The adventure started on Italian side (read about Day 1-2 here), and continued up to Gonella hut and the camping next to it (read here). The next day was to be the summit attempt. First, there would be walking upwards, then a ridge traverse or two, and then more upward until the very top.
We decided to leave at midnight, so we woke up at 23, had breakfast, and started walking. The sunrise is visible some time before it shows from the lower grounds, so we enjoyed greatly these astonishing views.
|Sunrise on Mont Blanc
As we were traversing the ridges, the clouds gathered and obscured the view. This was most probably a positive thing, because it's much easier to cross then, instead of having to look into an abyss on both sides.
|Dramatic clouds over the mountain tops
|On the way to the top. Three members, one rope
The cold was very present along the way. I had forgotten to bring my thermoisolated gloves, and should I not have borrowed a pair from Joel, the summit would have to be cancelled. It was so cold, that several layers of winter clothing barely kept me warm at all. The mobile phone was not functioning well because of the cold, it was extremely slow and the battery just disappeared. So there were not many pictures - but the ones I took were the most memorable.
At 07:30, we had reached the top of the highest mountain in all European countries: Mont Blanc.
|The view from the top
|Lena Padukova on top of Mont Blanc
|View from the top
|Traversing ridge on the way back
|Here is what you feel like after the summit.
We drank tea, ate and rested, the altitude symptoms were gone, left was a sense of happiness and accomplishment. On the next morning, we packed the camp and went down all the way to Lac du Miage and beyond. It was a long hike despite going downwards, some more scrambling and via ferrata with a big backpack and very tired legs. That night's camping was near a beautiful ice-cold river. The summit was completed. We were already talking about the next...
As we arrived back to the camping, I could pick up the stuff I left there. I had been to a wedding, to a Microsoft conference, visited friends in Spain, now been on alpine adventures, and more stuff was waiting to come! I had luggage for several months, from fancy dress to business suit and ice axes, and I still cannot fathom how I got it on the plane and back home.
|Back in Chamonix - the Big White Mountain in the background!
I had borrowed alpine shoes (large plastic shoes) from Joel. Unfortunately for me, they were half a size too small. Of course I could not just refuse to have them, I had no choice. So I continued walking in them despite the pain. The nails of my big toes had turned blue, and started to leak a foul-smelling liquid. A few weeks later, the nails on my big toes fell off. Don't worry, new ones have grown back, and everything is fine. But this is a good example of the price one sometimes has to pay for success. Either you give up to the pain, or you continue and reach your summit. Your choice!