Around the world,  Europe,  France,  Travel Journal

Chamonix-Mont Blanc: 4 summits at the Mont Rose ! (3/3)

Part 1 : Conquering Mont-Blanc from Chamonix

Part 2 : Night at the Albert 1er hut and ascent of the Aiguille du Tour (3540 meters)

Part 3: 4 summits at Monte Rosa!

Monte Rosa is the second highest massif in the Alps after Mont Blanc. It has 10 peaks at more than 4000 meters above sea level

Day 8 (Sunday, August 12, 2018): ascent to the Citta di Mantova hut (3,498 m)

It’s a hard day to wake up today! If usually the house is active when I come back from the bakery, this morning everyone is still asleep, a sign that the organisms are starting to be marked

So we are a few minutes late to the appointment that Franck fixed us at 8am

For the next 3 days requiring a guide for two people, Franck is accompanied by a colleague: Mathieu

Mathieu is a pocket-sized guide (he is a former gymnast). You can find it on his Facebook page: https: //

Etienne, whose thigh is a cause for concern is traveling. Today’s program is very light, we hope that it can be made again

We take the car and drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel into Italy to reach the Aosta Valley. We take two gondolas and a cable car to reach 3,275 meters above sea level

Upstairs it is cold and we are greeted by chamois. We picnic quickly and start the walk to the refuge


The path is a little rough, a lot of rocks and some snowy passages that we do without crampons

While we’re struggling, Mathieu spots some genepi and goes climbing to harvest as much as possible. He comes back delighted, he has enough to prepare several liters of alcohol

We arrive at the Citta di Mantova refuge after a 1h15 walk. The refuge is really great and looks like a chalet. We are lucky to find all 6 of us in the same room, nobody to bother us


We have the whole afternoon to rest. After a physical week, it feels good before tomorrow’s big day. We benefit from it to look after our sores. This moment of respite also contributes to the acclimatization, we are at 3500 meters of altitude and my breathing isn’t as fluid as usual

I play two games of chess against Etienne without being able to decide between us: 1 – 1

We are in Italy, no doubt about it, at dinner, we have pasta as a starter and meat as a main course, it’s delicious!

Worried about the weather, the weather reports aren’t very encouraging, we hope to have a favorable shooting window for what should be the biggest day of the course tomorrow

As we go to bed, we see the apocalypse through the window in front of us, flashes of heat (lightning without thunder) without interruption. It looks like fireworks. It is magnificent, Franck confides to us that he has never seen that, but it isn’t very reassuring for the next day … We make fun of Mathieu by indicating to him that he isn’t likely to be used as a lightning conductor considering his small size. “When it rains, I’m the last to know” he answers us in self-derision

Day 9 (Monday, August 13, 2018): 3 peaks at more than 4000 meters!

Altitude ? Excitement ? Apprehension ? Probably a combination of these factors, but I still don’t sleep at night. At 2:30 a.m. I get up to go to the bathroom

As I go back up, I take a look out the window and it’s a fairy tale show that is offered to me

The fireworks of flashes of heat is still present but it is shifted to the right. Below, a carpet of clouds gives me the impression of being in paradise. And opposite, a starry sky where the planet Mars shines intensely. And to top it all off: a shooting star every 30 seconds. Incredible!

I’ll stay 10 minutes in front of this gift from heaven, repeating to myself “one last shooting star and I’ll go to bed”, I’ll see about twenty of them in all

I try unsuccessfully to fall asleep, considering the clear sky I saw, I know that at 4am we will have to get up to leave!

At breakfast, I learn that, except for Franck, no one has managed to sleep. Mathieu was disturbed all night by Vincent’s gesticulations: “It’s the worst night of my life in the shelter, I’m not sleeping next to your brother anymore” he slips in

Breakfast is great. Contrary to the Albert 1er refuge, we are entitled to fruit juices, salty food (cheese, ham, sausage) and even Nutella! Nothing too much to make up for the lack of sleep

At 5:15 am, we are on the departure. Etienne has enough confidence in his thigh and leaves with us. At the end of a few minutes, we arrive on the snow, it is time to cramp and to rope

We make two ropes, the “cordée des vieux” with Franck, Etienne and me. The “young people’s rope” with Mathieu, Vincent and Diane

I was hoping that the rest from the day before would be enough to cure my sores, I quickly understand that it isn’t the case

At each step, on my left side, my heel screams, my neck of the foot cries and my knee whistles. No doubt jealous of the lack of attention I pay to it, the right side rebels and my heel squeaks, without bothering me too much

Fortunately the show is sumptuous, I know why I’m here


Franck, first of the “old rope” attacks strongly, we pass several ropes and we take a few minutes ahead of the young ones. The rhythm is a little bit fast for Etienne and me and of course, it starts seriously our drums

We regularly see big cracks. No particular worry because dangerous cracks are the ones we don’t see. When we pass over a snow bridge, Vincent asks Mathieu if it is solid. “It should last the week” he answers him. Reassuring!

After a short break, we leave again and reach our first summit of the day: the Ludwigshöhe at 4 341 meters of altitude

It’s starting to get really cold and the water in my Camel Back hose is freezing!

We go down a little bit to go back up again on an impressive ridge. Franck asks us to be particularly vigilant, the zone on which we progress is perhaps one meter wide. On the left as on the right, 2000 meters of emptiness, it isn’t the moment to tangle our feet. Our arrival on the ridge coincides with the arrival of big gusts of wind up to 45 km/h, so much so that I sometimes waited until the end of a gust to take my next step, for fear of being unbalanced

In spite of the wind, we are very lucky because the sky clears when we arrive. We have an incredible panorama and reach the top of the Pointe Parrot (4 432 meters) on the border between Italy and Switzerland

We go down again and start a new ascent to reach Punta Gnifetti (4,559 meters) at the top of which is the Margherita hut, the highest guarded hut in Europe

The last few decameters to reach the refuge are epic. The slope is particularly steep, the weather is getting worse and the gusts of wind are more and more violent. We see a helicopter landing quickly to evacuate a person in difficulty

A few moments later, Etienne, who is behind me, stalls and needs a few minutes to come to his senses. During this time there, I curdle severely

A little further down, it’s in the rope of young people that Diane is struggling. Breathless, she can barely breathe. Vincent and Mathieu join her and surround her to protect her from the wind while she catches her breath

It isn’t the right place to have a failure, impossible to turn back and impossible to stay there under penalty of freezing to death. It’s a good motivation to tear yourself away and finish the few meters of ascent

A few minutes later, we arrive at the refuge and feel as if we have arrived on a battlefield. The glances we meet are haggard, marked by the effort. We see a tall guy writhing in pain while his guide slowly takes off a glove. Myself, who had cooled down during the break, can no longer feel the extremities of my left hand and discovers my fingertips which turn purple

It is 9:30 am, we are exhausted but delighted and proud to reach this mythical place. Unfortunately, we cannot enjoy the spectacular view because there is no more visibility

We are in Italy so for lunch we have the choice between pizza and pasta. It will be pizza for everyone

After having regained our strength and our spirits, we leave at 10:30 am to return this time to the Mantova refuge. We should not dawdle because the weather is getting worse

Quickly, a thick fog appears and you can’t see at 10 meters. It is Etienne who leads the way and who follows the trace, until the fog is such that the trace isn’t even visible anymore. I believe myself then in Tintin in Tibet. It is then Franck who takes the head of the rope, he must even take out the GPS to find our way

We arrive at 12:30 with the impression that it is 21h. I collapse on my bed, exhausted by the effort and undoubtedly by the lack of hydration

The rest of the day is spent resting and enjoying the comfort of the refuge. The refuge offers an assortment of drinks and food at prices that are very reasonable for such a place. With the exception of water, 2,5 € per half-liter


Mathieu, who is also a first-aid tracker in winter (as is Franck) exchanges with Vincent (former fireman) about their experiences

Dinner is again delicious, with lasagna as a starter

On tomorrow’s program, a last summit at 4000 meters on the way back. This summit was presented by our guides as a “bonus”. I am so exhausted that I do not know if I would have accepted if I had been asked to do it or not. Fortunately Franck did not ask us the question, he will tell me later “as you did not speak about it I considered that it was OK”

Day 10 (Monday, August 14, 2018): Punta Giordani (4,046 meters) and end of stay

This time the night was good for everyone and we are up before 4am. After the breakfast and the preparation of the bags, we are among the first to leave at 4:45 am. Additional difficulty: our bags are full since we will not return to the refuge. It is finally not so disabling because we have on us most of our clothes and we limited the quantity of water to 1 liter / 1 liter 50

The first part of the day consists of going down, almost to the level of the cable car at 3,275 meters. As usual, I don’t like the descent, especially on the rock and I’m lagging behind. I frighten myself twice by sliding on icy rocks, I make up for it each time without really knowing how

We take 50 minutes to go down, psychologically it’s not easy to start by going down to go up

The advantage is that we are all alone. This summit is mostly appreciated by mountaineers who do not sleep at the refuge and who arrive by cable car for a day. Except that at this time, the cable car isn’t yet open

We progress at the same time as the sunrise and have again the right to fantastic landscapes




The first part of the climb isn’t fun, because of the heat wave, there is no snow, we progress on ice. The second part is more comfortable, we benefit from the virgin snow that fell during the night

At the end of the climb, the slope hardens and we pay for the efforts and the accumulated fatigue. Diane seems to be at the end of her life and Etienne complains not to take more breaks. I think I’m dying when Franck accelerates to overtake the youth rope. Only Vincent seems easy

It is in the mind that we finish the climb at a derisory pace, the little old man in a retirement home with his walker is surely walking faster than us at this moment

We abandon our poles to climb the very last meters. At 8 am we arrive at the summit, welcomed by the Madonna



The descent is long and tiring once again. We disengage when the cable car is in sight. I fall behind the others at the end of the descent and I wallow lamentably on the last icy part, without any soreness fortunately. I hadn’t fallen off the trip yet, it had to happen

We wait for the ski lifts and go down to the parking lot where we are happy to take off our mountaineering boots one last time. This time it’s over, we are exhausted but proud to have fulfilled the objective and happy to have been able to deal with the weather

On the way back, we stop at the Pizzeria Du Tunnel in Courmayeur recommended by Mathieu just before crossing the Mont-Blanc tunnel. The pizzas on the wood fire overflow from the table and are delicious, for only 7 to 15 €/piece

In the evening, we treat ourselves to a last Savoyard dinner: raclette and fondue at the restaurant La Calèche, the very place where we celebrated our exploits 4 years ago

That’s it, that’s the end of our internship. I hope you enjoyed the virtual ascent, in the warmth of your living room, with us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *