What a great three days on the big hill. Perfect weather, good conditions and everyone to the summit together. You can’t ask for much more than that.
It was a pleasure guiding and climbing with former Devon outdoor education colleague John and his friends Sam and Chrissie. I forgot how well I knew them and how many connections we had, until we’d been chatting for five minutes and stories of dogs stealing my Dad’s sandwiches were being told!
Team Devon had acclimatised themselves around Zermatt, climbing the Breithorn before travelling to Chamonix and spending the night at a high refuge. It was John’s seventieth year and following on from previous big birthday milestones they were here for a memorable challenge.
Along with fellow British Mountain Guide Jon Holliday we met up in Les Houches and had a relaxed walk up to the Tete Rousse refuge where we could survey the Grand Couloir and rest before the follow days efforts.
The next morning we were up for the five am breakfast and on our way. The Grand Couloir was spitting some small rocks down when we arrived at the traverse. After waiting a few minutes there was a bit of a lull and John and I started across, only to find more rocks coming down whilst we were still crossing. It was a bit of a nasty moment, but thankfully short lived. The whole team were across and safe, and we took our time up the following ridge. Half an hour later the couloir was quiet again. We had been both lucky and unlucky, and tried to put it out of our minds and focus on the climb ahead.
After refreshments in the Gouter refuge we plodded onto the slopes leading to the Dome Du Gouter and onto the summit. A slow pace but quick stops kept us going to schedule and we were on the summit celebrating at one o’clock, waving to the valley below who were looking through telescopes at the summit!
The snow was in great condition and well tracked, and progress was reasonably rapid heading down. We stopped and tried too take in the view, but in reality we needed to get into the hut and rehydrate (beer).
By four o’clock we were in the Gouter refuge celebrating the climb and relieved it was over. The food was good and the hut sociable. It was time for a good sleep.
As we climbed back through the couloir this morning on our way down there was no stonefall to worry about and we made good time to the train station at the Nid d’Aigle for the journey home. Lots of teams heading up this morning, it’ll be a busy couple of weeks on the mountain yet.
Congratulations once again to Sam, Chrissie and John. And thanks to Jon for the guiding as well.