With so much information on the family pre-climb page, I’ll just let the photos here do the talking.
Here are some extra photos that help to tell the story. They’re not great photos, but great memories!
I still have GoPro video to edit, also probably not that great but if anything is usable I’ll post it here within the next week or so. Unfortunately I had already smoked the 3 GoPro batteries I brought by the time we hit the crazy weather on the Bosses, so no video of ice chunks hitting us in the head.
The mountain is really 3 separate stages:
The first stage is typical Colorado 14er scree – hot uphill hike on dry dusty trail with loose scree, followed by a very short snow section to reach Tete Rousse. Hiking poles all the way. Shorts and approach shoes would be nice!
The guide wears shorts and boots, and approach shoes later in the season since he has a locker at the Tete Rousse with his gear in it. He wears a 5lb daypack instead of a 25lb pack up this section.
This would be good information to know!
Such a marked constrast between the lush green here in the valley and the glaciated peaks high above.
Fresh off the Mont Blanc cog train, and ready to hit the mountain!
This looks like every single Colorado 14er I’ve done. Nobody bothered to mention this part, and I’m way overdressed since I’m packed for high alpine bitter cold weather…
Nobody mentioned the rock climbing sections! There’s a lot of vertical on the way up. Some sections from Tete Rousse to the Gouter Hut had fixed steel cables to help people with poor rock skills climb up. I destroyed my Outdoor Research gloves, and OR already gave me a credit for them – HUGE shout out to OR for taking care of loyal customers.
These Ibex were certainly not afraid of humans! We saw a lot of these in Southern Spain, I didn’t expect to see them here!
At the Tete Rousse hut you have a lot of downtime. It’s an amazing hut, especially for someone who’s used to sleeping on snow in a tent and carrying food and everything up in a pack, and carrying trash and poop down in a bag. Relax in your bunk and listen to some music on your phone, walk around outside and enjoy the scenery – it’s up to you.
Tete Rousse View
View from my bunk room at the Tete Rousse hut. The Tete Rousse is at 10,390 feet (3,167m), and a lot of people have difficulty sleeping here due to lack of oxygen. When we lived in Colorado I used to sleep in the Jeep at much higher altitude than this, and before climbing I take a prescription medication called Diamox that helps with altitude. Good sleep for me!
Tete Rousse Sunset
An amazing sunset high above the clouds at the Tete Rousse hut. At this elevation the sunset lasts forever! Usually I would carry a big camera and capture amazing photos, but I wanted to minimize my weight to maximize my climb, so this is what you get.
From the Tete Rousse, the second stage is classic Via Ferrata (Iron Road) – cross the dangerous Grand Couloir, then grade 4 climbing with occasional fixed cables to reach the Gouter. Start with crampons, cross the Couloir at first light so you can see rockfall coming down from above, then remove crampons for most of the climb.
There are some sections of running ice and snow that you upclimb without crampons, but not terribly sketchy.
My upper body is bulging muscles and extremely strong and I do a silly amount of pullups every week, but I was surprised at how sore my hands and forearms are 2 days after from the climb from the section. My guide wanted to bypass the rope teams above us so we detoured and climbed some slightly hard routes, but nothing that I thought was too sketchy. Probably not an issue for anyone who rock climbs frequently.
Last Minute Preps
Rope teams putting on crampons as they begin their oh-dark-thirty ascent from the Tete Rousse Hut. As you exit the hut this is where the snowpack meets the rock around the hut, so you wait for the snow to finish getting ready. You can see headlamps up the mountain above.
Stopping on our climb for a water break. You gotta love the goofy Petzl Scirocco helmet, but it’s the best lightweight thing out there to protect my noggin from rocks falling from above.
The third stage when you leave the Gouter Refuge is normal glaciated terrain from the Gouter to the summit.
Leaving the Gouter Hut and heading up.
Crampons and hiking poles, switching to ice axe around 15,000 feet. Typical step, step, step – switchbacks up the steep stuff. Some of the narrow ridges are interesting, no space for two-way traffic if you encounter people descending who left from the Gouter at 2am.
No threat of crevasses since this is a heavily trafficked route, I was far more concerned with the narrow ridges and high wind – if my guide can’t hear me yell “falling”, there’s no way he can counter by rolling off the other side of the ridge.
Too dead, too quick.
Ice and Clouds
This is the view every mountaineer loves – brilliant white snow and billowing clouds.
Left and Right
You can see the climbers coming down the switchbacks of this peak.
Follow the Leader
The steep climb up the switchbacks.
Off The End
It looks like you’re about to walk of the end of the world.
I’m not sure if this Ibex is inquisitive, or keeping humans away from the youngsters.
Black and White
A typical ridgeline with solid bootpack.
Selfie at the Vallot Refuge. We had just come down and I had already smoked the GoPro batteries, so the phone had to do. You can see the reflection of the Vallot Refuge on the side of my goggles.
Heading down is hard on the knees. You can see how hard the wind is blowing by our rope that’s swinging out to the side.
Other climbers descending behind us.
Bunk With a View
At least I had this amazing window view from my bunk at the Gouter Hut
Watching the sun light up distant peaks as we descend from the Gouter Refuge.
This is what a spent climber looks like
Long Way Down
Another rope team on their descent.
Finally Some Green
Happy to be back among the green as we ride the train back to Chamonix.
A rough Google Earth visual of our entire route.
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