August 2015… when on one of the amazing beaches of Anafi, where internet is a luxury, and there is nothing much to do other than crawl from the sandy beach to the sea and back, it was meant to be when I saw a post on Mont Blanc. Where the cicadas sing the day away and the waves kiss your feet, the idea of climbing the highest mountain of Western Europe was imprinted. But that wouldn’t be enough… The whole venture would have to be filmed, under the most adverse of circumstances. Besides, once hard, it is not hard enough and that would be the real challenge.

Training was hard, painful and tiresome. 10 months with many sacrifices and a lot of effort. When faced with your soul’s desire, there is no room for Sundays or rest…

With the additional goal of filming the venture, and the filming equipment amounting to 8kg, the backpack’s final weight would be way over 20kg when the average suggested weight in similar expeditions is marginally 11-12kg.

The big bet was set!

Day 1

It was 11 months ago when we decided on the whole venture, when it seemed so hard and so distant. At last, our desire became our reality, time went by and “I’ll try it” turned to “I’ll do it”. Geneva, Switzerland and from there off to Chamonix, at the foot of the French Alps were we would seek magic with our ever step…

Our trip begins with the best omens. Psychology and physical condition are at their peak and filming has already begun. After one last equipment check and a last visit to the House of Mountain for a final weather forecast, the news hit the team like a bomb. With the bad weather looming, the 4-day climb would have to be compressed in to just 2. The challenge was multiplied by 10 and the risk of not reaching the summit was immense.

On the other hand, the mountain always has the last word and this time would be no exemption.

Day 2

With the only window of good weather in 2 days, the day of the summit would have to be realized immediately and with almost no acclimation. The only overnight stay that did actually go according to schedule was on our first night, at 3.000 meters and with the rest of the sleeping schedule blown to pieces!

An already difficult day became even more so and found us preparing for a night march over a rocky ridge (Gouter Ridge) with in places II & III level scrambles up until Gouter Refuge at 3.817m (about 4 hours) were we would make a 2-hour stop before the final climb at 4.808m. Contrary to the original schedule, in which case with no time pressure, after the 1st night of acclimation and a hearty breakfast we would set off for Gouter Refuge at 3.817m where we would sleep and have our 2nd acclimation night.

The route is equipped with wire ropes and metal ladders at the via ferrata. The whole route to the summit and back would be completed ideally in 12-13 hours and with my personal reveille at 02:30am for filming needs, demands were immense! The rest of the group woke up at 03:00am and after a hasty breakfast we set off with head lights at 04:00am. Ascent to the Mont Blanc summit at 4.808m (6-7 hours) via the classic route (Gouter ridge) and the Bosses edge. Descent to Gouter Refuge (3 hours) where we would have our 2nd overnight. A top experience or pure madness? Either way, we dive with passion and set off strong!


Day 3

With 24kg on the backpack and altitude side effects appearing for more than half our group, the weight seems even greater. But what takes the real toll is when in such a high altitude, with minimum oxygen you not only have to walk, but run, because during filming you were left behind and you have to catch up with the rest of the group. Now, signs of fatigue are more than obvious and in moments like that, when your whole energy has been exhausted and every last drop of adrenaline has been drained out, the only thing that can make you reach the summit is your EGO. Your soul.

The summit was there and nothing is impossible for the one who wants to try, work hard, give it their all and summon every ounce of enthusiasm and energy to reach it. But sometimes, the extreme, hard and from time to time impossible goal is there to remind us how small we are in front of that goal, no matter how hard we have worked for it, no matter how desperately we want it. So, in spite of the mind’s desire, in spite of how hard it tried to give that little extra something, the body surrendered at 4.580m, just 228m before the summit. Unfortunately, the extra weight, the altitude and the time constraint had the final word.

In any case, a good climber is a climber alive.

Day 4

7 days full of images and strong experiences that (literally) take your breath away, came to an end. All great things definitely do not happen from the comfort of our home and our everyday life. Besides, impossible is nothing and there are definitely no limits. As far as the obstacles you face along the way? The only thing you can do is overcome them and move past them… After all, we are addicted… Addicted to life and that’s what we love!

July 2017

In 2017 we tried again.

History repeats itself in the worst way. This time the weather closes in even sooner and the team attempts a direct ascent, bypassing 2 days of acclimation, to realize an ascent in 20 hours from 1.100m, to the summit and the 4.808m.

The summit is now a fact! Mont Blanc, 4.808m

Our ascent ultimately lasted (with the descent) 33 long hours. With absolutely no acclimation in order for our bodies to adjust to the altitude, with only 3 hours of sleep and with no meals! 9.000 calories were burned, and just a small part of them was restored from a tiny amount of chocolate and snacks. No matter how hard we fought against time and adversities, the weather was not our friend and 20 minutes before summit time we lost the fight against the clock, but we won the battle and at 13:00 local time we stepped foot on the Mont Blanc summit. But there is one thing bigger than any summit and that is the battle against yourself.

On the other hand, some open accounts from the past need to be closed…

The Mont Blanc case had just been closed. The bet against ourselves had just been won. That small beach in Anafi could now be proud!