Monday, 9 September 2013

Dreaming of Mont Blanc

I am lying on a worn mattress, face up, looking at the wooden slats that run two feet above my face. The wood is so close that my nose feels pressed into the grain, against the rafters of the hut. Next to me, Steve and Katie pretend to sleep on the alpine bunk. For me, it is futile. I cannot sleep. Two Spanish mountaineers talk fervently in the room, spitting out thick words and jangling their climbing gear. I give them a piercing look for making so much noise but it's pointless; there is no etiquette here anymore. It's just a resting place for mountaineers who wait to battle on the slopes.

I look around to see other alpinists sprawled out across their bunks. These men and women look jaded, their faces sculpted by sun and wind over years. They have aged like the mountains they have grown to know. One day, I hope to look the same. Tomorrow, I will not recognise these people. Tomorrow they will be armoured with rope, torches, spikes, axes and helmets while they work. They will wear brightly coloured jackets, and to me they will be another danger on the hillside to watch out for. I roll over. Pff.

I am resting in the Cosmiques hut, French Alps, due to rise in three hours time to climb the highest mountain in Western Europe. Months ago I did not care for this ascent. But now I understand what it means to climb Mt Blanc, standing at 4810 metres above sea level. I understand how the mountain fits into the history of alpine mountaineering and the development of Chamonix town.

In reality, I am another consumer, hungry for fast food alpinism. Does it matter? There is an addictive mix of excitement and anticipation flowing through my blood like a recreational drug. Images of overhanging seracs, the size of a two storey house, flash through my mind. They are perched on the Tacul face waiting for me to arrive. I imagine the feeling of being avalanched and having to ‘swim’ for survival. I explore every possible outcome of the day ahead. I feel ready. All of these risks, which months ago gave me fear and self doubt, now charge my body with an intense energy to climb.

The room is hot and the tatty curtains flowing by the window are the only sign of a breeze in this place. I don't want to sleep; I want to climb Mont Blanc now.  

The summit dome 12/7/2013

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