Fortune favours the brave

And so, with barely 48hrs between my summit photo being taken and me getting on the plane to come home, a devastating avalanche hit Mt Maudit and claimed the lives of another 9 climbers. Sad news, which made for a very quiet few days this week. The strong winds which battered me all week on my slow climb up to the Mont Blanc Massif and had me on my hands and knees near the summit had deposited a large slab of snow on the Maudit face, which gave way just as the group of climbers were passing underneath. Having experienced the effects of an avalanche in February this year, which took my climbing partner 100ft down the ice wall in Argentiere, I am only too aware of the power and speed at which the snow hits you. We live to tell another tale…life is either a great adventure, or nothing.

Further learnings from my climb, my 10 year old Casio digital watch, while trustworthy at 52 meters underwater, was not built for -20 degrees and +15,000ft altitude….who knew?! It now comes with added ‘water inside’ feature.

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With weeks fast turning into months, our 4×4 overland expedition is nearly upon us. ‘planning’ is more a case of a few text messages, “got any anti-malarials”, and “shall we get our International Driving Permits” to name a few! For the record, I’ve already had malaria, and yes, the driving permit is probably a good idea

Summit fever

Getting up is optional, coming down is essential

At 8am on 9th July I summited the highest peak in Europe! At 15,744ft, Mont Blanc sits topographically as the 11th highest in the world. While not overly technical, the route to the top was tough, with 40km/h winds and -20 degrees wind chill factor making a summit attempt impossible for all other groups on the mountain. My climbing partner Simone and I were the first to summit out of only a handful, with the knowledge that 5 climbers had died in the days previous firmly in our minds.

The last ridge to the summit was a risky affair, with 15,000ft sheer drops on both sides. The wind meant a slow and low crawl up the knife edge, our plan if one of us fell was to launch ourselves on the opposite side of the ridge to prevent certain death. With winds now causing a white out, every foot placed was done so with such precision, that the final approach took over an hour.

My summit was met with relief and elation, the views quite stunning. My video diary is incomprehensible due to the winds, but a few swear words can be heard amongst the noise! As always, the descent was a more dangerous affair, tired legs and a downwind made the ridge the most dangerous descent of my life. 13 hours later, I was back on terra firma, to news that we were the first amongst few to attempt and succeed.

My attention now turns to Central Africa, as I’m on the plane to Nairobi in 4 weeks time. Just long enough to recover, and share some memories of an unforgettable week.

Monte Bianco…..

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Mont Blanc Climb

After three days if acclimatising in the French/Swiss Alps, the time has come for our attack on Mont Blanc Massif, this year via the more traditional Gautier Route in place of last years testing 3 peaks ascent. While a technical and sometimes (delete expletive) sketchy few days, it has been great to get back in the mountains. My 20ft slide down an ice field towards an open crevasse has done nothing to deter me, that’s what Ice axe arrests are all about!!

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