Last year I did my first 4000m peak – Gran Paradiso, which stands at 4061m.
In late September, the season is drawing to a close and only a few other teams were in the hut. We had glorious sunshine for the whole day, and the view of sunrise hitting Mont Blanc like a pink beacon will stay with me until the end of my days.
So when I had the opportunity to do it again this year, I jumped at the chance.
The walk from the car park is a nice amble up for 3 or so hours, to the Refugio Chabot. A well-run hut that sleeps up to 70 people, hence why our guests are already booked in. Guaranteed spaces!
It has great views to the other side of the valley, and up the Glacier on the route that you will be taking the next day. Sitting at the furthest point, you have nothing in front of you but scenery. The off glacier here and there, a sprinkling of fresh snow on distant peaks.
The peak of serenity I must add would be the school group of 10-15 children screeching in the background.
It really makes you feel at peace.
I jest (not really) but to have something as amazing as that accessible to you when you’re that age, is not only amazing, but it will hopefully inspire the next generation of alpinists, climbers, photographers etc…..
So, we all sit down and make small talk whilst our lead guide Fabio (who was my guide in Sept last year for this route) explains about the wind speed early in the morning. As the winds were dropping after around 6 am, this is when we would set off. This means by the time we reached the glacier where we kit up, and then the last stretch up to the summit, the wind will have eased.
So I slunk off to bed, and tried to slip into the land of nod.
04:45am – The alarm goes off
Please believe me when I say, especially at that time, no-one wants to see me before coffee.
I put my down jacket on, and grumpily squeeze in between people who are getting ready to set off and trundle down to the main hut in search of that brown nectar which turns me into a functioning human being.
Italian coffee was sourced and I was halfway through the jug before the rest of the guys surfaced for breakfast and I sat in the corner sipping my get-up-and-go juice and making a Nutella sandwich to have later, as I can never eat at that time in the day.
So, I head back to the hut we’re in and start getting ready.
We set off around 6am and started the walk in to the Glacier. We get fully kitted up, and start our ascent of one of the most striking Glaciers I have ever seen. For 2/3rds of the route you are snaking in between huge crevasses. Some you walk past, over and some you must walk round (imagine bending a mars bar in half).
We stop just below the crest of the final ascent and layer up. Goggles included. The winds are still around 80km an hour and I put on everything I had brought with me! We rounded up onto the plateau, and I was grateful for resembling the Michelin man as my god it was cold.
The number of groups ahead was unbelievable, everyone who set off an hour ahead of us, were still on their way up. We stormed past, because the thought of being behind 30 people in a queue for the summit was not how Pedro, our guide, had envisioned the summit.
The summit of Gran Paradiso, is the best part of the whole day. 20 metres of scrambling, ridge traverses and after, Mary awaits you at the top.
With not a breath of wind at the top due to how the weather seems to work over there, we had a few photos on the summit (on a clear day it’s not one for the faint of heart) and then set of back down for a well earnt beer!
Does it count as two 4000m peaks if you do the same one twice?