I drove into Chamonix past the familiar roundabout at its entrance. Two tired-looking alpinists trudged along the path, kitted up and clearly just back down into the valley at the end of some adventure. I secretly wished I was them: a safely accomplished objective; worn out but content.
When they recharge with a burger in their stomachs they’ll revel in what they’ve just achieved. But for now they walked slumped, tired and hungry with a heavy pack digging into their shoulders. In 48 hours I would still be on the mountain wishing I was back down in the valley.
We traversed the glacier and up the familiar faint path around the north face of the Dru. Already in situ at our preferred bivi spot were two English guides, hunkering down for the night. The next morning we stayed a pitch behind them until the first hurdle; the dark chimney, choked up with snow and ice. The topo suggested we would have to take our packs off, although this wasn’t the only occasion we would.
The granite kept on coming, pitch after pitch, only one or two being memorable. The rest was just a blur of endless rock. The quality of the climbing just wasn’t satisfying though. Maybe it was the style of climbing; thrutching became the word of the day. Maybe it was our weakened resolve. Laborious grunting up offwidths, chimneys and cracks. Shoving my hands into wet fractures, no careful placements of hands and feet, just cramming in our bloodied appendages. Quartz crystals made fine slices into my palm and the ligaments in the back of my left hand now feeling the strain after pulling thousands of metres of rope while on a continuous lead.