Alpine Elements: a trip to the Alps, with Olivia Wood

We are joined by Olivia Wood, adventurer and mountain athlete. Olivia tells us about her incredible trip to the French Alps.

This is my second Alpine season in Chamonix, and I thought the time had come to attempt Mont Blanc. I travelled with my partner and two of our good friends. We planned to do the Trois Mont’s route and challenge ourselves on one of the longer and more technical routes. In this you summit three 4000m peaks over two days. 

I find I’m always drawn back to these mountains. This is the most beautiful, and dramatic place on the planet in my eyes. Every one of my adventures in the French alps has given me incredible stories to tell. 

 

 

When I enter this place surrounded by mountains my eyes are drawn to those vertical, featureless walls covered in white snow. They make me want to climb them, and experience them. I gravitate to these experiences because they illuminate parts of being human that I didn’t know humans were capable of. This has always been my kind of adventure.

 

 

It had been a year of planning to get to this point; climbing the highest mountain in Europe, Mont Blanc at 4,810m. But unfortunately this time it was all to be taken away by mother nature. I’ve been doing this long enough to understand that the weather plays a vital part in summiting any mountain, so I wasn’t going to let it dishearten me.

Upon arriving in Chamonix, we spent three days acclimatising at an altitude of between 2000m-3500m, in one of the mountain huts. We did a couple of alpine routes over in Italy, only to see that the dreaded storms were rolling in before our eyes. On top of that, prior to us arriving a heat wave of 40 degrees had hit the alps causing the snow to melt, and avalanches to fall. Para gliders were landing on the summit of Mont Blanc in flip flops and t-shits - that says it all!

 

 

I have always given a lot more thought to these types of decisions than most, and don’t take them lightly. I decided that Mont Blanc wasn’t going to be accomplished this year and I wasn’t going to put myself and my team at risk. It was just simply down to the bad luck with the weather. As I always say, the mountains aren’t going anywhere and I will keep trying until I’m finally standing on the summit taking that epic selfie!

 

 

Being surrounded by incredible mountains with no plan now, gave me all the more reason to explore ones that I'd never even considered conquering. Pulling the maps out and studying the weather in different areas, we decided to drive over to Italy where the weather seemed to be clearer for the rest of the week. Standing tall in wild and wonderful Gran Paradiso National Park, Gran Paradiso at 4,061m, became our plan. This mountain isn’t as high as Mont Blanc or as technically challenging but it was going to be a great alternative. What also drew me to it was the lack of access to lifts, providing the ultimate challenge from the valley floor to the summit. Climbing any mountain at this height has its risks. The phycological aspects are as important in alpine climbing as physical aspects. Personally I like to challenge myself and push my boundaries. 

 

 

We took the steps into the unknown. I wasn’t nervous because I was prepared. We hiked through a beautiful pine forest on switch-back tracks until we reached the top of the tree-line, and the views became more dramatic, barren and mountainous. We arrived at the refuge where we'd be eating and sleeping until 4am the next morning. Staying in refuge huts is always an incredible experience; you certainly surround yourself with a lot of interesting characters.

 

 

4am hit us and from this point on it was all about the challenge of getting to that summit safely. The beginning of the climb was straightforward, long gentle inclining snow slopes on a clearly marked trail. As the trail steepened, I fixed my crampons onto my B2 Mammut boots, put on my helmet and harness and whipped out my ice axe to tackle a 30 degree slope. At this point, I was beginning to see the sunrise on the tops of the Italian alps. Seeing that always makes my heart beat faster and makes me realise these are the moments I live for.

 

 

As I’m taking it all in, its not long before we were at the summit. Mission Completed. Another one of my journeys to physically touch and connect with the mountains. It definitely helps me gain a sense of perspective and learn a lot about myself. I learn things that I couldn’t learn in day to day life.

 

 

To see more of Olivia's adventures, head over to her instagram page @olivia.jane.x 

 

If you're feeling inspired for more check out The Journal for more epic adventures and stories. 


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