FKT: Hillary Gerardi - Mont Blanc (France) - 2023-06-17

Route variation
Round trip from Chamonix
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
7h 27m 39s

I left the church in the center Chamonix just after 2am with light gear, and ran up "Kilian's route".  After 1000m, I got to my cache where my bigger bag with crampons, ice axe, helmet, glacier kit, etc was stowed.  I continued up the route, which takes a shortcut off trail to the start of the Jonction where I met Valentine Fabre to rope up and traverse via the "jonction du milieu", which is the traverse itinerary currently in the best shape.  About level with les Grand Mulets, we left Kilian's route and took the North Ridge of the Dôme du Gouter, rejoining the other route and Mont-Blanc's "Voie Normale" at the Col du Dôme.  I did an out and back alone to the summit on the Arête des Bosses (crossing paths on the ascent and descent with my husband, Brad Carlson, who was guiding Doug Mayer to the summit.  After one of my extra mittens blew away in the wind, they gave me a backup glove). I took the ridge-crest track up and down, with an arrival at the summit in 5:12:28.

Back at Vallot, I met Petter Engdhal who had come up to take photos and hand me a gel, and rejoined Valentine and descended via the Grand and Petit Plateau (Kilians route). After the Jonction, I chose a longer traverse on the established trail rather than the shortcut because the snow was frozen hard and would have been more challenging/dangerous.  At the old abandoned lift station, I met Meg Mackenzie, changed into running shoes, left behind the alpine gear and together we reversed the initial ascent back to the church. 

Conditions were really excellent.  Attempting this FKT has been a project of mine for several years and hasn't been possible because we haven't gotten enough snow in the winter to fill in the Jonction.  In addition, in the last two years, a crevasse opened up on the summit ridge making the passage more delicate.  This spring, I spent a lot of time on and around the route and in the Mont blanc massif preparing and waiting for the right window. Because it's such a severe elevation gradient, it's really challenging to get conditions that are good all the way.  There needs to be a good cycle of warm weather to consolidate the snow (but not too much to melt out the Jonction, or turn the North Ridge to ice), and clear, cold nights to allow for a strong refreeze.  In the weeks before, I got lots of real-time conditions information from local guides, hut caretakers, and consulted with a local meteorologist. In the end, the conditions were incredible on the ascent with a great refreeze and very good conditions/tracks up the North Ridge.  There were periods of sustained wind 50kph NNW on the Arête des Bosses making travel a little slower. On the way down, the snow didn't soften at all, meaning glissading was very limited (I was able to do one nice pitch, but the rest was so cut up with frozen ski tracks that it wasn't possible).  Softer snow on the way down would definitely make it a little quicker, but it's a fine line with making sure you get up on hard snow. 

A note on the route: 

Emelie and Kilian's records both took the Petit and Grand Plateaux on the ascent and the descent. Unfortunately the route is exposed to serac fall (and increasingly so as climate change accelerates) and is no longer recommended for ascending because you spend a lot of time under the seracs. The north ridge, while much steeper and requiring true, heavier alpine gear, is not exposed to seracs. I had anticipated that it would take longer than the plateaux, but conditions allowed for efficient progression, and therefore, in my opinion, makes it a better candidate for future attempts.  

finally, a note on the timing data: arriving at the church, I accidentally hit lap instead of stop, so my watch includes a final 2:10 'lap' standing in front of the church at the end. 


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