Wild Mont-Blanc

Jul 20, 2018
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Wild Mont-Blanc

The rising moon illuminates the surrounding peaks with dim light. Our walk is regular. Scandalized by deep breaths, she is one with this Italian side of the Mont-Blanc, so impressive and wild. Here, it is the kingdom of the high mountains: seracs, crevasses, suspended glaciers, steep walls come together harmoniously, to give shivers to the visitors of the places. 

Before me, the halo of my headlamp blurs in the clouds of my slow exhalations. Stopped like time, which at this morning hour suspends itself to furtive thoughts. Mixed with dreams, confronted with reality, my mind wanders. Soon, the cloud of smoke in front of me merges into a thick mist. I look to the right, to the left, I project the beam from my forehead. He's sent back to me everywhere. Lulled by the mist, drowsiness awaits me. I try to focus my mind, to understand how the sculptures of the snowy mantle were formed: sometimes smooth, sometimes so irregular. All of a sudden, we find ourselves in a roller coaster bed of miniatures. Strange formation. 

The day before, we went up the long glacier of Miage, after having passed in the pastures of Combal, bucolic and welcoming. Once the moraine is reached, the atmosphere changes. It becomes mineral and hostile. Around it, the glaciers are retreating. They go away, flow towards other horizons. Sad reality. Reality of our anthropocene era. Nothing gets lost, everything changes. But we, up there, we lose a lot: the imagination of whiteness, of the immaculate, of purity. Instead, black mountains are being replaced, dangerous earlier and earlier in the season. There's still time to climb this normal Italian route from Mont-Blanc, but for how many more weeks? Even the guard at Gonella's shelter can't anticipate it. Last year, it had to close mid-July. He hopes to last until August, with the heavy snowfalls of winter. But all this has become so unpredictable...

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The crevasses here are imposing. To ensure the safety of the rope, we decided to link all four of us to the same rope. Our long caravan, only visible through four small light beams, is progressing fast. Yesterday, we rested to perfect the acclimatization, and we took the opportunity to teach our customers some basics: stop a fall on a snow slope, progress effectively using the right pencil technique depending on the slope inclination and snow quality, or make a mouflage and lay a dead body to get out of a crevasse.

Soon we find ourselves in the middle of chaos. Here, a recent serac fall has swept the whole slope. Blocks of ice as big as a car scatters it. I get chills, and I naturally accelerate the rhythm. Luckily, I don't see the serac that has discharged its winter fat. Spring cure. I imagine so, and that's reason enough to accelerate the leak. We are not protected by the armoured windows of the "Pas dans le vide" of the Aiguille du Midi. We live the mountain, and it transcends us by sharing its moods by regular demonstration of strength. But like Sisyphus, like conquerors of the useless, we undeniably return there. Whether you're an amateur or a professional, something immanent keeps you coming back. In this story, the most beautiful experience is probably that of transmission and sharing. 

Today, we will not climb to the summit of Mont Blanc. The wind is too strong, and sooner or later all the strings involved end up turning back. It is a life-saving learning, probably the most important: that of renunciation. Learning about ourselves, our deep motivations. Why do we go up there: for the summit, the trophy, or for the experience of the off-daily and the immaterial? Questions that must be asked before planning the ascent of Mont Blanc. Too few people ask them, and consider this mountain as a consumer product. Mont-Blanc approaches and is deserved. It should not be the initiation rite that opens the doors of this extraordinary universe, but the consecration of a long path: that of the mountaineer's apprentice. That's why our guide office no longer offers dry white mounts, but preparation courses of at least 6 days, with the ascent of another 4000 to prepare well.