Written by Simina Cernat (member of Satwa Guna 2012 - Unknow Vietnam project)
The idea of climbing Mont Blanc came in my mind last year, in Ladakh. I was on a pass over 5000 meters and I was thinking…now we are on a higher altitude than if we were on Mont Blanc. I was feeling very good up there and a big curiosity made me ask myself how I would feel if I were on Mont Blanc.
So, I included a short climb in my plans for this summer. Mont Blanc was fetching so good because I still had to go to Italy to visit my parents anyway, and Mont Blanc is so close to them.
After we’ve got some rest after the long road to Italy, we made some shopping, a frontal torch, a gas bottle, food, and we went on road in the early morning. It was pouring rain and in Aosta was foggy. We passed through the tunnel of 11 km to France, we went to Chamonix, and after to Les Houches, were we went by cable till Bellevue, and after we took the tram one station. It smelled like alpine flowers and moss. It looked like a good beginning, and I couldn’t wait to start climbing.
We started quite chaotic. There were many people climbing. I couldn’t believe that all of them were going on Mont Blanc. I had the impression that they will walk a little and then go back. But they were a lot of them and they were much faster than us. We had heavy luggage and we climbed very slow. I had a vague dizziness that was accentuated while I was getting at a higher altitude. The road was very steep, full with boulders and a very strong wind would throw me in the gap if I haven’t had the backpack. We were climbing, climbing, climbing…from downside the distances seemed very short, but when we climbed, we had the sensation that we were climbing from weeks and wouldn’t arrive at all. The road was increasingly steeper and narrower, the air less, and, we were more tired as we continued to climb.
Suddenly, the wind stopped, the fog disappeared, and, in the distance, Mont Blanc appeared, high, proud, dominating all the valley. My breath was still and a thought that I was trying to drive away came to my mind: I wouldn’t succeed to climb it now. First, I have to become friend with the mountain, to get his agreement for getting to the top. And I am not referring to the technical part. I refer to the relationship human-mountain. It is known that mountains are very proud and they feel betrayed if you try to dominate them. You have to learn to respect their greatness, to understand it, than to take your first step. Many people ignore this thing. That’s why there are so many tragedies.
We arrived very tired at the first shelter. I was astonished when I saw how many people were there. It looked like a festival or something. Yet I made another discover less pleasant. My boots were too rigid and my feet were hurt. I hardly walked. My feet were terribly aching and I was sick because of the altitude. In a few hours we came from 0 meters to 3167 meters. We refreshed ourselves with an instant soup and some schnitzels and bread cooked by my mom. I don’t know how she managed to put them in our bag without seeing her, but we enjoyed it.
It smells like winter mixed with flowers, even if our tent is near a toilet. We have the view towards Mont Blanc. It is almost 10 pm, but here, upside, the colors are spinning with the wind. The mountain varies between threatening and fascinating. He is calling me and laughing on me because I’ve got tired, because I am dizzy. The mystery of the mountain fascinates me again, the way it devitalize you, the way it gets angry and knock you down with one flurry. The mountain has to have a good spirit, given that there are such beautiful flowers that keep it company. There are small, fragile, but strong.
I fell asleep very deep with a plan in my mind: to wake up at 3 am, to start climbing to the top. All the night the mountain screamed threatening, as a furious lion. When I opened my eyes, the sun was already shining. It certainly wasn’t 3 am. It was 10:30. I sighted sad at the thought that we couldn’t reach the top today anymore. We had to extend our staying with another day, and that meant to get to Piossasco Wednesday in the evening. On Thursday we had the plane to Dubai.
When I put my boots on, I felt a terrible pain. My feet were hardly entered in the boots and my wounds were pulsing violently. We had to make a decision. I looked on the Mont Blanc and I ask him if he give me the permission to climb forward, or I should give up. I didn’t get it. I smiled at the mountain, I said good bye, and we packed the tent. The descending till Les Houches was very fast. But we took long and often breaks. The wounds were hurting even more. I was walking as if I were climbing the Everest.
At a moment, when there were no more stones on the path, I couldn’t resist and I took off my shoes. In the next second, my blood blenched near a finger. I had touched a sharp stone. But walking without shoes was way more comfortable than those boots. I felt angry on the boots, on me, because I didn’t test them before, on the situation. I had to put on my shoes back, in the end, when the path was again full with sharp rocks. I could hardly stand.
We’ve got to the tram, to the cable, to Les Houches, to Chamonix. We had a bus just the next day, in the morning. The train would have taken us through Switzerland and it would have taken 8 hours. We walked around Chamonix, we marveled about the exorbitant prices, and when the night came, we raised our tent at the base of the mountain, near a parking area for caravans, where there was another tent. The owner of the other tent told us that theoretically tents are not allowed in there, but he has been staying from a month and nobody told him a thing.
In the morning, we woke up at 6. At least that was the time our clock showed us. I remembered the experience we had in Nepal, and before packing the tent, I verified once more. It was too dark to be 6 am. It was actually 4 am. We made a mistake when we changed the time. We would have stayed 5 hours in the train station if we had packed the tent.
We reached Torino after 4 hours on the road while we changed 3 buses. I was a little disappointed about the fact that I couldn’t reach the top, but I was congratulating myself for the decision of coming back. Certainly my feet wouldn’t cope the Passage of the Death. Still it was quite an experience, I saw some spectacular views. If I could chose to go again, I would. Even if neither the second time I wouldn’t reach the top. The top is not a purpose. The most interesting part is until there. Mont Blanc, we’ll definitely see each other again.
P.S. The next day we found out that it was an avalanche on Mont Blanc. 9 men died and 11 were hurt. It seems we took the right decision, that of giving up and coming back.
You can follow our expedition on blog: Unknown Vietnam 2012
Or you can view the entire project on: Satwa Guna project
Photo credits: Angyalosi Beata, Dga1958, Marco Guidi, Ovidiu Iordache.