The weather continues to be variable, but it is still looking good for tomorrow and Monday.
Today we were to have had a walk out on the glacier with perhaps a short climb but that was practical. It didn’t matter as we are in good shape but a leg stretch at altitude would have been good. Nonetheless going out and getting soaked when we’ll need dry gear wasn’t sensible. When we woke up the world outside was white with zero visibility. About 7:30 it cleared a bit and revealed over 6 inches of snow had fallen overnight. The snow clearer was out at the refuge.
In light of this we reverted to an inside activity enabling us to stay at altitude and acclimatise for a few more hours.
David and Stephen played chess.
Their match turned into a bit of an epic and by the time it was my turn the weather had improved and I was spared. The improvement was too late for us to go for a walk as we had already packed our gear ready for departure and we needed to be back in Chamonix by mid-afternoon for some admin and kit prep.
The view from the Refugio window before we left was spectacular.
Before leaving we went to the cable car observation platform to check out the view. We were in for a treat. For a short time the clouds parted to reveal Mont Blanc. The team photo was inevitable, with Stephen on the left, David on the right and Mont Blanc taking a backup position poking its head above the cloud into the deep blue sky.
Maybe Mont Blanc deserved top billing. Here it is. 1341 metres (4400 feet) above us. Can’t wait to be there!
There was another great view to be admired. Yesterday’s climb, the Aiguille Marbrées, was in full view. You may be able to see a group of 7 climbers bottom centre making their way towards the left of the Marbrées.
In this close up of the left hand end of the Traverse you may be able to see a little figure on the peak of the needle. That’s where we were yesterday.
And we looked like this close up.
But that was yesterday. Back to today. After visiting a display of crystals from around this area of the Alps, including this magnificent example of smoked quartz from the Aiguille Marbrées, we headed for the cable car back to Chamonix.
It was fine, but the weather was due to turn again mid-afternoon which gave David time to work with Stephen on his rock climbing and abseiling technique while I lounged in the shade writing this blog to date. I could have joined them but chose not to. It wasn’t necessary for Mont Blanc and I am being very careful not to stress the lingering shin splints. They had a brilliant time in the sun on warm rock.
The rest of today was largely admin. This entailed buying sandwiches for lunches over the next 3 days and Titanic-sinking quantities of my favourite mountain snack: Snickers bars, then repacking my rucksack for the next 3 days and rehydrating. Taking the latter chore first, while on a walk into Chamonix to find a chemist we happened upon the ‘Beer O’clock’ bar. This is a concept bar where you can self serve your own beer… ! You buy a card from the bar and collect a glass. You select which beer you want from the 12 on offer which included IPA, stout, and tripel and place the card on a token marker. You then pour yourself a glass and the machine measures how much you poured and reduces the card balance accordingly. Brilliant! If it hadn’t been for an engagement up high tomorrow we would have tested more than two small ones. But on this occasion we had a more important matter to attend to; how to adjust out pack for the ascent to account for unusual weather. I’m talking about sun. Not just a little but a lot. The forecast for Sunday and Monday is for hot sunshine in the Chamonix valley. Of course it won’t be 30°C higher up but it will be warm and we will be working hard. David’s advice is to pack as light as we can. Socks should be as thin as possible without making boots loose. Trousers should be light trekkers rather than the heavy mountaineering trousers worn previously. Tops should be light and one or two thin layers only, with a second and third layer available but not worn unless necessary. We were still to take full waterproofs just in case but carried closer to the bottom of the rucksack than is customary. We wouldn’t need heavy gorilla-like gloves nor a polar tech fleece hat under the helmet. I jokingly suggested t-shirt and shorts and to my astonishment he said ‘Why not? Just make sure you have backup’. So that is the plan. I travelled over in trekking trousers with zip-off lower legs for use in Chamonix. Now they will be going higher as will my favourite red and grey trekking t-shirt. That t-shirt was well soaked on the Capital Ring on deluge Monday just over 2 weeks ago, and was previously commented upon by Mark Horrell on the Great Glen Way as it often zipped past with me inside. Now it was heading to the top of Western Europe.
This is surrreal and I won’t believe it until I wake tomorrow and see the sunshine.
All things being equal we will leave the hotel at 10am. As I’m not sure about the coverage tomorrow I will give you a short summary of proceedings, in case I can’t get a blog off.
Tomorrow we will go by David’s car to the Bellevue cable car station at Les Houches, just down the valley from Chamonix. We will take the cable car to the Col de Bellevue then the Tramway de Mont Blanc (TMB), the highest rack-and-pinion railway in France, up to Nid d’Aigle.
From Nid d’Aigle we will be on foot for 2 to 3 hours climbing up to the Tête Rousse Hut (3167m) where we will spend the night.
Hopefully I will be able to share some photos and an update from the Tête Rousse Hut tomorrow but don’t be concerned if not. Everything will be fine! 😀