On July 31/August 1, 1962, I teamed up with a very friendly family of French climbers, to do the traverse of Mont Blanc, from west to east. To start, we drove down valley from Chamonix, to catch a chairlift at Les Houches. This chairlift connected to a mountain railway coming up from St. Gervais, to the west. It ascended to the Eagle’s Nest, at 2372 m. From there, we labored up a long, uninspiring slope to the Gouter hut, at 4052m. One leaves the Gouter hut very early in the morning for the summit of Mt. Blanc (4810m), and especially so for the traverse. The route is via the Dome de Gouter and the Arete des Bosses, and is a snow trudge and not at all demanding, other than the fact that you are not used to the altitude. These photos were taken, again, with my subminiature Minox camera.
First light on the Arete des Bosses
On the Arete des Bosses
Sunrise, at or near the summit
The summit of Mt. Blanc. Left to right: me, Bernard Amy and Eglantine Amy
Summit of Mt. Blanc. Left to right: Eglantine, Bernard and Michel Soulier (Eglantine’s boyfriend)
Summit of Mt. Blanc, looking east. The Matterhorn and Monte Rosa (second highest in the Alps) are in the Swiss Alps. I later climbed both the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa.
Summit of Mt. Blanc, looking south into Italy
Looking down at Chamonix, 12,000′ below.. The Aiguille du Midi is our day’s destination. Once there, we’ll ride the cable car 9000′ back down to Chamonix. From the summit of Mt. Blanc, our route continues by going over Mt. Maudit
To the right of the prior photo, our route then goes over Mt. Blanc du Tacul
This photo shows the entirety of our route from the summit of Mt. Blanc to the A. du Midi. It also shows another route I did – the Midi-Plan traverse, along with other peaks I climbed – Le Cardinal and the Aiguille du Moine
Looking east to the Grands Jorasses and into the Swiss Alps
Looking back to our route off the summit of Mt. Blanc, down a slope called the Mur de la Cote. We are standing on the Col de la Brenva, ready to start our climb of Mt. Maudit.
Mt. Maudit, from the Col de la Brenva
On the far side of Mt. Maudit, at the Col Maudit
On the far side of Mt. Maudit, at the Col Maudit
Ready to head up to Mt. Blanc du Tacul
On the summit of Mt. Blanc du Tacul, with (l. to r.), Bernard, Eglantine and Michel
From the summit of Mt. Blanc du Tacul, view to the east.
Descending through the “chateaux de glace” (ice castles), a slow-moving icefall, on the north face of Mt. Blanc du Tacul. Bernard is carrying a wooden stake, in case we needed to anchor a rappel over a crevasse .
After completing the descent of the north face of Mt. Blanc du Tacul, we slogged across a level glacial plateau to the Aiguille du Midi, with one last climb to the cable car entry tunnel.
Mont Blanc (postcard annotated Tairraz photo). Click on photo to enlarge for better viewing
Upon our return, I was invited to visit with the Amy family at their summer place, in the small village of Ayze, located in the Arve Valley, on the way to Geneva. Afterwards, I returned to Chamonix and resumed climbing.
From left to right: Michel Soulier, Bernard Amy and me, Ayze, France
From left to right: Daniel Amy, Michel Soulier, Mr. Amy and me, Ayze, France
Eglantine, Michel and Daniel, Ayze, France
Eglantine and me, translating Gary Snyder poetry into French, Ayze, France
Eglantine Amy (cliche Amy), Ayze, France
My next climbs included the Midi-Plan traverse, the Dent du Geant and the Aiguille du Moine, by a route which I can’t recall, except for the fact that it was supposedly harder and more “classic” than the “voie normale”. I was with a German climber, and have no photos of the climb. Perhaps it was the East Face?
On the Midi-Plan traverse, view to the east of the Grand Jorasses (postcard Tairraz photo)
Midi-Plan traverse, looking back at the Aiguille du Midi (postcard Tairraz photo)
Midi-Plan traverse, with a view southeast into the Talefre basin. The Aiguille du Plan is seen on the left. (postcard Gay-Couttet photo)
Dent du Geant, 4013m (postcard). The regular route goes from the snow ramp seen to the right of the peak.
Dente del Gigante (postcard)
Dent du Geant (postcard Tairraz photo). The regular route goes up the backside of the peak.
The Aiguille du Moine is reached from the Couvercle hut, in the Talefre basin
David left Chamonix for Germany on August 10. He caught a ride with an American climber who was in the Air Force, and was returning to duty. This climber told us that he flew a fighter-bomber that carried the A-bomb for Prague. When he flew, he wore his mountain boots, because they gave him only enough fuel for a one-way trip, and he would have to walk home. The flyer was John Harlin, and he was making a name for himself in the Alps. He later died on the Eiger (see postcard below), while attempting a solo winter ascent of the Nord Wand (North Wall), also known as the “Mord Wand” (Murder Wall), using siege tactics. It appears that he fell when a fixed rope broke, probably because it had been hit by a rock. I left for Zermatt, Switzerland around the same time.
Aiguilles and Mt.Blanc, showing my summits, ’62
Backside of above postcard
The Eiger, with the North Face. This postcard shows the route I climbed a short time later, the easy West Ridge.
I continued to climb in Switzerland, making my way east as I did so. Those climbs will be seen in the next chapter.