Standing at the centre of the world
My heart hammered against my ribcage as a wave of adrenaline coursed through my body. Beads of sweat slowly trickled down the side of my face as my eyes scanned the rocks for the next suitable hand grip. I daren't look down, only up, at a seemingly endless ridge of rock that rose steeply into the cloudless afternoon sky. It was all I could do to stay focused on the next five seconds of my life, as right now that was all that mattered. One false move and the consequences could be disastrous.
To feel alive in life we must live for the moment; we must put ourselves in situations where life hangs in the balance, sometimes literally, and where we are challenged to overcome our fears. I had come to climb Mont Blanc for those exact reasons. In order to succeed I would not only have to push myself to the limits, both physically and mentally, but I would have to learn new skills and techniques to overcome the challenges that stood between myself and the summit.
After three days intense training, I knew it was time to focus on the real challenge: climbing Mont Blanc itself. This would be as much about mental attitude and belief as it would be about physical fitness and ability. In terms of fitness I knew I was in the best possible shape, and every training session leading up to the trip was fuelled by Argi+. It now came down to mental attitude; knowing that anything is possible when you put your mind to it.
Mont Blanc Ascent: Day One
"I'm alive. After the last three hours that means so much, as for so long I feared for my life. Whilst I don't think I would have died had I fallen, at the time of climbing up the ridge to Goûter Refuge it didn't seem that way. In fact I can't even remember a time in my life where I felt even close to what I did today." (Extract from Marcus’ journal. Maybe we can graphically show this)
The climb up the rocky ridge to Goûter Refuge was one of the toughest moments of my life, not so much physically but from a mental point of view. I committed the cardinal sin of not focusing on the next five seconds of my life: where I next needed to grip. Instead, racked with fear, I let thoughts of my wife and becoming a father to enter my mind. It took all of my mental strength to refocus on the task and overcome the fear.
Having finally made it up the last ice-covered rocks, the fear subsided to be replaced by a sense of achievement: it's only when we are faced with adversity that we really discover who we are. Despite this, I went to bed with a head full of worry; I was still to climb the summit.
Mont Blanc Ascent: Day Two
"As we neared the ridge my heart quickened at the sight of the drops on either side. My fears from the day before had begun to resurface again as I fought to zone in on the steps in front of me. Now that day had broken the summit was in clear view. Every step was taking us closer, yet it seemed we still had an eternity to go." (Extract from Marcus’ journal. Maybe we can graphically show this)
Our summit attempt had begun in the dead of night with the mountain veiled in a cloak of darkness. We set off in silence as each of us focused on what lay ahead, the only noise was the rhythmic crunch of crampons in the snow and the gentle clink of ice axes. Whilst I had visualised what it would be like to reach the summit, I hadn't given much thought to what it would take to get there and now, as the mountain reared up in front of us, it began to hit home just how steep the climb was.
The ridge was looming ahead of us as the morning grew brighter, highlighting the severity of it. Despite there being steps cut into the ridge, which ran along the edge of the mountain, it didn't make it any easier to climb. My heart raced as I focused solely on making sure each step was made. I stole a glance to my left and instantly regretted it as I almost lost balance.
Journal entry: The summit
"It's hard to describe the exact feeling I experienced as we summited. First and foremost there was a huge sense of relief; I could suddenly afford to switch off for a while. I no longer had to focus on every step. With the ability to switch off came an almighty wave of emotion that took me by surprise. I remember dropping to one knee as tears welled up inside and thoughts of Gigi (my late Gran) filled my mind. Whereas before I had choked the tears back, here I let them flow. Her lucky charm had been in my pocket the entire time and I felt closer to her here. We had made it to the top of Mont Blanc.
"The sun had begun its slow ascent into the sky and I could see for miles on end in every direction. It was as if I was stood in the centre of the world and everything unfolded from here. It was a perfect moment, my mind suddenly empty as the spectacular views washed over me, instilling a sense of awe and calmness. The only world that mattered to me was the one that I could see stretching far away into the horizon."