First day (June 30, 2010)
It was 6 o’clock in the morning, we were getting ready to set off for Le Fayet railway station. When I was about to climb in the car I turned towards my mother and said something I have never said in my 12 years of living: “I am afraid, Mom.” It was my first climb to such a high altitude, I knew it was a difficult peak to summit, that many grown up climbers have failed there and some even died. But I also knew I was in good shape, well trained, that Daddy is beside me and all of my relatives: my mother, my grand parents, my classmates and friends support me. They all encouraged me and said they put their trust in me. I could not let down so many people.
I bid good bye to mama and our French friends and set off for the station together with my father and our friend Eric who was going to guide us to the top. Once there we bought our tickets for the famous Tramway of Mont Blanc, that after an hour and a half took us to the place where the trek begins.
From there we set off on foot and at 11:30 we reached the Tete Rousse hut (3167 m) where we stopped to have breakfast. At 12:00 we set off again and reached the Grand Couloir, the most difficult part of the first day, where it is said that lots of climbers have died. We managed to cross it safely, the big Couloir de la Mort and 2 hours later we reached the Gouter hut where we had our reservations for the night.
The hut, situated at an altitude of 3785 m was full with Polish, Canadian, English, Italian and French climbers. There was even an Italian guide (Enrico Bonini, great guy, we kept in touch ever since) that congratulated my father for the way he educated me, and was very happy to have met us. As I was the only child there, and the youngest also, I had to take care of every step that I was making because all eyes were watching me. Before going to bed, we decided to eat some honey, to get more energy, and, because the honey was held in an odd ‘box’, and I drink while everybody was watching me, a French climber, who was starring so amazed at me, said : “Do you, Romanians drink shampoo?” I don’t like you guys would have liked to see the stupid face I made at that moment, but even thought I didn’t want to be rude, I burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. Did he really think we drank shampoo, or was that a joke? He seemed serious!
Eric reminded us again that if tomorow by 10:00 we are not on top, we will have to drop it and come back, regardless of where we were, before the snow starts melting. I took an oath, in my thoughs, to get there at any costs. We have spoken for hours with the climbers from the dining room, in french and english and they were all very curios cause I was the only kid in the hut. The group of Polish climbers experienced head aches and was forced to climb downhill.
Due to our good accllimatisation, we were spared this experience. At 8:00 p.m. the curfew was announced, but I managed to read some chapters from My Bible, that mom has put into my backpack, praying God to help us, and asking the mountain the permission to set our foot on it. We never conquer a mountain, we ask its permission to lay foot on it.
Second day of Mont Blanc, 2:00 am
I think I was dreaming when my father dragged me out of my sleep. Reluctantly I got out of the blanket and went downstairs. Everybody was very nervous and excited which reminded me of our purpose there. My dad came to me and said: “Alexandra, it is just the three of us on the rope, so it is all for one and one for all. Do your best cause it’s now or never”
Many climbers set off ahead of time in order to have enough time for the summit, and it was impressive to watch the slope full of dancing beams. We got dressed and put our crampons on. Of course I could not find my garrets so Daddy had to lend me his own.
The slope was steep and I was kind of tired, but the encouraging words of my father were lifting my moral up, making me forget the fatigue and keep on walking. I enjoyed vey much the sunset and the lighting of L’Aiguille du Midi which could be seen very well from the high cliffs we were climbing.
We were climbing roped together, Eric first, than me and Dad. Eric did not allow us to take any breaks so Dad had to speed up now and than in order to take pictures. On our way back we had a good laugh about this and called him “the Japanese tourist” because he looked like he had a camera stuck to his hands.
While walking, we also met some French climbers who were climbing downhill and, as dad enjoys joking, he asked them if this was the road to Paris. They were so stunned by the question that they had no words left to answer the question. Finally one of them decided it was high time to answer the question so, the same stunned face that he had had before, he said a very fade ‘No…’.
On L’ Arret des Bosses Eric turned toward us and said “here nobody stumbles”.
It was a difficult way and if one falls there is no coming back. We walked with caution and I was paying great attention to my feet. Thank God we managed to get throught with no problems.
We walked on and on and on for hours, when all of a sudden Eric turned around and said: “We are on top. We did it! ” It was 6:30 a.m., it was so cold, but I was so happy that I wasn’t paying attention to anything else. Dad was happy too, because he realised he summited the top of Europe on his birthday together with his babygirl. We took a lot of pictures of me holding up the Romanian flag and also the flag of my school. Some French climbers recognised the romanian flag and congratulated us for summiting.
Eric and dad would have liked to stay there a little longer but my feet started freezing so we decided to go back. After some hours of downhill walking, we entered the hut with my dad saying ”make place for the veterans of Mont Blanc, please”, which seemed to amuse everyone there.
We made it in time for the tram. Once in Le Fayet I jumped into my mother’s arms.
They were all so happy to see us.
But the most important thing is that I summited the top of France, Western Europe and for 15 min I was the tallest girl on the continent.
Great blog post, enjoyed reading it & ‘well done’ on summiting, my husband & I are attempting to climb in July! Any advice, tips??? Looking forward to it 🙂
Thank you for your kind words.I am Alexandra”s father, the man left in charge with the blog as Alex is off on a trip with some Belgians students.
I reckon you are going to try MB without taking a guide, cause if you do it you will do what he says regardless of my suggestions.I read your blog and I understood that you are in good shape and fit and have the experience of high altitudes.MB demands plenty of these attributes.By the way, congratulations for Kili.We though it was amazing too.
So some tips: for the crossing of the gully Couloir de la Mort I suggest to be not roped up.Look for incoming rocks and when is clear go for it. Also try to avoid meeting other groups on the crossing
Wear a helmet and stay alert cause the main issue till you get to the Gouter iare the rocks dislodged by other climbers. I am speaking straigtforwardly to you cause I realize you are not a beginner.
From le Gouter, of course, weaher permitting, start by 2 o clock along with every body else for better orientation.You should reach the summit in about5-6 hours.The main chalenge will be the walking on top of Arret des Bosses, back and forth.It is essential not to stumble when attempting it cause the slope is very steep and self arrest difficult.Also if you meet incoming groups is better to stop and anchor yourself on your axe and crampons till they walk past.Double your attention on your way back, as on is inclined to relax after the summit. The dangers are the same
Hope you will find my answer satisfactory and if you have other questions I will be more then happy to answer them
I liked your blog very much.Also I can tell you that the sight of Mawenzi will stay with me forever
Thank you so much for wise words and tips. I am so glad I found this blog – such a great find!
I have noted all the tips/advice down and will re-cap on them closer to the time! We are planning on taking a guide as we dont know the area and want that extra bit of guidence on this peak to summit sucessfully. We are arranging this through a chamonix based local company.
Training wise do you have any advice? I am trying to get as fit as possible already (cardio) and heading to the mountains every weekend. 🙂
Basically our training consists in walking up and down the hills surrounding our beautiful city, Deva, Romania.
Of course we add to this dance classes and skiing but the main one is walking on the hills with of course a backpack as company.The weight that we carry is about 20 kg for me and 15 for the girl.So far it has
worked fantastically for us. The ideea is to ger used to that heavy fatigue that settles on you after hours of straining on the glacier in order to be able to cope with it and not lose your head. Last summmer we managed to summit Elbrus in Russia, on severe snowstorm only because we managed to keep our cool.People died that day because, beeing exhausted, kept on walking like sick camels without paying attention any more at what was happening around them, lost their way in the fog and fell into glacier cracks or got lost.
So the ideea is to be used to this fatigue and to stay alert.Taking a guide is a great solution.
Thank you for following us on the net. Soon we will post articles about Elbrus, Kazbek in Georgia, Pico de Orizaba in Mexico and of course our fantastic Carpathian mountains in Ro. We just try to build a travel,climbing blog in order to help others do what we did and also maybe attract more attention to our activity too.
All the best, do not stumble on Arret des Bosses, and good luck.
‘Thank you’ for the insight to your training!
Looking forward to your future posts – especially Elbrus as this is one on my list!