On the 1st of August at 9:15am after 7 hours of climbing, a lot of it in the dark, we successfully reached the summit of Mont Blanc on a fantastically sunny morning. It was physically and mentally very tough but completely worth it to reach the top and in so doing raising just over £7,800 for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.
At the start of the week it looked like the weather might not go our way and indeed the acclimatization climb of Italy’s highest peak, Gran Paradiso 4,060m, was abandoned 2 hours in on account of dangerous weather so we turned back and spent the day in the hut. The weather improved so we were able to summit Gran Paradiso the following day, with a full descent back to base camp, which meant a full 12 hours on the go and no rest the day before our Mont Blanc ascent. Having acclimatized we were ready, albeit a little tired, to take on Mont Blanc so we set off at 2am from the Tete Rouse hut then across the much feared Grand Couloir and up the Gouter Ridge under a carpet of stars that looked so close you felt as if you could pluck them out of the sky and put them in your pocket.
At the Gouter Hut we’d gained 800m of altitude in 2 hours so we put another layer on, had a quick drink and ate some saucisson (fatty French salami) before setting off for the Dome de Gouter, the so-called “easy part” of the climb. It was anything but easy, I was sucking in house bricks as my lungs screamed for oxygen and my legs started to feel heavy but we finally reached the top of the dome to see the sun rise to ice blue clear skies……or as Mark our guide said “it’s a new day guys” and we could see the summit off in the distance.
On we pushed taking every opportunity to eat energy gels, Mars bars, and Kendall Mint cakes to keep us going as the incline increased. After what seemed an eternity we were finally slogging it up the two camel humps called the Bosses Ridge, a narrow knife edge ridge that runs along the French and Italian border so you have one foot in France and one foot in Italy which means there is a 1,000m plummet to your death in either country should you take a slip! The adrenaline was pumping by now yet the summit seemed so far away and it was on this next stretch that the words of encouragement from all of you rang in my ears as it became as much of a mental battle as a physical one to keep taking the next step.
The summit ridge seemed to go on forever but as we got closer our legs got a bit lighter and we could breathe just a little bit easier and just before we got there Mark switched to the back and let Keith take us onto the summit. Stepping on that summit I felt an enormous sense of achievement not just for climbing a big mountain but somehow I felt my surviving Leukaemia was vindicated - I felt that I deserved to be there, not feeling guilty that I survived when others hadn’t. I might sound corny but I felt alive.
I'd like to say a huge thank you everyone who has donated towards my fundraising for your generosity, your support and for the encouraging words which, as I said, rang in my ears pushing me on so many times during the climb when I thought I couldn’t carry on. I know we all get a lot of requests to sponsor people for different charities and events these days so I’m ever so grateful you chose to support me on this one, it means the world to me. Also to my mate Keith (on my left in the photo) and our guide Mark (on my right) - I wouldn’t have got to the top without either of them.
It was a great experience and one I’ll never forget.
If you'd like to donate towards my fundraising, please visit my Just Giving page. And if you'd like to hear more about why I was fundraising for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, please visit my Mont Blanc Climb for Leukaemia blog post.