Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Climbing Mt Blanc

Salle (MySQL EMEA Support Leader) just told me over IRC: "One has to be crazy to do the job Kaj is doing :)". While it may not be mandatory, it does help. It also helps me in my free time, where I just climbed Mt Blanc with my fourteen year old son.

Die-hard marathoners or mountaineers I recommend to scroll towards the bottom. There, I have an account of the exact times and heights of ascent, how to survive Refuge Gouter etc. But let's start from the beginning, in the spirit of the http://xkcd.com/77/ web comic "bored with the Internet".

It all starts with a leisurely walk up the Gran Paradiso, 4061 m.

The usual sight is the heels of my son.

A MySQL cap protects me against excessive Sun.

It also helps when it's snowy.

Valley panorama.

Specifically this view, of my son's heels, was next to mandatory as I was tied to him with a rope.

Taking off some gear near the summit of Gran Paradiso.

The final ascent to Gran Paradiso.

Waiting for crossing the tough spot.

View from Gran Paradiso (it's in Italy).

Alexander made it, too.

Father and son, and the Madonna. Austrians and Germans do "Gipfelkreuz" (a cross), Italians do madonnas.

A happy Alexander at Gran Paradiso. It was his first 4000 m high mountain, and mine too.

One step forward, and I would fall hundreds of metres.

I miss my 8 mm fisheye.


As long as we're on the glacier, we're tied to each other.

The glacier isn't exactly clean.

And it has plenty of cavities.

Next day! More exercises. This is close to Courmayeur.

Taking off the shoes afterwards is rewarding.

No, I didn't Photoshop the ski pole onto the ... toilet cleaning device.

The true adventure starts! We're heading up the Mt Blanc. Now, we're at Bellevue, waiting for the railway.

The train is driven by a cog wheel.

Alexander, in anticipation.

The first day (out of two) has 1500 height metres. And it was the more arduous one. Headache. Not fully acclimatised.

It's getting higher.

We're now on 3800 m height, in the Refuge Gouter. That's the one from which the ascent starts tomorrow.

The writing on the wall says in essence "if you come too late, don't expect to get a place to sleep -- and if you do, expect it to be on the kitchen floor".

First dinner serving 18:00, second 18:45. And first breakfast at 2:30 (for those going for the summit), second at 8:00 (for when weather doesn't allow you to go to the summit, i.e. those going back to the valley).

Alexander in front of the Refuge Gouter.

And myself.

Thomas and Abi, two of our three excellent guides from the DAV Summit Club -- the trip organising subsidiary of Deutscher Alpenverein.

Father-and-son bonding.

My son thinks either this picture ...

... or this one reminds him of the ZDF Wetterstudio, i.e. German weather forecast pic.

Beds at the Refuge Gouter are spartan.

Fellow DAV climber Frank admires the ZDF Wetterstudio.

I slept fully dressed: Trousers, outdoor trousers, three layers on top.

More father-son bonding.

It's now about 2:15 in the morning, in Refuge Gouter. We ate, took our gear, and made ourselves ready.

2:54 Alexander and Kaj leave from Pole Position, lead by our fearless Mountaineer Abi. About 40-50 groups right behind us, breathing in our necks.

3:50One group passes us.

4:00 -- 5:00 -- 6:00 One step after the other. Endurance. This is not the worst part; waiting yesterday was. That made it into the most demanding physical endurance test of my life. It combined the next-to-worst aspects of a marathon (not the last few km, but almost) with height related headache and nausea, as well as the next-to-worst aspects of hiking in the Finnish army: Limits in stopping to dress (because it's cold), undress (because it's hot), or cater for some other physiological needs (drinking, eating, or the mirrored processes thereof).

6:20 on Tue 2.9.2008 We're at the top, Mt Blanc 4810 m, as the second team! Whether it made much sense to hurry, is another story entirely.

Kaj at the summit.


Sunrise, put into larger perspective.

Sunrise was indeed impressive.

More of it.

And more!

And more!

Myself, admiring the sunrise.

8:30 we were back at the Refuge Gouter. We had some spaghetti, and left again at 9:30. And back at the cog-wheel railway, we were at 13:05.

Mt Blanc the following morning, from in front of our hotel.

Same thing, but closer.

Ahh, and a final note. We drove home to Munich with a navi. We meticulously followed its advice, only playing with the language, in which the navi bossed us around. And according to the navigator, this is the main road between Chamonix and Munich. (But we refused to "Do a U-turn, if possible!" on this road).Technology is great!


  1. What one has to do to find decent topics for a blog! :)



  2. Wow! Thanks for posting, superb pics, makes me want to go and do it....

  3. what a superb trip with excellent photos!

  4. Amazing pictures, and an amazing entry. Even I want to climb the mountain now. Looks like you had a great vacation, and your hair has grown longer :)

    See you next week!

  5. the sunrise pic is amazin !!

    I guess the trip mst have been a one of its kind experience. I just loved the pics - great goin.

    Vj here

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