MONT BLANC ASCENT
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Leading my group of three to the top of an empty summit was incredible.
What did you think of your group leader?
The group leader was an older, softly spoken Frenchman who from first impressions, seemed to be quite capable. Over the duration of the trip he was excellent both as a mountain guide and in terms of looking after the group when we were off the the mountain. His ability to instruct the group (who were relatively inexperienced) was very good and he was very good at judging the fitness levels of the group and how hard he could push us. He had over 40 years of mountaineering experience and greatly added to the trip. Additionally he was very good at managing group expectation with regard to chance of summitting due to the changing weather conditions.
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Don't underestimate the fitness requirements of the trip. Being fitter and being able to move faster at altitude makes for a safer climb as you can better avoid bad weather and move past slow groups. You will also appreciate the scenery more if you are gasping for breath the entire way.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The use of lower height climbing (only to about 3500m) during the acclimatisation phase was good as noone was tired or injured in the lead up to the summit attempt. Speaking to other groups on Mont Blanc some had climbed Gran Paradiso as a lead up/acclimatisation climb, these groups had a much lower success rate than our group. Additionally we used a different method of summitting. Although still using the Gouter Route, we only climbed to Tete Rousse Hut (about 3100m) rather than the Gouter Hut (3800m) on the first day of the summit attempt. This was done as our group was fitter than the average group and could do the extra 600m rock scramble to the Gouter Hut, then follow on with the summit attempt before returning to Tete Rousse Hut for the second night. This was a good option as Tete Rousse was much more comfortable and the additional climb meant that we missed the crowds when summitting.