There was a change in the weather. The Temperature had dropped and the winds had gotten up. 70-80kph in the high mountain. The summit of a 4800m mountain is not the place to be in that weather. Still no sign of snow though.
Wow i’m tired, Its 0330am, the alarm is bleeping. I’ve had 3.5 hours sleep. The prospect for what we are going to do today is horrid. I can hear Emmie shuffling about in our spare room.
Gran Paradiso is the highest mountain solely in Italy. Its usually climbed or ski toured in 2 days. We decided to do it in a day.
I met Emmie in the kitchen of my apartment. Both of us sleepy eyed, we made porridge in mugs and walked with our stuff to Pete’s house down the road. It was minus 13 degrees Celsius. Today was going to be long and cold. The three of us bundled into Petes car and set off for the Valsavarenche in the Aosta Valley. It hadn’t got any warmer by the time we left the carpark. We started skinning wearing all the clothes we had, following the ski du fond track, then up through the trees. Reaching the Vittorio Emanuele hut in just under two hours we were making good progress. The main hut is closed in winter but the small winter room was open. So far not another sole was about, the stove in the hut was cold so no one had stayed that night. Looked like we would get the summit to ourselves.
Re hydrated and refueled we set back out into the cold. The wind was stating to blow. Making it even colder. My fingers and toes were numb. I was starting to get concerned for my toes. They were really cold. With every other step I would stop and move my feet about as much as possible until finally I felt some warm blood seeping into my toes.
Up and up we went, the wind blew stronger, the effect of the altitude got worse, we got slow.
100m to go. Almost there. Keep going. Getting to the end of the skin was a bit of a relief. With skis off and axe out I headed up the the steeper snow to the summit rock block. An airy traverse across the rocks and I’m there. I wait for Pete and Emmie to come up and we grab a quick summit selfie. A 15m repel brings us off the summit back to the snow. Scampering back to our skis we clip and and start the long ski down. Very varied snow brought us finally back to the car.
10 hours car door to car door, 2100m of vertical ascent and the same down. What an amazing day!
Still the sun shone and the wind blew…