Tuesday 6 July 1999

How not to start Mountaineering

I dug up an old trip report I wrote over 20 years ago about climbing Mont Blanc. The original is in German so enjoy this ridiculous tale of an adventure 馃槈 Also don't try to kick-start your mountaineering career in the same way.

I've added some photos from other trips since I can't find the original '99 pics.

Philipp - August 2019

2009 - Sunset at Gouter

Original Report from July 1999

Out of boredom I wrote this report on the high spped train (ICE) from Munich to Guzbach and back - useful information can not be found here. If you should read it, then you will figure out what kind of unprepared mission we executed. The participants were
  • Dirk "Schmelz" Schmelzer
  • Stefan "Horni" Hornke
  • Peter Hammes 
  • and myself Philipp "Fuzzel" Hammes

Tuesday, June 15, 1999, afternoon
Unsuspecting I drove with my mate Deffe through Dachau as my phone rang meaningful with the German hymn - My brother's question was also easy to understand:

"Remember that pub-night? Coming with us on Mont Blanc?"
"In 2 weeks."

So I agreed and started to buy / borrow equipment. Dirk, Stefan, Peter and I then emailed each other until we had everything together and a meeting place had been agreed. Oh, our previous mountain experience? Zilch.

Thursday, 1.7.1999, 10:09
And so it begins - I was on the train on the way to Darmstadt. Although many people advised us against this endeavour , we tried anyway. Only one had a certain amount of optimism: Horst Oster, our cousin from Rosenheim. Mum's intention was that he dissuades us from the idea; Well, that backfired a bit. Horsti has been a mountaineer for about 20 years and had already achieved entertaining peaks like Denali and climbed various mountains in South America. The statement that Mont Blanc is a nice beginner's mountain can be attributed to him a and we "should just go for it". In Darmstadt, I bought a bit more stuff and then went for some shut-eye.

Friday, 2.7.1999, 01:00
As it turned out later, the following section - the car ride - was by far the most dangerous part of the trip: Somewhere in Switzerland Dirk fell asleep - unfortunately at this time he was the last occupant awake and sat also front left[1]. Horni's Golf cruised down more or less uncontrolled with 100 km/h on the Swiss highway. Lucky us only a boundary pole, a headlight glass and a turn signal were the casualties. Also Dirk was pretty much done afterwards.
Once we arrived in Chamonix, it was time to stare at the mountain and have breakfast. Since we did not have all the equipment and provisions, we went shopping and moved on to Les Houches - a little village not far from Chamonix.
After more or less functional packing of the backpacks, we were welcomed by very nice weather, but after a few meters, the first obstacle was in the way - a nice little mountain stream. Anyway, a hop, skip and a jump later we continued up the mountain. At some point the trees stopped and a short time later we came hit the mountain tram, which takes 99% of all climbers. We took some care that the thing does not flatten us and then arrived at 2300 m. Somehow this was just a nice mountain hike so far and not so much should change until the hut: Apart from the fact that someone had substituted the remaining vegetation with snow fields and we were allowed to look at some ugly chamois.

[1] this is where the steering wheel is located.

Friday, 2.7.1999, 19:00
New Tete Rousse in 2019 with Baby Play Corner

Finally the T锚te Rousse Hut[2] came into sight. After a few minutes, we also reached it and were able to rest comfortably.
The view down the valley was just great, although it was a bit hazy. At some point my digestive tract made itself noticeable and while I was thinking, if I want to use this strange toilet house at all, Horni and Peter were already thinking loud about its engineering: "For sure there's a 50m pipe going down there so the shit isn't kicking up a stink here."

The pipe was 1/500 of that - it stank. Eat, go to sleep - that was the first day: about 2000 meters without much difficulty.

[2]The old T锚te Rousse Hut has been dismantled and a new hut was build in 2003

Saturday, 3.7.1999, 06:00
Getting up, do not wash and have breakfast. For the day we had planned the Grand Couloir, but we did not leave until very late, because we had not adjusted the crampons and had to figure out how the climbing harness works and minor things along those lines.

Saturday, 3.7.1999, 09:00
Specki below the Grand Couloir
The sun had been up a long time, but the slope of the Grand Couloir was still in the shade - not for long. After a short snow-hike we made the first acquaintance with rockfall - that was even before the traverse - luckily only a stone caught my ass and it was so small enough to avoid serious consequences. That was a bit of an unpleasant wake up call and because of that, the traverse should cost us some nerves.
It started with the fact that we did not even know that there was a steel cable to secure us and that we started to improvise:

  • Peter and Stefan went over with a (much too short) sling and had some problems because they could not pass quickly.
  • Dirk and I have took a 12 meter rope, clipped it on the cable in the middle with a screwgateand us at the each end - very handy and you get across in a double pack.
Peter was pretty exhausted now and the panic point came immediately afterwards, a short rock climbing section with a via ferrata - technically relatively simple and we would pass it without problems on the way back. We started very cumbersome belaying and meanwhile a boulder struck right next to us with a loud bang. Because we did not manage to move quickly enough and we were still in a rock-fall area, we were still losing our shit. Then, after a rather brutal rock fall rolled down the Couloir, the first voices of retreat could be heard.

Why didn't we go back? Because we thought it was bad to go through the traverse again at this time of day. The sun was shining straight into the Couloir and getting more stones ready to tumble.

2009 - Climb up to the Gouter Hut
The rest of the way up to the hut wasn't a problem anymore - Horni drove us on with his permanent gas emissions ... We were only wondering about all the others who went up or down being short-roped - if one falls, all fall, right?[3]

[3]As further research by the alpine clubs turned out, we were on the money with this assessment back in 1999

Saturday, 3.7.1999, 14:00
Still a bit nervous, we arrived at Go没ter Hut. The rest of the day's program consisted of eating, drinking, preparing equipment (yes, we became a bit smart) and trying to sleep.

Sunday, 4.7.1999, 2:00 clock
Horni had not slept so much due to the altitude, but otherwise everything was still in the green area. After the short breakfast, we put on our gear and joined the queue up the mountain.

Although not very fast, but with a steady pace, it went up the Dome du Go没ter. Horni started to struggle with altitude - it was not his fitness that annoyed him (he had a training plan to increase stamina for the project), but simple nausea. Our speed was constantly decreasing but still acceptable. In the meantime, it dawned and the last shelter in front of the summit was in sight. We were looking forward to a break, which unfortunately had a bitter aftertaste: Meanwhile, our water supplies were already so decimated that we should not have any more in the foreseeable future. 

2009 - Vallot Hut at Sunrise
A little bit recovered we went on but the beautiful weather, which had accompanied us until now left at the same time as really started to feel the thin mountain air. The air pressure on the summit is about 590 mbar - not very much and at 4400 meters it was not much more. Somehow we finally got to the summit as one of the last rope teams crawling over the Bosses ridge, which we fortunately did not see due to the fog because it goes straight down towards Italy (right) and France (left).

Sunday, 4.7.1999, 10:00 clock
On the summit, the wind was pretty strong, the visibility was almost zero, we weren't in a good shape. The summit wasn't very pleasant either - it is mainly characterised by the spots of vomit and yellow snow, at least for that day. We briefly tried to capture a summit photo (which turned out to be a dud) and then it was time to go down again.

Plan A (climbing Mont Blanc) was successfully completed at this point - we set out to work on Plan B (come down and tell about it). Because descending is much easier than climbing, Peter and Horni were soon able to grab their backpacks, which they had deposited in the Vallot Hut.

Our water was finally depleted and so Peter, Dirk and I decided that it would be better for Peter and me to go ahead and get water from the Go没ter Hut.

I don't want to bore you with details again, so I'll cut it short: Peter and I ran down the Dome du Go没ter - which turned out to be very fast descend - whereas Dirk and Horni immediately slid down on iso-mats, which went even faster. Why did we even bring iso-mats? NFI ...

Sunday, 4.7.1999, 16:00
After a break of 2 hours in the Go没ter Hut decided to leave for the Grand Couloir. The descent to the Traverse went quickly and without problems, but a wet snow avalanche had flushed down the middle section of the trail of the traverse and we faced a 1.5 meter wide channel. Stefan and I awent first, but I had to step a little bit into the snow which did not offer as much support as it did 1.5 days ago. After a bit of hesitation we just jumped over the channel. Then came a rockfall, then Dirk and Peter and then a rockfall again - done! The successful implementation of Plan B was within reach. Comfortable and relaxed, we went to the mountain railway station.

[4]Being real tight arses we made the major mistake of not buying water at the T锚te Rousse Hut. Boy we were sooo thirsty for the rest of the hike and eventually dehydrated, I'm wondering why this never got a mention although I can vividly remember it 20 years later

2009 - Summit again
Sunday, 4.7.1999, 21:00
Break, Petzels on and onwards.

Monday, 5.7.1999, 1:00
After a never-ending descent through the French forests, a few hundred meters in front of the car, the mountain stream stood in the way again - meanwhile it had significantly grown in size due to melting snow. Somehow we managed to get over this one too ... you don't want to know.

Monday, 5.7.1999, 1:20
Plan B (almost) done - we sorted our gear, played with a little black cat, which saw our equipment chaos as a playground and in the end threw everything in the car and drove off - the cat escape an involuntary trip to Germany at the last second.

Monday, 5.7.1999, at noon
Darmstadt had us back again - after an almost never ending drive during which the one or the other driver would have almost fallen asleep  behind the wheel and therefore plenty of unplanned power naps. Plan B completed - what about plan C? Well, very simple: Now it is the highest mountain in Africa![5]

[5]Not long after Stefan and Peter actually had a go at Kilimanjaro but only Peter made it to the top ... in a blizzard. 

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