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Glorious Fatigue on Monte Rosa

Irene Woodbury

The high mountains demand respect for their immense presence, potential for danger and fantastic panoramic gifts. My husband and I finished our six-day experience among the crests of Monte Rosa. Life goes into a different dimension at 12000 ft. As true alpinists, we had wake-up calls at 4am everyday and were treading the snow at or before dawn to guarantee the best conditions for the long journey to and from the peaks. By 11am, the snow that was crispy at dawn had turned into mush under your crampons and made walking almost hazardous from mounting snowballs that formed under your feet in descent.

Monte Rosa

I am treading up the first hill, connected by rope to a mountain companion

At that altitude, you are literally living above the clouds. Most days, the valleys were hidden under a blanket of vapours while our skin toasted away despite protective factor 50+ sun block, thanks to a very formidable sun.

Monte Rosa

After reaching a peak, we head back down in the afternoon

Processing oxygen becomes a more cumbersome on top of Monte Rosa, according to scientists. We were lucky because we only suffered from a couple of headaches and I had a slight loss of appetite. Blood runs thicker through the veins as it tries to nourish the body on overdrive, plodding along the trails to Punta Parrot (mt 4435/ ft 12422), Punta Gnifetti (mt 4554/ft 12756) and Piramide Vincent (mt 4215/ft 11806), in our case. Fatigue is a constant but through sheer willpower, you burn on. One step at a time gets you to the top of the summits and back to the lodge for some much-awaited rest and the single hot meal of the day.

Monte Rosa

In an icy patch, we drill safety nails into the mountain face and cross with ice axes and crampons

The landscape dazzled our eyes in its symphony of white, ice, snaking human trails of skiers and alpinists. We could constantly admire a handsome suite of summits. It was even possible to see the Matterhorn peek out from behind Lyskamm, a perfectly triangular peak.

Monte Rosa

Lyksamm North with the Matterhorn visible in the background

Everything is hushed. You only hear the crunch of snow under your crampons for hours, except for the occasional comment or exclamation from your alpine companions. Being on the top of the world is surely a kind of escape from it. No TV. No distractions. Barely any mobile phone use. You. Nature. Sun. Wind. Snow. Clouds. Ice. Rocks.

Monte Rosa

Half-way to the lodge Capanna Margherita at 4556 metres

I discovered that I can handle serious alpine conditions. My body and mind allowed me to succeed in reaching a series of incredible summits on Monte Rosa, the second tallest mountain in Europe. This experience only makes me further revere those who scale the Himalayas, shooting twice as high into the atmosphere. (Of course, our alpine guide, Andrea, came with pictures of his journey there and up the Mountain G2.)

Monte Rosa

Our group at the top of Mount Vincent. I am on the left

Resources

www.xmountain.it: tour group through which this adventure was booked

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Irene Woodbury is a writer, teacher and artists living in Padua, Italy, and has recently started to intensively explore Italy's magnificent Alps.

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