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~ Saturday 29th June 2013

Pleasant rock climbing in the valley last week, but back to high alpine summits this week starting on the Gran Paradiso. Plenty of snow and a good freeze meant we put crampons on at the hut and kept them on all the way. Battling deteriorating weather we reached the summit, dealt with the usual Paradiso traffic jam (not too many people but 4 confused Dutch guys made up for lack of numbers) and raced back down before the storm arrived. 

Gran Paradiso summit

Another day in Paradiso. 

Acclimatised and ready for Mont Blanc, we made the long slog up to the Tete Rousse hut. The Bellevue lift is closed for the season after a fire at the restaurant damaged the cables, so we drove down to Le Fayet and caught the train. Capitalising on the out of action Bellevue lift, the tramway du Mont Blanc is running no extra trains, and they still aren't running right to Nid d'Aigle. Oh well. 

The forecast wasn't looking brilliant - cold, windy and bad in the afternoon isn't ideal for Mont Blanc. We set off early, making good speed up the Gouter ridge. Things were going well until Steve's crampon fell off and disappeared. After a fruitless 10 minutes in the dark looking for a black crampon, we continued up to the hut, Steve now hopping. It's hard to be cheerful at 5am, especially at the Gouter hut, and having only 1 crampon doesn't help. Going up or down is clearly going to be tricky! Luckily a helpful French guide lent us some crampons - merci Lionel - and slightly behind schedule we continued up. 

"Red sky in the morning..." Hmmm. It's a long way up the Dome du Gouter. At the Col with the summit still clear of clouds, we put on more clothes to deal with the rising wind. Then more uphill, past Vallot, weather still clear(ish), over the Bosses, still clear and suddenly it was looking like we might make it. 

We did! On top of Mont Blanc! Amazingly, there was no-one else in sight. Brilliant. 

Mont Blanc summit

With fast approaching weather, we spent several seconds admiring the view then turned and ran down! 

worrying view from the top!

Looking back from the Dome du Gouter. Nice. 

Descending the Gouter ridge near the end of a long day!