Sorry for the delay, but I only just returned home earlier this week from Europe!
Very exciting stuff...I spent a week in the French/Italian/Swiss Alps acclimatizing and then had a successful summit of Mont Blanc. Mont Blanc is considered the tallest peak in Western Europe (it would be THE tallest in Europe if you didn"t consider certain parts of Russia to be a part of Europe). The peak stands at 4810 meters (15,776 ft). I had a short (relatively) summit day, but it was one of the hardest I have ever faced, mostly because of the lack of acclimatization I had prior.
Mont Blanc is located in Chamonix, France, and is a very intimidating peak when you can see it in all of its glory. If you ever run into climbers in the Alps though, they will tell you they"ve climbed Mont Blanc a hundred times when they were 12 or something too, haha. But aside from that, it is considered a pretty challenging peak (the intensity of the challenge can also vary with the route taken).
I arrived in Chamonix on a Sunday where I met up with the rest of my 6 person group. I had signed up with an expedition group called Chamex. Chamex is the sister company of Himex, the famous Mt. Everest expedition company that has been aired numerous times on Discovery Channel"s "Beyond the Limit" show about climbing Mt. Everest. We stayed in a nice chalet just up the street from Chamonix, in a small town named Argentiere. The first couple days were spent acclimatizing at high altitude, as we made daily excursions into the Swiss Alps and then the Italian Alps the day after reaching altitudes of 12,000ft and up. Acclimatizing to this height is not something that happens overnight, or a week"s time, for that matter. To properly acclimatize it actually takes numerous weeks before your body starts making the appropriate changes. Either way, given a few days to prepare for summiting Mt. Blanc, you have to make do.
We came back down to the chalet in Argentiere to sleep low and recoup our energy for the next two days of climbing Mt. Blanc. Up until this point, the weather had been absolutely phenomenal and was forecasted to stay that way for the remainder of the week. The next day, we took a gondola up to the famous Aiguille du Midi (which stands just over 12,000 ft) to begin our climb and spent the night in a hut just below it (the Cosmiques Hut). These huts are typical of the Alps, and offer rudimentary living accommodations (for the French this means: 30 people bunk beds with unwashed blankets and pillows, bread, wine, and cheese, and water for 5 euros a liter).
Anywho, we slept about 2 winks since everyone was snoring incessantly, and we were up Thus, women leos horoscope should learn to talk about their troubles and take into account partner’s expectations and priorities. again at 3 am for a quick breakfast. My climbing group ate quickly and was out the door in a flash in order to beat some of the crowds. My group was me, a Canadian climber named Tim, and our guide Martin (a young Swedish guy who was convinced we could run up the mountain in under 4 hours, yeah.....). We started off in the pitch black of night with only our headlamps and stars to see. This is always a scary time for me, since you can see nothing except 7 feet in front of you. It"s very easy to freak out. But taking a deep breathe and looking at the millions of stars shining above you can make all the difference of the world. We finally had begun our climb....
The route we took was the Trois Monts routes ("three mountains") which is quite a long slog as it involves climbing over the shoulders of two other peaks before climbing up the actual Mont Blanc (Mont Tacul and Mont Maudit). Like I said before, we started off in the dark, climbing up the relatively steep slopes of Mont Tacul. This part became really nice and relaxing because at around 4:30am, the sun started to rise. There is nothing more beautiful in the world than watching the sunrise while climbing at high altitude. Nothing. It is honestly the thing that makes the pain and suffering of climbing worth it. Finally over the first peak shoulder, we had a little bit of a downhill hike, but soon we were climbing an even steeper wall, the face of Mont Maudit. Now the sun was slowly creeping down to meet us. The snow became a beautiful orangy color. After some tough climbing and a short and slightly technical 50 degree section, we made it over the second peak"s shoulder. We made another small descent (and witnessed a helicopter rescue of someone who was stricken by altitude sickness) and stood at the foot of the final ascent to the summit of Mt. Blanc. The first part was another steep section, which came and went. But then it was followed by the LONGEST slog up a gently sloped football field. This part was extremely difficult because it was where the mind games and altitude effects started to arise and clash with each other. My breathing was rapid and tiring and my head was throbbing with each step. Not only that, but the mental anguish of the long, boring, and final slog did not help. All I wanted to do was quit. Eventually we got to a point where I could see the hill flattening out a bit and I suddenly knew I would be on the summit in a few hundred meters. I started to tear up, as I usually do....and next thing I knew I was on top of Europe!
It"s always amazing how I find the drive within me to make it to the top of these things. But somehow, I always do. I don"t care what anyone says, climbing is 99% mental. I"m in shape. But not incredibly in shape. I honestly believe that it was my mental will that got me to keep going and that got me to the top.
All in all, it was another great climb and great experience. Great training for Everest. Mostly for the reminder of how arduous and taxing a climb can be. Good mental preparation.
To mention memory a bit here...before I left, I had mentioned an article that linked climbers to Alzheimer"s disease. While I climbed and acclimatized for Mt. Blanc, I was still doing my memory training, and seeing very positive results. My card memorization times where actually improving very slightly. This was all very encouraging, BUT I"ve started to notice a slight decline in performance now. Maybe it"s a delayed effect....Another thing I noticed since the climb is that I"ve been a bit more spaced out. I"ve misplaced numerous things and actually lost a pair of sunglasses and nearly a laptop because of it. It could be just coincidence, but I actually do feel that my mind is more prone to wandering or blanking out. When I"m focused, it"s fine, but I feel that maybe climbing can effect my brain in a negative way when I"m not focused. Scary.
Anyways, the future is coming quickly. Everest is in about 8-9 months! Training is in full swing. Memory competitions are on the horizon. I am holding a fundraising event this weekend to hopefully raise some more funds and some more awareness for my climb and Alzheimer"s disease research!
Please check up my posted pictures from my most recent climb! The pictures are here.