On this day (8 August) in 1786, Mont Blanc was climbed for the first time. It marked the beginning of mountaineering in the Alps as over the next 100 years all the major peaks in the Alps were conquered one by by one for the first time.
It’s a special day in the year for me because in the summer of 1955 I guided my son (then aged 17) to the summit of Mont Blanc.
Starting out from the mountain hut of Les Grands Mulets at 1am we followed the route those pioneers took on their route to the summit except for the last 1,000ft where a better and safer route is now used.
Watching the sun rise over the shoulder of the Aiguille du Midi was a magical moment. On the summit ridge the views over the neighbouring mountains provided the proof that we were now above every other summit in the Alps.
We reached the summit around 9am. The descent was equally tough and we didn’t reach base – the town of Chamonix – until 7pm. We had been on our feet for 18 hours. We were exhausted!
If you are interested to know more there are two other posts about Mont Blanc on this blog. Type ‘Mont Blanc’ into the search box on the right of the screen and a batch of previous posts will be shown. Look for the following two:
‘The story behind the first ascent of Mont Blanc’, and ‘Montagne de la Cote – in the steps of Balmat and Paccard’.
What a brilliant memory!
Thanks Sue. The memory remains clear of that day.
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I smiled when you mentioned making the trek to the summit with your son. If memory serves, you spent a good bit of time trekking with your own father: if not mountain climbing, at least roaming the countryside. Like so many, I’d love to be at that summit, but I’m not prepared to do what’s necessary to get there! Of course, if I’d been tempted with the opportunity fifty years ago, it might have been a different thing.
Your memory is correct, Linda. On a clear day the rewards of the vast vistas on reaching a high summit outweigh the effort expended in getting there. Standing on the summit of Mont Blanc for a few minutes, I realised that for that short time I was one of the privileged few to be at the highest ping in the Alps