Climbing Mont Blanc
4th September – Back to Chamonix after climbing Mont Blanc (4807 / 4810 mtr).
As all the huts were full and we got the booking of Gouter hut (3835tmr) on 3rd only, our initial plan was to climb straight to Gouter hut from Nid Du Aigle (2372mtr – the last Tram station) and try the summit on 4th from there and come down to Chamonix in the evening. But the weather report showed that from 4th noon it will be windy, snowing and very bad till Tuesday morning. So we took the last minute decision and luckily got two beds at Tete Rouche hut (3167mtr) by calling on 2nd.
We started by late morning and reached Tete Rouche hut by afternoon walking for two hours from Nid Du Aigle.
3rd morning we started at 06.20 and reached Gouter hut after climbing the Straight Rock wall and crossing the Rock falling couloir which killed 20 persons including two guides last summer. It took two hours for us to reach Gouter hut climbing straight 620 mtrs. After a short break for putting on crampon and roping up we started on hard and packed snow. Except three stretches of 60/80 mtrs bone chilling sharp aréte, climbing, one ice gulley and crossing 3/4 crevasses, the total route was enjoyable with great view especially of Chamonix valley and at times of Italian side. We reached the Summit of Mont Blanc at 15.04 hours. Spend 20 minutes to enjoy the view and taking photos. On the way back the temperature started to fall and the snow started freezing. We reached Gouter hut finally at 18.10 hrs.
The Alpine ascent of 1850 mtrs (up) & 975mtr (down) in 16.5 kms distance is done in that day. We are back to Chamonix today from Gouter hut. It’s raining and windy. Mont Blanc is behind clouds and the red alert is on. Happy to be on the top of Western Europe.
Thanks to all of you for your blessings and prayers.
On 9th September late evening the team assembled at Moscow Airport. We stayed at Hotel Midland close to airport. Next morning we had to leave the hotel by 05.30 for the airport again to catch the flight to Mineralnye Vody (MRV). After a semi long flight of 2.5 hrs to the Caucasus near the Border of Georgia we arrived MRV at 10.00.
The chief organizer of Elbrus Race received us with some other participants from different countries. We started our journey to the Base town of Elbrus Terrescol by a Mini bus. After stops for Lunch and some check points we arrived Hotel Elba at 4 P.M.
On 11th we had acclimatization program. While Prasanta, Karuna and D. Ghosh chose to walk up to Cheget, I preferred to go towards the main goal and took the cable car and chair-lift to Barrel refuge at 3705 mtrs. I hiked up to 4160 mtrs in next one hour and later came down to 2350 mtrs hill-town Azau. Other 3 members trekked to Cheget till 3200 mtrs and came down. In the evening we repacked the essentials for our climbing.
12th September after breakfast we went to Azau. The Inauguration of the Race started with much enthusiasm. Participants from 12 different countries. Among the world record holder mountain-runners we 4 first-timers felt a little tensed. We moved to Barrel with our luggage. As the Chair-lift was closed for some reason we had to walk the last 1.5 kms (200mtrs in height) to reach Old Barrel refuge.
In afternoon we walked up 300 mtrs to acclimatize. 13th morning after breakfast Prasanta and Karuna went out for height gaining. D Ghosh and myself started running with other 22 participants at 11.00 hrs from 3705 mtr Barrel hut to reach 4800 mtr high Pashtukov’s Rock in 2 hours for qualify in the main race. It was our first race in the mountain with highest level of professionals in this field. Though we missed to reach the target within two hours by 17 minutes, the organizers appreciated our timing and included us for the main race. But thinking about the weather and some other points we decided to refuse their offer and join the non-racing tourism class with Prasanta and Karuna.
14th was rest day. But we did some walking up and down for 300 mtr to keep us acclimatized. Weather started deteriorating after lunch. By afternoon the wind speed went high to 85 kms and the snow deposition at barrel was about 6 inches. In the evening the last weather forecast brought us bad news. The news told the bad weather would be continuing till 15th noon. So the Race organizers postponed the final race day to 16th. 15th we mostly stayed inside the hut except on the afternoon when we walked up 150 mtr till the new cable car station.
We woke up at 02.00 hrs and had our breakfast at 02.30 on 16th September morning. Along with the Indonesians and their guide, Prasanta and Karuna with their guide Ishmail (They had to take a guide as per race rules), One Ukranine and 10 other Race judges (Race Marshals to be stationed at various points on the race route till the summit), D Ghosh and myself started at 03.40 by Snowcat vehicle. The vehicle dropped us at a place a little higher than Pashtukov’s Rock (5000 mtr approx) at 04.40 hrs. We started our climbing at 04.45 hrs. Along with many other climbing groups who were not part of the race.
The East face of Elbrus is a 50° – 60° gradient hard blue ice wall with thin crest of snow. A little scary to climb without roping up. But we trusted on our crampons and continued on a diagonal route. By the middle of the wall two young local guides who were supposed record the time of the racers crossed and started to open the route. I was happy to get someone in front of me and show the directions of the peak as the peak was not the hump which was just visible. We were up the first hump and continued straight towards North-West for about 150 mtr. At the end we had to negotiate a 15 mtr areté to reach the top of Elbrus (5642 mtr) at 07.40 hrs. After spending some 30 minutes on the top taking pictures etc we started down-climbing at 08.10.
We met Prasanta and Karuna at 08.50 by the 1/4th way up the wall with their guide. They were roped by the guide so I felt secured to let them continue. Later I learnt from them that they reached the summit at 10.50 . The temperature during our summit was -13°C and wind speed 25 kms/hr. We continued our descent of 1950 mtrs and reached Barrel refuge at 11.55 hrs.
Soon after we reached the weather started deteriorating. By 14.00 It was a total whiteout condition and wind blowing hard to 60+ kms/hour. I started to worry about my teammates. But the walkies-talkie of the organizers confirmed me about their well being and position. At 15.55 they came down to Barrel by taking a Snow-scooter from Pashtukov’s Rock (4800mtr). We were all tired but happy after achieving our goal.
17th we came down to Azau and later to Terrescol. In the evening we were given the certificates in the closing ceremony.
18th morning we were transferred to Mineralnye Vody to catch the train to Moscow.
Climbing Galdhopigen. Highest point of Scandinavia
Finally climbed Galapiggen (2469 mtr) after two consecutive day’s attempt. Yesterday the weather was so bad that the visibility was below 5 mtrs and couldn’t see anything. I followed a set of footsteps which abruptly stopped and about turned below a rock wall. I started climbing As climbing solo, the 70 mtr Rockwall by the end of the glacier was a real good climbing in 100 + kms wind and snowing condition. I finally climbed Veslepiggen (2369m:tr) a 100 mtr lower but much technical peak. In fact the descent was terribly scary. Today we started from the staying place at 06.10 and I started trekking in apparently nice weather at 07.45. But soon the clouds came and wind took speed. The pre-winter bad weather is continuing here. Today is the last permitted day of this year for climbing the peaks. The huts and the approach road will open again on 17th May, next year. The early morning freezing cold made every snowy part icy. And glacier top was glassy ice and very slippery. But as I had no choice (I had underestimated Galapiggen for its height and didn’t bring the crampon/ice-axe) I continued tiptoed making scratches with the spike of the ski-stick and placing he soul of the boot, believing in the quality of the famed Vibram sole. After crossing the glacier following the rightists of shoe-marks today within an hour, I heaved a shy reaching the summit ridge of the peak. 400+ mtrs to climb. In normal conditions it’s just a ridge walking using all the four limbs at times. But today it was different with last two day’s fresh frozen snow on the Rock wall. And wind speed, I can’t say how fast. I can only tell it was like my Everest descending time. I was getting uprooted from the ridge. I reached the closed hut on the summit at 10.40. Spent some 10 minutes max trying to take some pix through the whiteout. Climbing down with thrusting wind from the back on verglassed rock was another trying thing. I reached Yuvisshitta hut at 13.05 hrs.