Mont Blanc solo climb on 17 July

19th July 2014
Shortly after I returned from a successful expedition to the top of Mt Elbrus in June, I started looking into doing a solo attempt on Mont Blanc, as a training climb for the next '7 summit' peak.
I was still in a good shape but knew it would be a lot tougher physically and mentally than Elbrus; no ropes, team mates or guide to rely on and I only had a day and a half for the entire trek.

Before continuing the story, I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to one of my sponsors: Nuffield Health, who made it possible for me to train in the Wimbledon gym every day for two weeks prior to the climb. I saw the confusion on one of the personal trainer's face, the ' I thought I have already seen you here today".. I am so grateful for the support at Nuffield, the training ground is excellent and within only two weeks I saw a huge improvement in my fitness and I was ready for the climb.

The hike started around 8am Wednesday morning from Nid d'Aigle. First I reached the Tete Rousse hut area at 3167m, I cautiously stayed a few hundred meters from the hut not to be tempted to rest long. This is the spot where team members rope up and put crampons on before stepping on the Tete Rousse Glacier. It dawned on me, the serious trek is about to start. Once I crossed the huge glacier field and ascended to the Grand Couloir, I forgot about the others and how alone I was as I had to face the scary couloir. This narrow path on the steep slope (40 degrees and 30m long) is probably one of the most dangerous parts of the climb where rock falls happen so often many people loose their lives. The day before a 45 year old german man was hit by a rock and he fell to his death. I managed to get across ok and a rather enjoyable scrambling and rock climbing followed on the ridge which led me up to the old Gouter hut. After a short climb on the snow slope I reached the new Gouter hut at 3,835m just after 2pm.
Dinner is served at 6.30pm but I decided to have a giant plate of pasta carbonara at 4pm just before the kitchen closed, and stay up until dinner. When everybody was in the eating area, I went into the dorm and crawled onto bed. I had a couple of hours undisturbed sleep before the other climbers are back from dinner. Next thing I remember was a stunning pink light sneaking through the dorm window around 9pm so I quickly grabbed my camera and took some photos of the sunset. Went back to bed knowing I only had a couple of hours to rest before the summit push.

The 1.30am alarm wasn't needed, I hardly slept from excitement. I shared the dorm with about 25 other climbers and everyone started getting up and ready for breakfast which was served at 2 o'clock. I was out and ready by 2.30am. Headtorch on, crampons tightly fitted on my mountaineering boots, water bottle filled up and wrapped in a fleece, trekking poles fixed, ice axe tucked on the side of the rucksack, extra layers inside and sweets in the gore-tex jacket pocket. No turning back now.

After I climbed a couple of passes the route led me up the north-west face of Dome de Gouter. There's an emergency hut here called the Vallot hut where I stopped to re-hydrate and put a layer on. I had a chat with two guys in their sleeping bag, they hiked there the night before but hadn't left for the summit yet, told me they were going to wait for the wind to die down and the sun to come up. I couldn't wait to get out and continue! A steep snow slope followed which led me to the beginning of the Bosses ridge. Tackled the Grande Bosses first then onto the Petite Bosses; I can tell you both looked pretty 'grande' to me! This was roughly the time when the sun started coming up behind the horizon and painted the sky in the most beautiful colours. To my right, I even saw the shadow reflection of Mont Blanc which was so striking I had to stop to take a photo. The ridge is not the best place for it though, after a good couple of hours of climb and already at altitude, it's easy to loose balance and disappear. It was a good opportunity to grab my GoPro camera from the rucksack and attach it to my chest. Pressed play and carried on with trekking pole in one hand and ice axe in the other
The last part before the summit was an even more exposed ridge but by then I knew the top was so close and I could almost touch it. The last couple of meters felt like walking on clouds and I loved the warm sun touching my face. I even forgot about my worries about not having acclimatized or not being roped to anyone. That was it. The summit of Mont Blanc. At 6.45am, I made it.
I spotted a french guide with his clients who I chatted to the day before and I went up to him. As soon as he hugged me and gave me a kiss on my cheek, my tears were flowing out uncontrollably. The 360 degree view from the top was breath taking, everywhere I looked a peak was smiling back at me. The sky was bluer than I had ever seen it and the weather was just wonderful.

They say, getting to the summit is only half the job so I collected my ice axe, pole and rucksack and headed down. The stunning view was just getting better and better. I made it back to the Gouter hut at 9am and after a quick break I was descending back down on the rock face then crossed the Grand Couloir and down to the Tete Rousse Glacier. I had a quick break here and took my crampons off, the gaiters around my ankle, packed away the jacket and fleece and was wearing a wool top again as the sun was high already high. Caught the 1.50pm tram then the 2pm cable car and I was back in Les Houches. That quickly, it was over. 10 o'clock that evening I was on the flight to London.


My next '7 summit' expeditions are Kilimanjaro 4-14 September and Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia in October with Adventure Peaks.
I've just been accepted by the fantastic IMG (International Mountain Guides) to climb Mt. Vinson in Antarctica with them in November, so a lot more training, photography and hopefully successful summits ahead this year.

I would like to thank you all for the amazing support and believing in me.