1.15am - We were up before anyone else and ready to go as the plan was to make an early start to avoid the rush. Breakfast (coffee in a bowl and bread) commenced at 2am once the other mountaineers had removed themselves from the tables in the dining area. It would appear that if there are no more beds in the dorms (the hut sleeps 120) then they can lie on the tables!
Out into the cold and windy morning we roped up headtorches on (all reminiscent of two days early on the Trient but it felt alot more serious). We began our 1,000 metre ascent at a very slow and steady speed, my knee hurt, I now had a headache and was feeling the altitude a little but we were determined to get there.
The climb took us across some steep ridges, in the dark you couldn't see them but only feel that you were more exposed to the wind. Our only guide for distance were the lights from the other climbers ahead in the distance moving like fire flies upwards - it was quite spectacular and I wish i had managed to get a photo but our Guide didn't want us to stop as we needed to be on the top by 6.00am in order to make it down at a reasonable time.
'Are we nearly there yet?' was something I kept asking myself, I had my Suunto and it helped to keep me motivated as it counted up my height in increments of 5 metres, but each ridge hid another climb behind it and so on and just when you thought you could see the top you would drop down then back up again. It was pretty exhausting, at one of the final ridges both the height, altitude and general lack of sleep took its toll and I began to wobble a bit - not ideal on a 1 metre wide ridge with drops back into Chamonix.
As the sun began to rise we reached the summit ridge around 6.15am, it was truly awesome the sky couldnt have been any clearer and you felt very insignificant standing on the top. The wind was cold and the temperature was around -10 Degrees so we didn't stay long, only long enough to get a few shots (by this time our camera had run out of battery so we had to rely on Paul).
Then it was backdown. This trip was very different from the climb up and it takes all your strength to get down the mountain. Its been said that most accidents happen on the way down and I can understand why. The legs, already tired from the climb up, are in desperate need of rest and my knee injury meant that I was unable to place too much pressure on my right leg so I used the walking poles to bear my weight which helped.
I can't quite remember the time but I think it may have taken us only an hour less to get down to the Gouter hut than to get up. Once at the hut we rested for 30 mins then continued down to GC. The adrenaline was still going and the memories of the rock slide the night before were still very much at the forefront of our minds as got to the crossing point and roped up.
We succeeded in crossing without further injury and it was only once on the other side that we were able to feel a bit more relaxed and could reflect on our achievement. From there we enjoyed the views and the feeling of accomplishment down to the train and then back to chalet for what was possibly the best meal I have ever had.