's the law or rules of the Alpine association I believe that there must be one guide for every two people. We then broke off to have a chat with our respective guide.
The general plan was to be up and out by 4:30am. We would spend the first two hours ascending upwards by scrambling up over the rocks to reach the Gouter Hut at 3835 meters. From there we would hit the snow for the summit of Mont Blanc, probably about 6 hours to the summit from there. With about an eight hour trip back, we could expect to be out for up to 14 hours! A long day lay ahead.
I would be summiting with a chap I had met in our group from London. He was a really nice guy. Our guide was an American chap from Colorado. Again, a really nice guy who really put us at ease and answered all our questions. He just said the same as above, you will make it or you won't, no point burning up nervous energy thinking about it. Go with the flow, enjoy the moment, keep putting one foot in front of the other, do your best and you'll be good!
So, the big day was finally here. The weather was looking great, I seemed to be handling the altitude OK and I was fit enough so this was it! It was exciting. We went to bed early and I really hoped I would get a few hours sleep. My sleeping at altitude to date had been abysmal lol 🙂 and I had the cold lurking in the background. Some good rest would definitely be appreciated, that was for sure!
No going back now though 😉 The day was finally upon us!
Have you climbed Mont Blanc? Have you stayed in the Tete Rousse Hut? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below!