MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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July 18, 2012

Alps Mont Blanc Climbing School Reaches Summit

MM Guide Ben Mitchell writes about the first Mont Blanc Mountaineering School of the season. Congratulations to the three climbers who joined him and walked away with great stories and several summits under their belt. 

"The season is in full swing over here in the Alps.  I arrived at the end of June and jumped right into a Mont Blanc program.  We started off the trip with a ride up the Montenvers train to the Mer de Glace.  It is a gorgeous ride up the train, and a great intro into the world of lift assisted mountaineering, a first for many from North America.  We spent the day hanging out at altitude to start our acclimatizing and began learning the skills we would need for the upcoming climbs.  The team practiced crampon and ice axe technique, as well as learning to operate as a roped up climbing team.  

On the Cosmiques Arete. Ben Mitchell photo

"We awoke to rain and clouds in town on day two.  Luckily, a little rain wasn’t going to stop us from our goals for the day.  We headed up into the hills to begin our three day tour over the Swiss/French border and back.  We walked for a few hours out of Le Tour to the Albert Premier Hut.  Once there we relaxed, talked about a bit of map navigation, and enjoyed a nice dinner.

Cosmiques Arete. Ben Mitchell photo

"Early morning breakfast and out the door was the name of the game in the morning.  We walked up to the Petite Fourche.  This is a 3520 meter peak that heads up a moderate snow slope and finishes with a short rock scramble, perfect for our first climb.  Afterwards we rappelled down the Col Blanc and into Switzerland.  A short walk across the Trient Glacier ended at our home for the evening, the Trient Hut. Aperitivo at 6:30, dinner at 7:00, a killer place to spend the evening.  

On Mont Blanc. Ben Mitchell photo

"The final day of our acclimatization tour took us back across the Trient Glacier to the Aiguille Tour.  This peak is slightly more technical than the Fourche and involves a bit more rock climbing.  The team crushed it once again!  We lucked out on both of our two days up high with great weather.  Going into the trip we were a little nervous, the forecast had been pretty broken all week!

Sunrise on the mountain. Ben Mitchell photo

"When we got home we checked the weather again, and I met up with the other guide joining us for the second half of the trip, Danny Uhlmann.  Danny and I had just returned from a month long ski trip deep into the Wakhan Valley in Afghanistan, and I was pretty psyched to work with him!  With the forecast not looking super promising, we decided to do another day trip into the alpine the following day.

High on the mountain. Ben Mitchell photo

"With marginal weather throughout the day, we tested ourselves on the area classic, Cosmiques Arete. The climb follows a ridge of moderate snow and rock right up to the lift station.  You actually finish the climb by heading up a ladder to the observation deck at the Aiguille du Midi, it really doesn’t get any better.  The climb was certainly the most technically difficult of the week, and I think everyone walked away pretty satisfied!  The crux move goes at about 4c, and it certainly made everyone work!

On the summit! Ben Mitchell photo

"Once again, the weather wasn’t looking great for our Mt. Blanc ascent, and we were debating waving off and doing a few more alpine climbs.  After studying the weather and talking it over, and talking it over again, we made the call to head up to the Cosmiques hut and make a go at the Three Summits route.  The climb traverses over Mt. Blanc du Tacul, then Mt. Maudit, then to the summit of Mt. Blanc.  It is continuously steep, and has a few quite steep sections, including one 50 meter section of 50 degree plus ice.  We woke up for 1:00 am breakfast with clear skies and strong winds.  The winds stayed strong all day, and made it cold and difficult, but never too strong.  A bit of new snow in the form of graupel, imagine styrofoam balls, had fallen through the night, making travel slow and difficult, but doable.  It was a tough, long climb, and cheers to the team for making it in good style!  Nathan, Emile, and Dan all sent!  It was a fantastic week, we got a bunch of good learning and fun climbing in!  Look forward to seeing the team again on the next climb!"

~ MM Guide Ben Mitchell