I’m lying in a van bed with a camelbak full of cold water on my head. The head aches. I can see a bunch of men playing petanque through the backdoor of the van. It’s four of them. Three older ones and one younger. I look at the thermometer in my armpit. 37.2C. The digits are still changing. I knew there’s something wrong with me. It’s that recovery run that got me for sure. I look through the open side door. There is another van parked next to us. Very similar to ours. It’s a British version so its side door faces ours.
The men are still playing that game. I try to understand the rules for a couple of minutes then look away. The neighbouring van is white and has Che Guevara’s face on it. Not only that but also the cow flying with the parachute. I swear I’m not hallucinating. Although, I could be. 37.5C and still going up. The water in the camelbak is not that cold anymore. I think I’ve already done everything I could think of. I drank the electrolytes Audinga gave me, Rehydron that Rūta left plus some more water.
I think of how I got here trying to backtrack the week back. We were in Finale Ligure sport climbing, swimming in the sea, sunbathing, having espressos. Then we drove to Chamonix with the aim of meeting some friends that came for a week of holidays.
Now I remember probably a couple of months ago having lunch with my friend Audinga from London at a Twitter canteen. Damn I miss that food. She told me she wants to climb Mont Blanc then and asked for advice etc. Then at some point later she said she and some of her friends want to run it. Yeah, sure but… There’s much that could fit after that but, especially having in mind they have zero mountaineerig experience. But they are strong runners (marathon in 3.07h kind of strong) and smart. I try to politely talk them out of that saying I’m against such a plan but they have to make their own decisions.
Back to one week ago. We drive to Chamonix. The weather is not that great here. We meet Audinga’s crew. It’s four of them - Rūta, her younger sister Gabrielė, a spanish girl Ido, and Audi herself. They are all super enthusiastic. Audi and Rūta are planning to run Mont Buet the next day. The others will hike it. We tag along as all the rocks are wet in the valley. It’s been raining/snowing for a while. Frieder, our friend from Zürich, also joins us bacause of the same reason - nothing is climbable.
The clearest memory I have from that hike is Gabrielė’s essential oils that she puts on her forehead. Martynas says he gets high every time she does it. But she says it helps her. Although, she slips every time she applies those oils. After the hike we have van dinner with Frieder and meet the others afterwards. They plan to run tomorrow. We want to try and climb something. In the morning though Martynas knees feel weird so he decides to rest. We drive to Argentiere to try and catch Frieder so I could maybe join him and his friend for climbing. They have already left. Bummer! I go for a run from Argentiere to Les Houches as we arrange to meet up the girls there. Audi and Rūta are doing a vertical kilometer today. We meet up near Lac de Chavants. We teach them rock climbing a bit. Then we practice doing a pulley system in case a need for a crevasse rescue arises.
The next day the girls want to do Aigulle du Tour. They seem to not waste time at all! Aigulle du Tour is an easy mountain that contains both snow and rock sections and is a good first route. I think it’s a perfect choice for them as it will require using crampons, ice axes, etc. I join them, Martynas decides to stay in Chamonix. We have a great girls’ day out. They all seem to enjoy it a lot. The weather is perfect. My time predictions are quite precise. We are quite fast, “no bulshit team” I’d say. We take the ~9:15am cable car and start at around 9:30am. First, some hiking to Refuge Alberto, then some snow, crossing Superior Col du Tour, a short rock section and at ~4pm we’re on top. Descent is much more boring as we have to walk the whole way down including the way from Rifugio Alberto to Le Tour. After the whole day of excitement which is like ~10h of movement, we now face the biggest danger - the cows. We do a long detour to avoid them but then we have to face the electric fences. Some of us start throwing the things over the fence ready to jump over while the smarter ones find the handles to open the fence.
Day nr 4. The girls are already renting the gear for Mt Blanc. We give them some of ours. So many questions they have. I feel quite concerned about them. Their plan is to go up with the last cable car and train from Les Houches, reach Gouter late in the evening, rest for 2-3h there and continue up. So all in all, it should be 24h from train station to train station. Maybe I shouldn’t feel responsible as I have already told them I wouldn’t do that and it’s their decision, but I still feel. Ok, whatever, we go with them! Everyone seems a bit more relaxed. Martynas is happy because he will get to buy new shoes for this. Or maybe he goes just so he can justify buying those shoes :)
We get the shoes, pack, take the last cable car, last train. Hike up to Tette Rouse, cross the colouir, scramble the rocks to Gouter in the sunset. It’s magical, no people around, the sky is clear, the moon is huge. No headtorch is necessary. We reach Gouter at ~11:30pm, meet quite an unfriendly host who is moping the room knee-deep full of water. No idea what the room is for or why mop the water!?
We stay there for a couple of hours, get up at ~2am, make some warm food, get ready and leave at 3.30am. Martynas stays as he has some headache and doesn’t feel like going further. So it’s Audi, Rūta and me. Dark night, steady movement, snow all the way so it’s all the same until the top. Just a bit colder. We get to see the sunrise which is very beautiful up there and at around 8am we are on top. The girls don’t miss a chance to do their Instagram duties and I have to be the strict one to remind that we should get going :)
We go down, meet Martynas who is much better after having his full night’s sleep to make up for paying the full price. Going down the rocky part from there is much more annoying now as there are so many people. Many of them are being walked as dogs by the mountain guides. If you plan to go up, I’d suggest doing this part in the evening / at night to avoid the crowds. The walk to the train station seems much longer now but finally we reach it. ~24h train to train. We go down, eat, rest, sleep.
The next day I join Audi for a recovery run which does not make me recover at all. And so I am now here lying in the van reminiscing about the past week. I check the termometer, it’s 38.1C. The men have stopped playing petanque. Martynas has left to skateboard in the skatepark nearby.
As an epilogue, in the evening I get some guests in the van and we all go to the wine bar. How could I miss this! Rūta is sitting on a high chair, Gabrielė is telling us stories about her hip-hop dance carrier and we have some very nice wine. The fever is gone, maybe!