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).