Gran Paradiso

Last week I was climbing peaks and rocks around Chamonix and Courmayeur with Amanda and Mike Smith. The Smiths come from Seattle Washington, where they have three kids and climb mountains without cable cars. This was our schedule: 

  • Day 0: Met in Chamonix for trip overview and gear check.

  • Day 1: Cosmiques Arete, traverse of the Vallee Blanche to the Tornino Hut in Italy.

  • Day 2: Entreves Traverse, Helbronner lift to the Midi and down to Chamonix.

  • Day 3: Southeast Arete of the Index.

  • Day 4: Cragging and skills at the Brevent.

  • Day 5: Hiked into the Emanuele Hut on the Gran Paradiso.

  • Day 6: Climbed the Gran Paradiso (4,061 meters).

  • Day 7: Hiked out from the Emanuele Hut, pizza in Courmayeur, return to Chamonix.

Amanda sorting kit before the Traverse of the Entreves, an exposed fifth-class traverse of a 3,600-meter peak by the Torino Hut. Above her is the Matterhorn. To the right is the Monte Rosa massif. 

Amanda on the knife-edge blocks of the Entreves Traverse. Way down in that valley is the Grivel factory. 

Instead of walking five kilometers back across the Mont Blanc massif we took the Helbronner cable car from the Tornino hut to the Midi station.

Riding the Helbronner cable car is like an alpine amusement park. This photo from the cable car was probably just an Imax movie playing on the wall. 

Mike and Amanda climbing the classic Southeast Arete on the Index in the Aiguilles Rouges above Chamonix. 

On the summit of the Index. It looks a bit froggy on the summit of the Blanc. 

For the final instalment we chose the Gran Paradiso, the highest summit entirely in Italy at 4,061 meters (13,323'). We stayed two nights at the very comfortable Emanuele Hut. This place is PRIME ski touring country: four huts to link together, a ski descent of Italy's highest summit...

This 25-foot tall boulder rolled down beside the Emanuele hut last year. Dylan Taylor was there and has a great photo series of the destruction. 

Global mountain extraordinaire Andrew Wexler came along. Andrew and I have been on many Alaska adventures together including the 185-mile Chugach Crusher, full-length tours of the Tordrillo and Neacola Mountains and a day hike of the Ptarmigan Traverse in Washington. We hadn't seen each other in four years. In those four years Wex has stayed pretty much the same, except now he enjoys the reapings of his IFMGA-jobs, he looks younger and has taken to that troubling sport of paragliding. 

Amanda and Mike and a crow near the summit of the Gran Paradiso.

Amanda, Mike and I on the summit with a Buddhist Virgin Mary. Andrew took the easy way down and paraglided down 2,000 meters to the trailhead in 20 minutes. 

Then Andrew hiked back up to the Emanuele Hut and washed off in my cappuccino. Visit Andrew's blog from this trip for more photos of his cappuccino bath. 

Thanks for a great week Amanda, Mike and Wex! Enjoy the rest of your vacation in Amsterdam and Paris!