On August 24th we embarked on our week long trip to the Alps to climb the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc in three days, back to back. The trip was absolutely incredible and very successful.
We began by driving from London to Switzerland over a couple of days which felt more like years. we spent a couple of days with family in their incredible house overlooking the local town of Thun and its beautiful lake.
After devouring all the food in our path and arriving in Chamonix we had a quick briefing with the group and found our apartment which would be home for the next few days. Lets describe it as antiquated.. also not sure why but we seem to attract brown toilets?
So we began by having 3 days of rock climbing, acclimatizing ( taking selfies at the Aiguille du Midi) and getting used to more technical and exposed routes so we were ready for the Matterhorn. Our guide seemed unimpressed... on day one he said in response to my dad's "how do you think we will do on the Matterhorn" - "we will see, maybe we don't make it to the top but its fine you can try" in his kind but slightly patronizing voice. But in the end he was convinced we would do it and without any problems and soon we grew to enjoy each others company and I got to practice my Spanish. (3 of our guides were Spanish) By the time the 4th day arrived the UTMB was in full swing and huge crowds of spectators and runners were prancing around Chamonix like athletic gods. It was time to climb the Matterhorn though so we left Chamonix and headed down to Zermatt.
My oh my what an amazing little town. Cars aren't permitted in Zermatt so our first experience was getting into a cab, I reckon I was more scared in the cab then on the summit ridge of the Matterhorn! He raced into the town. The only way I can really describe Zermatt is like a scene out of a quintessential Christmas movie, log cabins, pretty lights and snowy mountains. Oh and also every designer shop you can imagine... the Rolex watches were staring at me.
Climbing the Matterhorn was just stressful. The only part I really remember in detail was the start where there were about 40 people cramped at the door of the hostel ready to literally rampage to the first technical part so they wouldn't have to queue. Of course the Swiss climbers set off 10 minutes before the rest of us. I remember needing to adjust my head torch but no, that wasn't gonna happen, just in case the door opened. The climb itself was incredibly fast paced and I managed to stay pretty close to the Swiss teams which was helpful as we were always one of the first on the roped sections. We reached the halfway checkpoint within the allocated time and managed to reach the summit in a decent time (3hr 40)
Coming down was such a pain in the arse. It took almost double the time, but it was worth it in the end when I ate my spaghetti with the mountain looming over me.
We got back to Chamonix that day, as the next day we would be climbing Mont Blanc, I know, a bit mad. I wasn't really too tired and felt excited about getting to the top of the highest mountain in Europe other than Elbrus.
The trek up to Gouter hut (3835m) was a nice little warm up before the summit bid the next morning. one section was particularly dangerous were rockfalls constantly occur and running across sends your heart up to about 400bpm. In the end we weren't struck but would've made for a good story. We managed to get to the hut so quickly that our guide asked us if we wanted to push for the summit there and then, something that not many people tend to do, which in some ways made me feel pretty good, but we decided that we would rest instead and blast it tomorrow morning... Which we did. We reached the summit in 2hr 40 which was our guides best time and meant we were the first people on the summit that day. The views were incredible and the sun was only just beginning to come up as it was only about 5 in the morning.
When we were coming down we reached one of the checkpoints were people usually stop for a break and saw a rowing machine abandoned there. Now I don't think its very normal to see that at 4000m.. The guy who Brought it up was doing it for charity but ended up leaving the machine and not being able to complete it. When we later got back to London we were amused to see a news story about the guy and the fine he would get if he didn't retrieve his machine!