While I was trying to get my heart rate back down and catch my breath, I was thinking about who was left behind that day.
I almost forget the first rule of the mountains: watch your step.
After a few falls and a knee-high dip into a brown puddle that is better left unidentified, I realize that I should stop losing myself to the wonders around me.
It’s a cold, golden morning when we exit the Elisabetta hut, found at 2200 metres among the peaks of the Aosta Valley. Today we’re taking on a challenging climb towards Punta Lechaud: we’ll need our crampons, ropes, and a bit of courage.
While we gear up with boots and backpacks, Martina reads out the groups that we’ll be climbing in.
We’re not getting anywhere. It feels as if we’re on an imaginary treadmill that makes us walk and walk but gets us nowhere. We’re at about the halfway point on our way towards the Grigna, but it feels like we’ve climbed three mountains.
The last of the first
Another clear day welcomes us at the foot of the Val Porcellizzo as we park under a thick forest of coniferous trees and sharp rocks. I start thinking about how lucky we’ve been with all these beautiful days. And how when (because sooner or later - statistically speaking - it will happen) the mountains will show us their dark side, made of cold, rain, and wind, we’ll be shedding bitter tears.
The climax of a week dedicated to change
I watch them pass one by one. I can see each face through the lens of my camera for a couple of seconds before it disappears, following along the steep, snowy slope. I observe them through this filter and I can’t help but smile.
We’re at the highest (and most difficult) point of our hike across the Vallée Blanche, metres away from the Aiguille du Midi. We’re only missing a few steps- the hardest ones. This stretch is truly exhausting.
A taste of the mont blanc?
We meet at the usual parking lot in Milan, ready to embark on the bus that takes us to the location of another M4810 outing. This time it’s a two-day outing: first we’ll walk from La Visaille, found above Courmayeur at 1700 metres, to the Elisabetta hut, at 2200 metres. The second day will bring us to our next peak: the Petit Mont Blanc.
When we make pit stops during the M4810 outings, we usually fall into one of two categories: those who eat, and those who - almost - don’t even have the strength to eat.
In search of the limit
We’ve come to the point where the game gets serious. We’ve done some beautiful hikes, we’ve had fun, we’ve discovered our limits, and we’ve tried to overcome them.
“Believe in Changeability”. One of the first things you can read about Methodos. A phrase that is everywhere, from their website to their email signatures.
One of the first time that I had spoken to Martina, we were in the bus, heading towards one of the many mountains that we have faced on this expedition up until now.
Chatting, I ask her one of the typical small-talk questions: where are you from?
She looks out the window, and with her hand gestures towards the woods of the mountains behind me. “Basically from here!”
Somewhere between snow and ice
We’re all tucked into the cabin, on this Friday morning that seems much like any other. Some of us are leaning with our hands against the glass, some holding on to the handles hanging from the ceiling. But today, on this workday, we’re not in the Milan underground, nor are we heading to the Methodos offices. It’s not the dark underground tunnels that we see when we look out the window.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon in the Methodos offices. I look around and smile.
It’s easy for anyone – even a trained mountaineer – to underestimate the complexity of the Mont Blanc. This is even truer for the large group of novice hikers that are training in this company. Some of the difficulties were not even imaginable when this idea started taking shape.
The preparation for this project - athletic, mental and physical - will pass many steps that seem small but that are all significant.
In order to transform this team of consultants into mountain professionals, scheduling mountain outings isn’t enough. We need to train and look after every aspect of this change: head, heart, legs, and stomach.
Looking at the photos from the first M4810 outing, she smiles. The image is out of focus – it seems to belong to a different time, to a different group. It was a time when there was no Salewa equipment, no coordinated colours, no brand for the expedition. Each person had put on their best sportswear – looking barely ready for a jog in the park, though. All smiling, all ready to give their best, but none with the awareness that we have today of what is it means to prepare for an ascent.
The story of a first reflection
Every face reflects the profile of a mountain. Every backpack holds emotions, experiences, and desires. All different. All moving. All in search of traces of a journey that is still unwritten.
Besides the rustle of the wind, the sound of the water torrents, and the rhythm of our boots against the rocks, there is always another sound that accompanies us on our M4810 outings. That of infinite chitchat which - no matter what height we reach – doesn’t cease.
And among this forest of voices, there is one that particularly struck me during this last outing through the power and the cheerfulness that it exuded.
One of the most interesting aspects of M4810 is seeing how Methodos can truly apply what they face in the mountains to what they do in helping clients every day. It’s “a vision that comes to life”, as it was once rightly said in a comment to the company. It’s a continuous stimulus to face the aspects on which they consult daily: resistance to change, the introduction of new habits, the sense of collective participation, leadership as a role model, and so on.
Everyone here is inevitably facing a journey that will have obstacles. Managing to prepare ourselves to reach the peak of the Mont Blanc with awareness, building the technical capacity and the necessary training, the physical preparation and the right state of mind, continuing to work and live life as if nothing has changed…
It’s a huge challenge for everyone.
Passo del Sempione
Another sunrise marks the beginning of this fourth adventure at high altitude with Methodos.
This time, with the sad awareness that summer is really over: at 6 in the morning, when many of us were heading towards the meeting point, the city is still dark. The days are getting shorter, and this opens a new chapter of the adventure – winter outings, though the snow and ice. But for now, that’s not the point. In fact, judging by the unlikely Milanese heat, we’ll have a beautiful day of hiking.
Towards the fourth outing
It’s strange seeing these by-now-almost-mountaineers dressed in office clothes, elegant and busy, as you would expect in a consulting company that counts some of the country’s biggest and most important companies among its clients. I watch them as, concentrated, they watch a presentation about the next outing, and I try to remember their faces when we’re in the mountains. Their eyes are the same, full of ambition and will to do it – it’s unmistakable.
Somewhere between iron and wind
When the alarm goes off, almost no one finds themselves unprepared. Most eyes are already open and have been for most of the night, despite the comfort of their beds. It’s one of the first effects of altitude over the body when you’re not used to it. We’ll add that the Genepy after dinner was much appreciated by some of us, so you can get the full picture!
Wooden animals and foot blisters
For once the team meeting isn’t at sunrise. It’s a warm Sunday afternoon in July, many are coming back from the seaside or from a small town, and stepping back onto the burning streets of Milan isn’t pleasant for anyone. Luckily, we’re not here long: we’re going straight up, to the Aosta valley.
It’s an important phase for a few reasons. First of all because it’s the first of two days, and there is almost school-like excitement in the air as names are called to board the bus in field trip style.
Towards the third training outgoing
This group really doesn’t stop surprising. Even before being in the mountains, I realise this on the occasion of a feedback session on the previous outing and preparation for the next.
Another sunrise gives start to this day. It’s something that you learn quickly when you hike: you have to wake up with the sun, there’s no way around it. A long road awaits us today, we’re going to Val Masino for the second outing in preparation for the M4810 project. We’re crossing the whole eastern side of Lake Como, up towards Switzerland, and the mountains become higher and higher as we approach our starting point: the slopes of Monte Disgrazia.
Towards the second M4810 training outing
The first outing in preparation for the M4810 project was a powerful experience. As always, when we walk off the beaten track - when we try to do something innovative for the first time - we navigate a rudderless course. It’s a long trial and error journey, in which sometimes we learn from the past and improve as a consequence.
Let the challenge begin!
Early in the morning, we arrive in the Milan parking lot that we set as a meeting point with the rest of the group. It’s just past 7, and the May sun is already high above: it promises a beautiful but hot day.
There’s still no mountain in sight, but the tension in the air is undeniable. At the bottom of what these people are about to do – what we’re all about to do – there is something incredible.
It doesn’t happen often that a whole organization, all the employees of a leading business management company, find themselves in a room talking about how to reach the top of the Mont Blanc. It’s neither what one would define as a normal working day in Milan, nor a typical business goal.
It is the first peak over 3.000m of our project
Mont Fallère is found in the Grand Combin Alps in the Aosta Valley.
Found between the Gran San Bernardo Valley and the Valdigne, it’s a great introduction to the magical world of the 3000s. Mont Fallère, situated in the heart of the Aosta valley, proposes a 360° panorama of all the Aosta valley peaks. Its layout is not the be underestimated, but overall it doesn’t present great difficulties, even if we need to be really careful in the final part of the ridge.
We go up in two stages: the first day up to the Fallère Hut; the second day we arrive at the summit and then we go down to the valley.
Read the story :)
Our first alpinistic climb to a summit
Pointe Léchaud (3.128m) is located along the borderline between Italy (Valle d'Aosta) and France (Savoy).
It is located south of the Col de la Seigne (2.512m) between the Veny Valley and the Savoy Valley of the Glaciers.
We climb in two stages: on the first day we walk from La Visaille to the Elisabetta Soldini Hut (2.195m); on the second day up to the top and back to La Visaille.
From the hut we go up to the Col Chavannes (2.603m); from the hill we have to leave the marked path that begins to descend into the Chavannes valley, following a path on the right that crosses the very steep eastern slope of Mount Lechaud. The trail continues on the right, again not far from the crest of Mount Lechaud and crosses a small valley of stones or snow, reaching the wide basin where the Chavannes Glacier is located. Once we have put on crampons, we set foot on the glacier going diagonally to the left. From this point we gradually turn to the right pointing directly to the top, which can be reached by overcoming some easy rocky steps. What we see is a vast and spectacular panorama on the Italian side of Mont Blanc.
Crossing the Gigante glacier towards the Aiguille du Midi
Although it may seems like a "scenic walk", the Vallée Blanche should not be underestimated, as it is an itinerary that involves crossing the Gigante glacier. It is always necessary to be accompanied by an Alpine Guide who knows the itinerary very well and knows how to avoid the dangers.
We go up by cable car to Punta Helbronner (3.462m), we wear harnesses and crampons and we tie ourselves together.
The first section makes us lose altitude and then we start to climb towards the Aiguille du Midi. The last section includes the ascent of the snow-covered ridge of the Aiguille du Midi, reaching 3.842m.
The return is with the panoramic cable car which takes us back to Punta Helbronner.
The Gran Paradiso is the only mountain over 4000m that is fully on Italian territory
The Gran Paradiso is the only mountain over 4000m that is fully on Italian territory. A classic and fascinating climb: after a first part on ice, to be able to reach the peak marked by a statue of the Virgin Mary, you must pass some simple rocky crossings.
2 full-immersion days of technical alpine skill training on Monte Rosa
The Monte Rosa is a mountain range that is found in the Pennine Alps, along the watershed line between Italy (on the border of the Aosta valley and Piedmont) and Switzerland. It gives name to the Monte Rosa Alps supergroup, which in turn is composed of various important groups and subgroups, east of the Cervino and south-east of the Mischabel range. It is the most extended range in the Alps, and second in height after the Mont Blanc. It is the highest mountain in Switzerland and the second in Italy, and has the highest average height, containing 9 of the 20 highest peaks of the chain.
Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco in Italian) is a mountain situated in the North-occidental Alps, in the Graian Alp range, on the watershed line between the Aosta valley (val Veny and val Ferret in Italy), and Haute-Savoie (the Arve valley in France), in the territories of Courmayeur and Chamonix, which give name to the Mont Blanc Massif, belonging to the subsection of the Mont Blanc Alps.
It’s 4808,72m (the last official measure was taken September 13, 2017) make it the highest mountain in the Alps, in Italy, in France, and in general in Europe if we exclude the Caucuses. This is why it’s called the King of the Alps. It shared a spot on the list of the highest Seven Summits with Mount Elbrus in the Caucuses.
Primarily granite full of peaks and crests, cut by deep glacial valleys, it is internationally renowned for its climbing and, from a historical point of view, the birth of mountaineering coincides with its first ascent: August 8, 1786.