Text and pictures © 2012-2013 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2012/12/20
"For all we know, to a greater intelligence than ours the top of Mont Blanc may be as crowded as Piccadilly Circus." — John Buchan (1875–1940), Scottish author and politician.
Left: Leaving the Aiguille du Midi ski lift halfway up at the Plan de l'Aiguille. BTW, I just learned why there are so many japanese tourists going up there: it's because the aiguille du midi is the same altitude as the revered Fuji Yama. And there's no lift up Fuji Yama.
Right: Crossing the junction below the Grand Mulets. It's an area where two glaciers merge, with lots of crevasses. In winter the crevasses fill up with snow, but as spring advances it becomes increasingly hard to cross.
Left: Mauro getting ready to jump from one tiny snow bridge to the next. Note that we still have the skins under the skis, so they aren't very manageable.
Right: Mauro jumping over the snow bridge. The people behind us also jumped it, but then it collapsed under the weight of a guided austrian.
Left: Two skiers going up the Wilson peak, see from the Grands Mulets hut. The ridge we'll climb tomorrow morning is behind.
Right: The Grands Mullets hut. It used to be 'the' hut for the normal ascent of Mt Blanc, but nowadays in summer it's not reachable (too many crevasses at the junction below) and too dangerous to keep going !
Left: Mt Maudit (left) and Mt Blanc (back) seen from the Grands Mullets.
Right: Aiguille du Midi, Tacul and Mt Maudit seen from... the toilet of the Grands Mullets.
Left: The long ridge towards the Dome du Gouter which we'll climb tomorrow.
The latest I've ever skied so far has been June 1st, a good 15 years ago, in the unlikely place of Gran Sasso. But tomorrow I'll break my personal record by a day.
Right: After skiing up on the hard snow towards the Gouter ridge, we reach the schrund and put the skis on the pack for quite a ways.
Left: Summit of Pt Bravais, just below the Gouter Dome, and we can put the skis back on our feet until Valot.
Right: Tacul and Mt Maudit seen from the Gouter.
Left: Sunrise on Mt Blanc, seen from the Gouter Dome. Later we'll ski right down the middle of that face, never mind the seracs.
Right: Another view of Mt Blanc from the Gouter, slightly later.
Left: Aiguille du Midi and Tacul seen from Valot.
Right: The 'Arête des bosses', the hilly ridge, last section before the summit, as seen from the Valot hut.
Left: Mauro and I have been leading the pack since the hut, but two italians are catching up with me. Never mind that: Mauro will be first ! Well, kinda first anyway: the first one of 50 climbers from the Grands Mulets. Then there were about as many from the 3 Mts Blancs route. And also some from the normal route and from the Italian normal.
Right: Aiguille du Midi, Tacul and Mt Maudit as seen from the summit of Mt Blanc. Behind them is the Verte.
Left: Panorama of the summit of Mt Blanc.
Right: Mauro and I getting ready to ski down the north face of Mt Blanc.
Left: The north face of Mt Blanc, first crevasse shortly below the summit.
Right: North face of Mt Blanc, getting closer to the seracs.
Left: After skiing down the face on the left, just below the huge serac, we reach safer grounds.
Right: Skiers in the critical section: it's steep, with hard snow, exposed above seracs in case you fall and extremely exposed to serac falls. Up to the point that a rock below is named 'Rock of the happy return'...
Left: In the middle of the lower section of seracs.
Right: Mt Maudit and Mt Blanc seen from the glacier below.
Left: After skiing Mt Blanc.
Right: Chamonix is visible down in the valley.
Left: Above the Grands Mulets hut, just before tragedy stroke. Instead of going down the main glacier, we came farther right, down Wilson Dome and the snow was still frozen hard on the steep section visible here. A skier behind us lost control, fell and went right past us, jumping the schrund and stopping below, fortunately before a crevasse, when his skis got stuck and he hung by his leaches. He was hurt and bloodied, loosing all his front teeth, but in good enough shape to continue the descent after a while !
As for those interested in the timing, it took us 3 hours to reach the hut from the lift. Then less than 7 hours to get to the summit (we left the hut at 2:15 and were on the summit at 9), and an extra 3 hours to ski all the way down to the Plan de l'Aiguille lift and get some ice cream. We were the fastest that day, but it doesn't mean much since Agotino or any of the people who can do Chamonix-Mt Blanc-Chamonix in 5 hours weren't there. And we looked and we looked but we couldn't find the jacuzzi on the summit. That's just as well since I'd forgotten my bathing suit.
Right: Franck nearing the couloirs on the left side of the Vallée Blanche.
Left: Lower part of the Vallée Blanche descent, once you get off the glacier and into the Montenvers forest. Only doable in good conditions.
Right: A view of the Argentière glacier as seen from the summit of Grands Montets. Chardonnet, Aiguille d'Argentière in the middle and Mt Dolent as the triangle in the distance marking the limit between France, Italy and Switzerland.
Right: View on the Cathedral from the Buet.
Left: Touring around the Buet.
Above: The Mt Blanc range seen from the Buet.