This is a story about two wannabe alpine mountaineers - Sophie and Charley
We started dating 4 years ago and were married on 25th May 2013. When we met, neither of us were climbers nor had stepped foot inside a climbing wall. I love challenges and had my eyes set on alpine mountaineering for a while. A few months into our relationship, when I told Charley I was going to climb Mont Blanc, he asked if he could join. It was quite out of character for him but he was keen to experience the mountains and push himself in such a beautiful environment.
The rest is quite literally history, we climbed Mont Blanc and both became hooked. It's an incredible feeling to be in the mountains and learn to climb with the person you love most in the world. It's a shared passion and definitely a huge element of our relationship.
We spent the next 2 years spending a week in Scotland in the winter and a week in Chamonix in summer, all with our mountain guide, Robin Beadle.
Finally, last summer we felt ready to take on the Alps and do our first route on our own. Exiting! I guess the whole trip started as a bit of a disaster... As the responsible Alpinists we had become, we decided to go out drinking the night before to celebrate the start of our holiday. We stayed out too late and were severely hung over on the flight to Geneva.
I ended up leaving my bag on the flight and having to spend the first two days of our holiday travelling back and forth from Geneva to pick up my bag that had been flown to the UK and back.
As useless as this may sound, I promise I have my head screwed on and when in the mountains, we make a pretty strong and determined team. The next day, we walked up to the Albert Premier Hut and got ready for our first alpine route the following morning.
Up at the crack of dawn, we moved through the glacier whilst admiring the sunrise and the alpine glow reflecting on The Aiguille Du Chardonnet. When I conjure up the image in my mind, it takes my breath away. It's my dream mountain to climb one day.
The morning of our climb up Aiguille Du Tour, spirits were high and we had a fantastic first half of the climb. Then things started to go sour, the clouds moved in and the first mistake we made was following another group across what looked to be a short cut only to find out they were headed for the North Face route, not the fascile route we wanted. This meant we had to scramble over a rocky ledge which felt dangerous and a school boy error. Once we crossed over the ridge, we had the scramble up to the summit to contend with. Physically and mentally I had been shaken.
Usually very smiley, my face on the summit picture looked anxious about the descent still to come.
Six hours after leaving we were back at the Albert Prem and discussing what went wrong and how we could improve. By this stage in our mountaineering careers, we had some decent climbs to our names, Mont Blanc Three Monts Route, Cosmiques Arete, Aiguille du Pelerins, plus a few in Scotland and Switzerland. The fascile route up the Aiguille du Tour had seemed well within our grasp so how had we gone so wrong?!
On the walk back down to the valley, someone told us there was a direct route straight down the moraine from the hut. You could see the valley below and we were looking forward to being there, so we thought we would give it a shot.
Mistake Number Two.
Another error of judgement and notch on the learning curve. In B3 mountaineering boots and with 4 hours of sharp descent, we wrecked our feet. We wound our way down the path that was barely clinging to the side of the mountain. I was tired which only exaggerated my worry, this was not a well trodden path but by the time we realised, we couldn't face turning back. By the end of the descent, I had taken my boots off and was walking in my climbing socks. Charley had finished the descent slightly earlier than me, and when I got down there I was exhausted, in floods of tears and with my mountaineering boots hanging over my shoulders, close to being binned.
The next day our feet were so damaged from the soul destroying descent we spent the day by the Chamonix pool (best pool in the world) and the evening in the pub with fellow mountaineers we had met at the Albert Prem.
Despite the years of experience we had built up, we had made errors that affected my confidence in the mountains. I had felt scared and had lost confidence in my ability to make good decisions that would enable me to move safely and be strong in the mountains. I began to question my motivation for placing myself in a dangerous environment and my motivation for wanting to be in the mountains was affected. This may seem a little extreme, but given that this was a beginners route and we had managed to go so wrong, I was worried about how we would fair on harder routes.
2013's mountain adventures are set to be make or break for us. We adore Chamonix and decided to head here after our wedding. We have taken some time to build up confidence in the UK and build on the mistakes we made. We know how serious the mountains are and we have a good base of knowledge. I am excited to be back here but also a little anxious to see how my mind will respond. Although we've invested considerably in time and money, if we lost faith in the mountains, the biggest loss would be the loss of mountaineering as a shared passion between us.
We came across the
and decided to sign up, it offered us a chance to meet other climbers and stay at the
with all inclusive lift pass, food, accommodation and evening talks. What we have really missed is getting to know fellow mountaineers and climbing with them to share experiences - highs and lows.
The mountains have so much to offer and I've aspired to be a good alpine mountaineer for years. Reading the tales of the world's greatest mountaineers, they do of course have far more dangerous stories to tell than I and are a great source of inspiration to me.
It is the mountaineers of our past that are the heroes of my future!
This is the story of the alpinists we were in 2012. Stay tuned to find out about the alpinists Chamonix has helped us become over the last few weeks of this alpine season.