Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Breaking trail up Mt Blanc with 50cm of fresh snow

The weather has been far from settled and coupled with lots of other issues it made for a challenging week which was only half successful. Dee Anand and David Folkman joined me for 6 days and below is the brief story of what happened.

After three days of training and acclimatisation in indifferent weather we headed up to the Tete Rousse hut and spent a pleasant afternoon relaxing and gaining more acclimatisation. Well it was pleasant for me and Dee but David had a bad night with the Shits. Non of us were sure why he was ill when weren't but we assumed that it would be some 24 hour bug that would go. So we decided to continue on with our plan, which was to head up to the brand spanking new Gouter Hut, where we planned to arrive early and rest up ready for our summit attempt the next day.

David struggled , but was determined to get to the Hut. He immediately went to bed and assumed with a bit of rest he would be fine. It started to snow big time. Dinner time came around and David was feeling worse and could not countenance eating. Hugely frustratingly he was not going to stand any chance of attempting Mt Blanc.

While we were dealing with David's illness , another group were dealing with one of their group who had broken his ankle. They had called a helicopter . I reasoned that David would be far better off if he could hitch a lift too so I asked the Hut Guardian if this would work. In principle the answer was yes. In practice it was a lot more problematical. Bad weather meant the helicopter could not fly.

David was going to have to endure a pretty miserable night. With nothing else to do I went to bed . No sooner had my head hit the pillow and the Guardian came into my dormitory to tell me that there was weather window and the PGHM helicopter would be here in 20 minutes. The Guardian was not sure if the helicopter could take one or two causalities because of the weight limit at such high altitude. I was asked to speak to the Police Mountain Rescue doctor at his base in Chamonix.

I explained what I believed to be David's symptoms and the doctor immediately triaged and decided that David was the priority and not the guy with the broken leg. It is not difficult to see that the guy with the broken leg was deeply unhappy about having his helicopter stolen from underneath him.

Both David and the other casualty were taken outside the hut to wait for the helicopter. It arrived in very dramatic style kicking up huge amounts of snow screening everything from sight. When it departed there was no one left on the ground and so we concluded that both casualties had gone. Indeed they had a mere 5 minutes later and they were at Sallanches Hospital.
Meanwhile Dee slept through all the commotion and was somewhat surprised when he woke up and couldn't find David. It was 2.00am and time for breakfast. 45 minutes later Dee and I set off . We were enveloped in thick cloud and there was deep snow. Critically there was no wind. At the Vallot hut 95%of the parties turned back. There was still no wind and I could see no reason to give up. The only difference was that there was us and one other party to break trail. We stuck at it and arrived at the summit of Mt Blanc at around 8.00am. We saw nothing!

No comments: