Mont Blanc: Refuge Gonella; looking at the Glacier du Dome

We slept in, had a late breakfast and enjoyed the fantastic views from the Refuge Gonella over the Glacier du Dome toward the Bosses ridge. We actually could see people up there on the ridge ascending Mont Blanc! There where frequent noises of rockfall in the surrounding rock walls as well as the sound of huge ice blocks that thundered down from the ice falls onto the Glacier du Dome.

The Refuge Gonella is a fairly primitive hut: it can only be supplied through the air by helicopter and thus the quality (and quantity!) of the food leaves a lot to be desired. Breakfast consisted of zwieback and jam, for dinner we got a big piece of sausage with some canned vegetables and some canned fruit. Lunch (pasta) was a bit better. Half-board costs 37 Euros, a can of coke 3,50 Euros. But that's still better than having to carry food, a stove, fuel, and a tent up the mountain. The toilets are of the French design and strategically placed at the edge of the cliffs so that the waste falls straight down onto the glacier...

Mont Blanc: toilet at the Refuge Gonella

There where only a few people at the hut, among them an Italian couple and three Germans. While the other climbers stayed in the hut that day, the Germans went for the summit, leaving at midnight. So did the two Italians who left even earlier. In the morning the Italians came back, they had turned around after they got lost on the upper part of the Glacier du Dome. By 10pm or so we saw the German party high on the glacier coming back. Upon returning they told us that because of the recent snow falls there was no spur and they had to find their way up the glacier, checking out numerous dead ends on the way. When they finally reached the Col des Aiguille Grises (3810 m), from which the route goes along ridges and route finding is easy, it was already 8am and they considered it too late to go for the summit. One of them also had problems with the altitude.

After lunch Claus-Dieter and I took off to venture onto the glacier and up the route in order to kill some time and to check out the route a bit. We didn't take backpacks along, just harnesses and the rope. We went up the glacier a few hundred meters. This was a chance to enjoy the spectacular views on this broken up glacier since on the actual climb we would ascend this part at night in darkness. When we got back to the hut, a few more climbers had arrived from the valley. Apparently, word about the great weather forecast had gotten around and the hosts expected the arrival of over 30 people! This didn't sound great since most of them would likely go for the summit the following night. But even with 30 people on the route, this should be still solitude compared with the hundreds of people on the Gouter route... And indeed, in the evening the place got packed with people, many of them hanging out on the helipad to enjoy the sunset. We got our packs ready and filled up on drinking water for the next day. I bought 3 liters for the bargain price of EUR 9.60...