For three weeks in September 2016, with friend and fellow adventurer, Joss Livesey, I travelled across the greater European Alpine area. Our aim was to climb the highest mountains in each country visited.
After an aclimitisation climb up Mont Buet (3096m), I met Joss in the adventure heartland of Chamonix. Our target was the highest mountain in western Europe, Mont Blanc (4808m) (pictured above). An approaching weather system meant we had to scramble an immediate attempt. On day one, starting from Nid d'Aigle train stop (2380m), we hiked to the Tete Rouse base (3165m), and set camp, ready for an early start the next morning. We set out under clear skies at 2.30am, climbing past the dangerous Grand Coliour and to the Gouter Hut. We climbed on across the glacier, crossing some crevasses and sharp ridges, until, fatigued by the altitude, we reached the summit of Mont Blanc at around 8.30am. Delighted!
The evening after reaching the summit of Mont Blanc, the colossal weather system arrived in the Alps, and over the next five days dumped over a metre of fresh snow in the mountains. We consulted countless local mountain guides and decided that due to the relative technichality of our target mountain, Monte Rosa (4634m), and the potentially unstable conditions, that we would have to abandon our attempt. This is one for the future. Instead, I reached the rocky summit of Gross Muttonhorn (3099m) during an enjoyable solo climb.
This was a long day, involving 2600m total ascent and 22 miles distance covered. Nonetheless, in 12 hours we climbed from the beautiful Swiss village of Jenins to the highest mountain in Liechtenstien, Vorder Grauspitz (2599m).
Another long, but fantastically vaired and enjoyable climb. Starting and finshing in the lovely German village of Hammersbach (758m), we climbed through an incredible canyon, over a short glacier, then up a very long section of via ferrata, which continued above the snowline and the eventual summit of Zugspitze (2962m), the highest mountain in Germany.
We reached the inspiring Austrian region of Tyrol in late September. Our target was the triangular peak of Grossglockner (3798m). The ascent involved an 4am start from Lucknerhaus (1918m). There were hardly any groups on the mountain despite the good conditions. Our morning glacier crossing involved the deafening (and unnerving) sound of cracking ice beneath our feet. The final ascent includes an exposed 40 degree ice climb, then a narrow ridge and scramble to the summit of Austria. A truly exciting ascent!
The trip was overall a wonderful success, reaching 4/5 of our planned summits. I'll be back to bag Monte Rosa another day.