‘It’s an example of ‘Type II’ fun’, she said. If you’ve never heard of it, Type II fun is something pretty special. Read on: Ella Williams, outdoor instructor, reveals her favourite climbing experience to us and explains why it means so much to her:
Location: Mont Blanc: Chamonix: French Alps
Last summer I went to Chamonix for the first time to visit a good friend. For those who aren’t familiar with the area, it’s a lively city in spectacular surroundings, situated at the base of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in the Alps. Whilst there a group of us went up to the Aiguille du Midi to complete the Cosmiques Arete. It’s considered a good ‘starter’ route for those wanting to move into the more demanding and committing alpine environment.
Acclimatisation to Altitude
Having only been there a couple of days, I hadn’t really acclimatized to being around 1000m in the valley, let alone jumping on a ski lift and zooming up to 3842m in the space of half an hour. As soon as we got to the corridor, before exiting the station, the altitude induced dizziness took over. In the next moment I had tripped over my crampons and ended up flat on my face on the floor! The alarmed expression on my friends’ faces was pretty obvious, as we were just about to descend a snowy ridge, with a drop either side. Falling over again was not an option. We made our way slowly across the crevasse ridden glacier, before starting the long arduous climb (thankfully it was okay to remove the crampons here!).
Challenging Alpine Conditions
The weather was shocking, freezing cold and unusually snowy for August, meaning that we had whiteouts, wind, hail and general foreboding weather patterns. We carried on despite this, having progressed too far to turn back now. However, by this point I was suffering from the altitude quite badly, with dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle weakness and to top it all off, slurring at my climbing partner. We ended up on the route for 9 hours in these conditions, moving nonstop, with only a short time to pull one flapjack out which I shared with my pals at the abseil point. With the benefit of hindsight and now some more understanding of what Alpine climbing is about, I will definitely acclimatise earlier in the future. Eating and drinking more would also be beneficial! In all honesty, my discomfort was purely due to a lack of experience at the time. However, we all have to start somewhere!
It may seem strange that this is my favourite climb, but I guess it is an example of ‘Type II’ fun. I had only led my first ever trad route the previous summer, so it was a huge step forward for me in my climbing journey.
What is Type II fun??
Ella says it’s …feeling overwhelmed at the time, but then once you’ve recovered, you realise it’s the first time you feel like you are truly alive and surviving what the mountains are throwing at you. For me, that’s worth every challenging moment and is utterly exhilarating.
Share your Type II fun experiences
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