On July 7th this year, my long time friend and climbing partner David Sobek and I summited Mont Blanc (4807 m / 15780 ft). To keep things interesting, and because we were feeling "traversy", we opted to ascend via the Trois Monts route and then descend via the Goûter route (i.e. the standard route). This is the mountaineers' way from Chamonix to Les Houches.
Trois Monts is awesome, in part because in addition to Mont Blanc, you flirt with the summits of Mont Blanc du Tacul (which David and I summited a few days prior to acclimate and to also test our mixed climbing abilities) and Mont Maudit. Indeed, this turned out to be a great, albeit long day. Leaving the Cosmique hut at midnight was a magical start, especially with the bright moon and the all-satisfying crunch of good snow beneath our crampons.
David took the lead on the way up, and man was he strong. I felt like I was being pulled at times. This became especially apparent at around 4500 m, where after downing a salt stick I started to feel a little nauseous. Shortly, though, we made it to the summit, where we took an obligatory photo:
(Notice my frozen water tube and also the Matterhorn in the background.) Then, we headed down what I hope to never have to head down again, the Goûter route. It's not that it's technical, it's just very long. And tedious. And my semi-stress-fractured foot was hurting in my mountain boots. And did I mention that it was tedious? We made it though.
All-in-all, 11 hours, 9 minutes, and 19 seconds from Cosmique to the train at the base of the Goûter route. Next time, to avoid things like the Death Couloir, I'll just go down Trois Monts (perhaps with a Beal Escaper to efficiently rap the steep snow crux on Mont Maudit). Back in Chamonix, we grabbed a beer, had some food, checked weather, and decided we wanted some more.
So, two days later, I find myself with a family size Toblerone chocolate bar in my alpine bag, while organizing my gear in the Hörnli hut right below the Hörnli ridge of the Matterhorn. The next day, we set off at 3:30 am up one of the most iconic peaks in the world.
It sucked. It sucked in a way that even after it sucked. Not quite full on Type 3 fun, but, say, Type 2.5. Actually that's too generous. 2.73 is more like it. Suffice it to say, I'll never do it again, at least never again without a guide. It is a taxing, ten hour chossy scramble. Beautiful views, yes, and pulling up onto the Swiss and Italian summits was amazing. Here's a photo of us essentially on the summits:
But gosh is it a heinous climb. So much attention was required for each step that I have never been more mentally drained by a climb. The whole day, the words of Edward Whymper in his Scrambles Amongst The Alps echoed in my head: "Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end."
Anyway, I'm happy we made it. I'm happy to say I've climbed the Matterhorn. And I'm happy I learned a bit about myself that day, and also about my climbing relationship with David. But boy is that an ugly mountain. David and I met some lively Czech climbers on the summit and they also agreed: the Matterhorn is best viewed from afar. Too close, and its beauty decays to choss.