What I like about Chamonix is that every person here (except for sightseeing tourists) risked his, sometimes hers, life to have that drink at the end of the day. They all come with their own story: the mountains they climbed, the canyons they jumped into, the air they glided through… It all comes down to the good company over a drink at the end of the day. With no fear for the future. Just the happy faces appreciative of the day gone well, with no accidents, with no injuries, and with good memories shared with good friends.. It’s not about money. Your status is frowned upon here. It’s about your character. And physical abilities. To meet and greet the real world head on. Solo. And not with army of management team. It’s about your attitude. Not your authority. The only authority these guys have is mother nature. And it’s far beyond any human being. No matter what many human beings think.
So my ass was kicked by the mountain I least expected it from. 4810m, how hard can it be, right? Wrong!
“50% chance of success” – they said. “Naaaaa” – I thought.
Brief intro just in case: Mont Blanc – the highest mountain in the Alps, Western Europe and EU. Also commonly known as Monte Bianco (for Italians). Or as a Death Mountain or White Killer (for pessimists). The reason for the later nicknames is quite obvious: although the mountain is relatively “low” (compared to Himalayas, or Andes for example), the number of people trying to climb it is quite high, resulting in a higher death rate, proportionally. Now enough with statistics. If you ask me: it’s not the mountain, it’s the joyfully crazy people that flock to Mont Blanc that top up the scales. If you stick to the “Normal route” and just plan to move your feet – you should be fine (unless avalanche hits and swipes you off those feet – about that later). But people there are nothing but normal, and so they leave this route for us, amateurs, and go up the mountain in some batshit crazy ways, and go down even in a crazier ones.
- – A 6189 meter mountain in the Himalayas, 10km away from Everest.
- – It’s higher than half of the World’s Seven Summits.
- – Was first climbed in 1956 as preparation exercise for Everest summit attempt.
- – Officially called Imja Tse, but popularly known as Island Peak because half a century ago it reminded some dude of “an island in the sea of ice”.
- – If you take a person from sea level and put him directly on the summit, he will die within half an hour: the level of oxygen up there is only 45% of what you normally get.
This post is a proof that you don’t need experience to get places. When I signed up for Island Peak, I had never trekked, hiked, let alone climbed before. I haven’t been at altitude higher than 1500m and was oblivious to the phenomenon of thin air. My diet was a disaster, amount of wine in it – disturbing, and exercise – nonexistent. I was depressed and needed something. Himalayas seemed like a perfect remedy. I saw the pictures of beautiful scenery this trip promised to hold and made up my mind in an instant. I disregarded the warning of “difficulty level” being “six out of six”, and thought of a few times I went to the gym. “Oh come on, how hard can it be – I said to myself – moving your feet and enjoying the view”. Little did I know how breathtaking, literally, it would be.