“This is real mountaineering,” Ton says to me as we make our way up the final steep slope on the North Face of the Mont Dolent. I was at that moment reminding myself to make a good mental note of how fine our position looked. The fresh snow of last week was still perfectly white, unlike the older snows lower down, which have gotten brown and discoloured from weeks of summer weather. This white snow, now frozen and hard after a few days of melt/freeze, and with the tracks of a previous party, made while the snow was still soft, left us a perfect stairway, foot steps for relaxed feet, not having to front point or “French Technique pied plat.” Conditions like these are rare indeed, nobody else on the mountain, great mixed climbing (some snow and some rock), all contributing to a stimulating experience. The mountain is asking for different skills from the climber, our brain and ego constantly infatuated with the different movements required, as we go up and up, above the clouds on towards the summit.
We hiked to the Bivouac Dolent, “La Maye,” Tuesday, getting there in 2.5 hours. The steep path was a virtual stairway to heaven, gaining elevation immediately. The fields of La Fouly were quickly left far below, and we reached this odd looking bivouac in no time, a submarine like structure placed in the scree slope below the mountain.
It’s a cosy little place inside, with all the cutlery and crockery from an elderly lady’s kitchen. I’d brought a cook stove for our pasta and morning coffee.
Wednesday morning’s glacier was chaotic and convoluted, asking for creative route placement for the first couple of hours.
Reaching over the gaping bergschrund at 3250, we mixed it up, with our right foot on rock and left on snow.
After gaining the NE ridge, we found tiny holds for our crampons on the north side, then back onto the glacier, and back again onto the rocky ridge, then onto those pristine, final slopes, after yet another vertical bergshrund crossing.
Looking into the Chamonix valley, with it’s multitude of alpinists, we couldn’t help but feel super lucky to be completely alone on a supreme alpine route.
Thank you Ton! I’m always amazed, how you can come back here to Verbier, your little paradise away from home in Holland, working more than full time as a nephrologist/transplant physician, a research scientist on the cutting edge of new organ growth, and hospital manager in charge of thousands of employees, and climb so well with me to the top of all these peaks we have done together over the years.