With world champs over and some time to spare, we hitched a ride with some fellow orienteers to the well known climbing town of Chamonix. The Mont Blanc massive loomed enticingly over us on our lazy day off so the next day we scraped together some gear(it is illegal to hire out ropes in france apparently though so we had to go without ), and some advice (which varied wildly )
Conveniently you can catch a cable car from bellevue, just down the valley from Chamonix, then rail up to 2300m,saving some climb. From there it was a scramble up a steep rocky ridge to the Gouter hut,with only one dangerous part,the Grand Couloir. This fires rocks down at a rather rapid rate,and requires a quick passage. I was mortified that some of the french climbers didn't think a helmet was necessary here, who were in turn mortified that we weren't roped. The hut was an interesting experience which included a delicious dinner and a short poor sleep (with 3800m altitude and generous amounts of cheese dreams become stranger!). Breakfast was at 2am, and we trudged off up the snow slope by torchlight to the dom du Gouter, the few crevasses large but open and avoidable. Further up the mountain the weather was getting dodgy, with cloud zooming past at about 70kph and bringing flurries of snow. It started to get pretty cold, especially as it is not easy to move very fast at 4500m. The parties ahead of us turned back and so did we, sheltering long enough in the emergency shelter till first light to get amazing views over les Aguilles and the surrounding glaciers and mountains. Great feeling crunching around on snow and looking down at the world at sunrise.