Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc Lament by Kate Inman

Kate Inman was one of three women (including me) in a group of ten who set out to France to attempt a summit of Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest mountain. A few

Dave and Kate Inman and me (photo taken by Yoshihito Niimura)

weeks after the trip she sent us a poem that beautifully describes our trip together. Here it is, unedited, with her permission:

Mont Blanc Lament


Ten go Silly in the Snow

When we walked through Chalet Prarion’s front door,

Mont Blanc was the thing that we had in store.

To climb up higher than we’d been before,

(Though Yoshi and Nadia had been higher before!)

We worried about having not done enough training,

A couple of walks – except for when it was raining.

But Damian soon allayed all our fears,

When he arrived straight from a night out on the beers.

The next day began with guides checking our stuff,

And ditching the things that they thought were no good.

Harnesses, crampons, a helmet and axe,

All added weight to our heavy rucksacks.

The first task was reaching ‘Albert Premier’,

Yves pointed out flowers – but I didn’t care.

I was too busy thinking of the big task ahead,

And how I would cope with four blokes in one bed.

The next day we climbed up to the Trient Hut,

Nadia was happy she’d made it, but…

Point d’Orny was our final test, before we were allowed to have a rest.

Some bits were scary – I thought I might die,

Yves said “ Just pretend you’re a butterfly!”

And of course we all made it, most thought it was fun,

(I’d spent most of it sat on my bum.)

Spaghetti for dinner, how much do guides eat?

They must be hollow right down to their feet.

Early next morning, about half past five,

Onto the glacier to see the sun rise.

Up to the top of the Aiguille de Tour,

All roped together to keep us secure.

Then back to the chalet, a welcome respite,

Nice food, a hot shower (?) our own beds for the night.

Damian said “Look guys, I don’t mean to be rude,”

“But which one of you bastards is stealing my food?”

Wednesday the 17th – this is the day,

We began our ascent up the Mont Blanc Tramway.

Tete Rousse was quite spacious but nothing could hide,

The ominous sound of rocks falling outside.

We chatted about what tomorrow would bring,

And which one of us might just end up in a sling.

But we had a good chance of staying alive,

Especially with ‘Lord Damian’s’ dark powers on our side.

Climbing up through the snow-we hadn’t gone far,

We reached the edge of the Grand Couloir.

All was quiet and so we crossed it quick,

Mark putting on quite a bit of a lick.

Vasyl and Colin began the traverse,

But falling rocks soon put them into reverse.

Somehow we made it with all limbs complete,

And started the scramble up the next 1800ft.

It was all going well and then looking up,

I could see the lights of the Gouter Hut.

But on a ledge with 200 metres to go,

That voice came over the radio.

And the decision was made that we all had feared,

Surely our summit bid couldn’t end here?

We’ve hardly got started, we’re raring to go,

But the guides were unanimous – the decision is no.

So carefully we began retracing our way,

The sun coming up to start a new day.

Back to the hut and through the front door,

That we had only just come through two hours before.

So now we had 5 guides with time on their hands,

So we sat down together to formulate plans.

If there was no chance of Mont Blanc that day,

We’d have to amuse ourselves some other way.

Mark, Nick and Dena went up Mer de Glace,

The plan was to throw them into a crevasse.

Of course the idea’s to climb out up the side,

A task that sounds simple unless you have tried.

Vasyl and Nadia chose to spend their day,

On a Via Ferrata – an ‘iron way’.

On the side of a cliff with nothing below,

We’d have had video footage if Yves had pressed go.

The rest of us tried to stifle our panic,

When the doorbell rang and there stood Yannick.

The steep climb up Pointe Lachenal was our goal,

We tried not to laugh when Yoshi fell in that hole.

So some of us still have plans of reaching the top,

(I know Dave’s obsession is unlikely to stop.)

Whether it’s this year, the next or in four,

Mark and the gang may be getting a call.

They say men climb mountains because they are there,

Testing their limits up in the thin air.

But one thing more important than accomplishing such feat,

Is the great times you have with the people you meet.

Five Reasons People Do Crazy Things

It’s been one week now since I scrambled up rocks with 3000 meter sheer drops; hiked up 35 degree snowy inclines, slipping and sliding all the way; skirted crevasses

Climbing the via ferrata with Mont Blanc in the backdrop

partially hidden under loose snow; and clinged to rocky cliffs with my fingers and toes. As I prepared for my trip to Mont Blanc and all throughout the actual adventure I kept asking myself why the heck I was doing it. Deep down I knew there was a reason I had made my reservations to go on this perilous journey. There was a logic somewhere inside of me to do crazy things. Now that I’m back on solid ground in the midst of my children on the shores of the Nile, I think I understand why I do these things and why other people choose to do them as well.

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Mont Blanc: Mission Aborted

Mountains are forces to be reckoned with. I somehow knew this but came to fully realize it this past week.

After successfully summiting Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest summit at 5895 meters, I felt that the world was at my feet. As soon as I had recuperated from the strenuous climb I started to plan for my next adventure. Eventually I decided to climb Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest peak at 4810 meters.

The one week adventure started with a three day course on Alpine climbing. Ten strangers came together from all over the world and were led by three guides through the

One of the most challenging snowy inclines during the Alpine course

Mont Blanc mountain range. The climbs involved strenuous inclines on rock and snow, crossing glaciers, skirting crevasses, and scrambling up rocks with 3500 meter sheer drops. For the first time I used crampons (sharp undersoles that are clamped onto the bottom of one’s mountaineering boots to help hold onto the snow) and was harnessed and connected to other team members by ropes in case one of us fell through a crevasse.


I’ve Offended the Mountain

July 10, 10 am on the train from Torino to Aosta

“Where is the logic?” I’ve been asking myself these past couple of weeks.

First sight of Mont Blanc amidst lush green mountains

Ahhh, the madness that comes of fearing the unknown.

As I sit here on this train with rapid Alpine rivers rolling below me and lush green mountains towering above, I feel something I only rarely feel: I’m coming home.


A New Adventure and New Fear: To Mont Blanc I Go

June 27: Why, oh why, oh why?

It’s that time of the year again. I’m preparing for another adventure; this time to Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe.

“Why?” you ask. Since you are asking me only a few days before I set off, I really have no satisfying answer for you. I’ve been asking myself that same question. Why, Nadia? Why, oh why, oh why?

Mont Blanc is a mountain that involves ropes and ice axes, crevasses that people fall into and falling rocks that cause people to slip and fall.

Why, Nadia? Why, oh why, oh why?


Racing Eyjajollyfollydolly Part VI: Help, and Lack Thereof, Electronic and Otherwise, Along the Way

It’s a great time to be stranded out there in the world. It’s almost impossible to be completely on your own in such a situation. Throughout my journey I was able to keep in touch with friends, family, and other stranded people, mainly through connecting to the Internet on my mobile phone. When I needed to make a quick phone call, I was always able to no matter where I was because I had my mobile phone on roaming.

My Twitter feed after arrival in Cairo

Twitter was a God-send to me. Bharat got to calling me “Twitterer”, he saw me using it so often. I used Twitter for a variety of things. Before I decided to take the leap and make my journey back to Cairo over the European continent, I used Twitter to follow the latest updates by Heathrow Airport, Eurocontrol, and fellow Twitterers. By doing this, I kept up-to-date on the latest developments on the volcano eruptions and the reactions of airports and governments to them.


Racing Eyjajollyfollydolly Part V: Amman to Home

Our flight from Rome to Amman had left almost half an hour late. We arrived in Amman at 7:35pm on Tuesday evening. Bharat’s flight to Delhi was scheduled to leave at 8:15pm. Mine was scheduled to leave at 8:20pm. We both ran – I mean full run type of run – through the airport. We said our goodbyes very quickly and each of us continued to run to our gates. The boards said it was the last call for both our planes. I reached my gate and found it completely empty, save for two airlines’ men. Are you going to Cairo, they asked. I am, I huffed and puffed. Calm down, they told me, smiling. You don’t understand, I explained. You have no idea what I’ve done to get this far. Please do not let the plane leave without me, I begged. They told me not to worry. Where’s your boarding pass, they asked. I didn’t have one. In Rome, I was told I could only get my boarding pass to my Cairo flight in Amman. Two other Egyptians came up behind me. They were also on the flight from Rome and were trying to catch the same flight to Cairo. They also had no boarding passes. Hamdy Qandeel, the well-known Egyptian journalist, also appeared with no boarding pass. He, however, was important enough to let through without a second thought. Me and the other two Egyptians waited as the airlines fellow made a few quick calls. “Don’t allow the plane to leave,” I heard him say probably to the pilot. I still have a few passengers here who need to board, he added. It took only three or four minutes and they let us on the plane without boarding passes. Just sit anywhere, they told us. Everyone was smiling; the two airlines’ men and the flight attendant who greeted us on the plane. It was as if they had seen many people before us in the same situation the past few days. They seemed happy to be able to bring us home.


Racing Eyjajollyfollydolly Part III: Paris to Milan

Abdallah arrived on time at 5:45pm. Bharat, the Indian man, was getting edgy. He had a flight to catch from Rome the next morning and he was in a rush to reach the airport on time. He also preferred to drive in daylight as much as possible.

We all rushed to the car rental parking lot and searched for our car.

It was a blue hatchback Fiat. We all luckily had small carry-on suitcases with us (man was I thankful I made the rare decision to travel light for this trip, otherwise I wouldn’t have heard the end of their complaining about women and their traveling). The car was small, however, so only three of our suitcases fit in the trunk. We placed the third, Abdallah’s, on the middle of the back seat. This proved to be a suitable make-shift headrest for sleeping later on.