Ascent of the Mont Blanc
With Tatonka on the Roof of Europe
When he climbed Europe’s highest mountain Mont Blanc our colleague Michi Bösiger fulfilled a life-long dream.
Steep rock faces, ice climbing in part on sheer ice faces, on a ladder over a glacier chasm, over exposed ridges, through hazardous avalanche slopes, above us huge threatening seracs – cold, wind, sun, warmth – only taking short breaks, always moving on, further and further …
In the middle of the night we hear an avalanche rushing down the mountain, not far away. But then we achieve the summit and I am overwhelmed: Friday morning at seven o’clock and here we are at the top of Mont Blanc, 4810m, via the Cosmique Route. Yes, we have got here!
The beginning of the project
I saw Mont Blanc in May this year when we were en route at the summit of the Haute Route from Zermatt to Chamonix with other tour skiers. I simply could not get this majestic mountain out of my mind. When work allowed and at the weekends we trained conscientiously, practiced via ferrata and long tours at great heights which of course we enjoyed but always with this one goal in front of us: We want to stand there at the top of the famous, mythical and when objectively regarded, also dangerous mountain, the highest mountain in Europe.
As an ambitious Alpine climber I was confident at the beginning that the two of us could climb this mountain without a guide but the more research I undertook about Mont Blanc, the more I realized how dangerous it could be in terms of the choice of route, the constantly changing glacier conditions, seracs, unforeseeable avalanches and ever-increasing rock falls.
The relatively large number of accidents on the mountain in this imposing and fantastic region also spoke volumes. I also remembered talking about this mountain a while ago with a mountain guide friend of mine who mentioned that he was not always entirely happy about climbing Mont Blanc. So we booked a mountain guide with experience in this region.
The Cosmique Route
From the beautiful town of Chamonix the mountain cable car took us up to Aiguille de Midi. From up here we can see our route in front of us for the first time, leading along this steep rock face. Admittedly we began to get a little nervous. Here we meet our mountain guide Stephan, who two days previously had climbed the Freney-Pfeiler, and who is now surrounded by Japanese, Russian and Indian tourists who regard us, the Alpine climbers, with interest.
Via a ridge and adjoining glacier we reached the nearby Cosmique Chalet, situated like an eagles’ nest at 3613 m above sea level. We can feel the tension amongst the mountaineers, all of whom know that the next day means business! The weather forecast is for 50 km/h wind and then a turn to bad weather in the afternoon.
We drink, eat and then spend the night in our sleeping berths. My backpack is packed only with essentials: a lightweight backpack is the key to success. We try to sleep, mostly without success but we are in a good mood and enjoy the excitement and the snoring concert in the hostel room.
At 1.30 a.m. we start out into the surprisingly dark night. The route gets steeper and steeper up to the first big glacier chasm which we cross by ladder. Later we were forced to cross a broad and dangerous avalanche furrow and where large seracs could be seen. The climbing pace is high and we race through it. With our hearts beating furiously and out of breath we find ourselves already at a height of around 4000 m, and keep climbing steeply upward, steeper and steeper until we have to use our ice climbing gear.
The route leads us further, below Mont Maudit and over desolate ridges, steep rock faces, rock outcrops until finally we can see the summit. We continue, further and further with only short breaks. We know that we have to be back in the early afternoon. Suddenly during the last part of the climb the sun rises – in this clear air and at this height an absolutely unforgettable spectacle of color! After an ascent of 5 ½ hours we reach our goal as planned – the highest point of the mountain.
It is a moving moment and we embrace one another. After a short break, taking photographs, exchanging congratulations, having a little snack and a hot tea we begin the descent, as of course we have only done half of our tour. We still have the entire descent ahead of us. Four hours later we then arrive back at Aiguille du Midi- happy, but completely exhausted!
The traditional and extremely tasty fondue in charming Chamonix brings us back to life again.
Text: copyright Michi Bösiger
Photos: copyright Caroline Micaela Hauger
Mont Blanc 4810 m, is the highest mountain in Europe (outside Russia)
Careful preparation is extremely important. It is recommended that this tour is taken with a guide:
- Lightweight mountaineering rucksack of ca. 30 liter volume, e.g. Cima di Basso 35 from TATONKA
- Ice pick, crampons, sturdy mountain boots, helmet, climbing harness, dynamic rope, technical equipment
- Waterproof, multi-layered, warm clothing
- Hat, gloves, sunglasses, sun protection
- 1 liter thermos flask with hot tea, e.g. Hot & Cold Stuff from TATONKA (ideal are total 1.5 liter of drink per person)
- Provisions: small, light snacks, e.g. bar of chocolate, nuts, fried fruits, bread