DofE Challenge: MtBlanc17

Success! On Monday 6 Aug, the Love Adventures MtBlanc17 Team reached the summit of the highest mountain in Western Europe, raising £3000 for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in the Process.

Climbers Prepare in the Midi Ice Tunnel. Photo: Kate Jamieson
Descending the Midi Ridge. Photo: David Love

No Plan Ever Survives Contact!

Amid a season of highly unsettled weather in the Alps, we arrived in Chamonix faced with what seemed like an impossible task.  An approaching cold front was due to hit the region within 48 hours, barring our planned ascent dates for Mont Blanc. Having factored in a very sensible period acclimatisation over two days of Alpine training in the Col du Midi, followed by a 2-day ascent of the typical Gouter route, the weather was determined to have the last word.  We had one opportunity; the narrowest of weather windows, only 24 hours after arriving in Chamonix!

A rapid reorganisation of kit and an accelerated day of training on the Aiguille du Midi saw us in a less than ideal position to make our summit bid.  After a frank team discussion about the realities and expectations of taking on the more demanding Trois Monts Route with limited acclimatisation, we settled down for the night in the Cosmiques Hut in preparation for a 1 am start the following morning.

Sunset from Cosmiques Hut. Photo: David Love

The Calm Before the Storm

As forecast, we woke to a perfectly clear and tranquil morning, ideal conditions to begin our climb. A collection of subdued faces summed up the mood resulting from 5 hours of broken sleep. Bowls of Tea and coffee together with a hunk of bread and jam did little to pierce the atmosphere.  After all, who doesn’t love an early morning start?

Stepping out from the warmth of the Cosmiques Hut into the fresh Alpine air quickly sharpened our senses; a lot of hard work had gone into getting us to this point and we were determined to attempt the climb. Focus quickly shifted to the first challenge; the crevasse field of Mont Blanc Tacul. Against its ominous North Face, a steady snake of light from the head torches of other climbers marked the safe route through the first two and a half hours of tricky ascent.

Tough Decisions

Lack of acclimatisation was clearly taking its toll and progress was laboured while our bodies adjusted to the increasing gradient of the climb and lack of oxygen above 3500m. By early morning we had taken the tough decision for two members of the team to return to the Cosmiques Hut. It’s a difficult situation when you have already achieved so much as a team. Yet these decisions are ultimately made together and for the safety of everyone involved.  After all, the mountains aren’t going anywhere.

Sunrise over the Midi. Photo: Tom Kendall

The Morning Sun

It’s surprising the difference a little light and warmth makes on morale.  As we emerged from the morning shadows of the looming summits, we reached the notorious Mont Maudit ice wall.  The bottleneck of climbers waiting in single file to ascend the 50-metre high barrier of snow and ice was 30 or so deep, with any attempt to bypass only likely to endanger others.  There was only one option; wait!

An hour passed before we were finally able to begin our climb.  Being the most technical aspect of the Trois Monts route, Maudit has the potential to provide some really nerve-wracking exposure. But confidence in our abilities, having practised the necessary skills for the ascent of this section the day before, resulted in some truly exhilarating climbing. As we crested the final lip of snow, we came face to face with our final objective.

The Roof of Europe

Our final push to the top of Mont Blanc was a long and tedious slog up its vast snow-capped summit pyramid. The key here was finding a rhythm, keeping our heads down and repeatedly placing one foot in front of the other. Easier said than done when tired and suffering from the effects of altitude.

For what felt like forever the summit continued to elude us.  Then, finally, the angle eased, Italy came into view and we were there, standing on the summit of the highest mountain in Western Europe and without a cloud in sight! Conditions couldn’t have been more perfect and our views were unimpeded in every direction; certainly the best I had seen on any of my previous ascents of Mont Blanc.  This was the roof of Europe and we had achieved what only 24 hours earlier seemed impossible.

As with all climbs, the summit is only ever the half way point and, take it from me, the long climb down is by no means the easy bit.

MtBlanc17 Summit Photo

So What……

As a team, we set out on this journey to demonstrate what can be achieved when you put your mind to something, face adversity and push the boundaries of your comfort zone. While MtBlanc17 has certainly provided that for each member of the team, it has also demonstrated that success isn’t always about getting to the top. It’s only when we face challenges and adapt to overcome them that we truly grow and learn something new about ourselves. Success has also come through the amazing team effort to raise awareness and much-needed funds for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award; an organisation that is quite simply, the very best in the world at helping young people realise their full potential through adventure.

Find out more….

  • Visit the MtBlanc17 campaign page to find out more about the challenge and the stories behind the team.
  • If you’re thinking about Climbing Mont Blanc you may also be interested in my article 10 Top Tips to Summit Success on Mont Blanc.
  • You can still donate to this amazing cause and help us make even more of a difference by clicking on the button below.

Donate

 

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MtBlanc17 Team Kit by Craghoppers

Craghoppers Discovery Adventures Waterproof Jacket

Craghoppers Discovery Adventures Climaplus Jacket

Craghoppers Discovery Adventures Full Zip Fleece


2 Responses to “DofE Challenge: MtBlanc17

  • Graham O'Connor OutdoorGearIreland
    2 weeks ago

    Great blog David, certainly was a challenge for the team but huge respect to everyone involved for what you have achieved and for what you have done for the DOFE Award! Good on you all awesome experience and most importantly everyone is home safe #MtBlanc17

  • Vietnam Travel
    1 week ago

    This would be an amazing thing to do. I really appreciate you sharing the details with us and how you were able to accomplish such a thing. It’s an inspiration to me, and many others I’m sure.

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