On a clear day, I can see Mont Blanc on the skyline from my office window, and many is the day in winter where I watch the sun rise almost directly over the summit. Mont Blanc looms over the skyline in many places around Geneva and the “frontalier” France to the west. So I had long had an ambition to climb Mont Blanc, the highest peak in (Western) Europe at 4808m, and succeeded on my first attempt in September 2010.
Just spent a week skiing at Les Gets – Morzine with the boys. Les Gets and Morzine are two ski resorts in neighbouring valleys and the pistes connect. The whole area is part of the Portes du Soleil which also includes a couple of Swiss resorts on the other side of the main mountain ridge. Possible to ski over to Switzerland, but we did not go that far. It snowed quite heavily the week before we went, and the snow stopped just as we got there. Spectacular scenery of snow covered forest as a result.
After a unseasonally warm November and December, it got colder in January and the Juras finally got a good snowfall. We even got a light dusting of snow at our house in Geneva. So the next day, the boys and I threw our skis in the car and headed up to Crozet, less than 30 minute drive.
My second Alpine trip this summer was a short but intense day near the Aiguille du Midi in the Mont Blanc region. The cable car from Chamonix remains the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world, from 1,035 m to 3842 m, an altitude gain of over 2,800 m in 20 minutes. The Aiguille du Midi is the starting point for the ski trip down the Vallée Blanche which I did some years ago, 17 km and over 2,000 m descent. It is also the starting point for various climbs nearby and for access to the Cosmiques Hut, at the beginning of the Three Mont Blancs route to the summit of Mont Blanc.
In July 2010, a friend and I set out to climb Gran Paradiso as a training climb before attempting Mont Blanc. Gran Paradiso is the only 4,000 metre peak that is entirely within Italian territory. The Italian-French border runs along the Alps and over the Mont Blanc summit, so there are a number of higher mountains “in Italy”. Unfortunately, my friend had some altitude sickness at around 3,700 metres and, on the advice of our guide, we turned and headed back down. So in the summer of 2014, I decided to complete the climb. Here is a photo, taken from the internet, of the summit ridge of Gran Paradiso (4,061m) in fine weather.
After many years since I had last been climbing on high mountains (Mt Kenya long ago, plus some easy peaks in Britain, Norway and Italy), I decided in 2007 I should do an alpine trip seeing as I was living here in Switzerland. So I contacted a guide and he suggested we climb Weissmies. At 4023 m, Weissmeis is the western-most 4000m peak of its range near Saas Fe (not far from Zermatt).