I definitely did not expect to be able to climb any mountains this year. As I am writing this, it’s been 9,5 weeks since I had my ACL surgery. But my recovery has been going incredibly well, and before arriving in Chamonix I knew that hiking was definitely something I could do for several hours without trouble. Technical climbing isn’t an option right now – but there are a couple of mountains around here which are over 4000 m but still not very technical. Nevertheless, I wasn’t sure how my knee would react to hiking with a loaded backpack and steep uphills and downhills.
Arriving on Saturday evening, Jost and I took it easy on Sunday morning. In the afternoon we took the lift up to Aiguille du Midi 3842 m and started making our way down and across the glacier toward the Cosmiques Hut and the nearby Simon Bivouac (only open in wintertime). Just before the sun was about to set down, we found the perfect spot and basecamp away from the crowds on the glacier – a big terrace made of wood panels, part of an abandoned lift station from WWII.
During our entire time up there (3 days and 2 nights) we were lucky with incredible weather, and on Monday morning we woke up in our sleeping bags under a blue sky. After breakfast and some tea we headed out for the tour of the day. We had no expectations of reaching any summit and wanted to use the day mainly to acclimatize and see how my knee would react.
But we turned out to have a wonderful day, feeling strong - and my knee really good - so in the end our little acclimatization day ended up being a 7 h tour including a summit climb of Mont Blanc du Tacul 4248 m. Wow! I managed to climb a mountain this season – and one over 4000 m on top of that! A true victory for me, thinking about how only 9,5 weeks ago I was lying in bed high on painkillers and completely unable to walk.
In the evening, however, I had to pay for some classical beginner’s mistakes. After dinner I started getting symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) with a pounding headache and stomach pain. I couldn’t eat or drink anything, and I had to sit up to relieve the pressure in my head. I realized I hadn’t been smart during our climb – even though I had felt strong, we weren’t properly acclimatized and I should have taken it easier. I was a little scared that it would get worse, and we had no way of getting back down to the valley so late in the evening other than calling a helicopter. Luckily I was able to fall asleep and when I woke up in the morning both the headache and stomach pain were gone.
But learning from your mistakes is definitely the best way to learn, right?
A part of us wanted to make it to the summit of Mont Blanc the following day. But since I was not feeling well, and we would have had to get up at 2 am to start the climb, we decided it wasn’t worth it this time. And anyway, climbing Mont Blanc was definitely not something I had expected or planned on this year. It’s as they say – the mountain will remain… And I will come back next year, fit and strong, to fulfill my plan of making a single push from valley to summit – including the famous traverse over to Aiguille du Midi.