A 4.810-metre-tall challenge: discovering the Mont Blanc

A 4.810-metre-tall challenge: discovering the Mont Blanc

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. 

Anyone that’s been keeping up with the news in recent months knows that there is a new rule regarding the Mont Blanc: a new limit has been put on the number of hikers that can attempt reaching the summit. 

It was a controversial decision. It was welcomed by some as a historic day for Europe’s most famous mountain on the grounds that it will reduce the number of incidents and pollution, and generally give value to the access to the top of Europe. But it was also criticised and worried others, whether it was because, as said by Hervé Barmasse, “prohibiting access to the mountains means taking away freedom,” or because, as the mayor of Chamonix fears, it may push people to attempt the climb through other, more dangerous routes. With obvious, sad repercussions on the number of wounded - or worse.

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In this context, the M4810 expedition becomes even more important. It’s not just a challenge being faced by a company, but an example of how this kind of undertaking should be confronted.  

The training and preparation process that we’re facing in Methodos is a symbol of our commitment to not underestimating the mountain and the difficulties that it poses.

These political decisions definitely impose another challenge.

We will have to request permission much in advance, booking the Goûter hut for a fixed number of people on a fixed day. Will the weather agree with our choice of date? Will there be enough snow to safely climb the French route? These are all questions that we can’t ignore, and that we have to take into consideration in the process that we’ve taken on. 

It’s true, nature always has the last word. And for the Mont Blanc it’s truer than ever, with its 4810 metres of height, up there between glaciers and clouds. 

Two years of physical preparation won’t be enough, then. The medical visits, the training, the outings, and the gym aren’t enough. We’ll also need flexibility, adaptability, and awareness about the risks involved and of our own limits. Reaching our goal won’t be a question of physical endurance, but also – and above all – a question of organisation, decision making, external support, and compromise. What will we do if our chosen road is inaccessible? 

Reaching the peak of the Mont Blanc can be done taking various routes, but the Goûter is the most popular. And, more importantly, the safest. Changing route would mean going up a degree of difficulty in a project that already poses many challenges. 

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We’re working to get dozens of consultants, with varying attitudes towards the mountains, to lend us their talent in giving value to this project. We’re training towards finding a synchronised step, a fitting team spirit, and a unique bond. We’re preparing ourselves with the right gradual steps to face the challenge that is altitude, a dangerous discomfort that can take anyone by surprise – even the strongest. 

Talks with the CAI volunteers and the Alpine Guides get deeper and deeper: we evaluate the options, the risks; we even consider having to change destination.

Advice and information are checked, added up, cancelled. This is also an important process – becoming aware.

But in the end, the final destination of this trip doesn’t matter so much: what’s important is the journey. 

Change - the ultimate goal of this project - is undeniably underway. A group of consultants, without particular prior knowledge of the mountains, is putting body and soul into adjusting their mindset to advance the expedition. If we let ourselves be discouraged by limits, the obstacles set by nature, we’d do nothing if not hide behind our alibi - the excuse that there is something greater than us that we can’t fight against. 

Our strength is exactly this, then: that we don’t want to climb the Mont Blanc to plant our flag at the top. We want to climb the Mont Blanc to plant a flag within ourselves, to remind ourselves that no change is too big if faced in the right way. 

 

The journey

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Mont Fallère

Methodos - M4810 - Mont Fallère

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 :)

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Pointe Lechaud

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.

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Vallée Blanche

Methodos - M4810 - Vallée Blanche

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.

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Gran Paradiso

Methodos - M4810 - Gran Paradiso

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.

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Monte Rosa

Methodos - M4810 - Monte Rosa

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.

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Monte Bianco

Methodos - M4810 - Monte Bianco

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.