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~ Monday 2nd July 2012

 A long blog for a very long route - last week's success on the Italian route on Mont Blanc. This is the least frequented of the classic routes, promising a wild trip through the remote south side of Mont Blanc, far from the crowds on the Chamonix side. There's a price to pay though - it's over 3000m of ascent, with no help from lifts or trains, and the hut approach is almost a climb in itself. 

The walk starts easily up the beautiful Val Veny road, but soon leads onto the chaotic rubble of the lower Miage glacier. 

This leads - eventually - to a "stiff scramble" and a welcome arrival at the hut. Rifugio Gonella was recently rebuilt and it's stunning, occupying a fine perch overlooking the south side of Mont Blanc.

The hut is very comfy, the food excellent, but unfortunately breakfast was at an unsociable 10 minutes past midnight! Ouch. 

Climbing starts straight from the door with a steep traverse to a steep glacier, which leads to a steep snow-slope onto the Bionnassay-Gouter ridge...which is steep. And very airy. "Great" views of the lights way down in the valley. We reached the Dome du Gouter around dawn, where it's a surprise to meet other teams - only 10 people (including 6 of us) had set off from Gonella. We missed the Gouter hut crowds however and the Bosses ridge was fairly quiet. 

Summit!

 

 All that remained was the long descent of the Cosmiques route - and the interminable slog back up to the Midi lift!