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Father Daughter trip to the Alps

It’s always a plea­sure to help a fam­i­ly spend time togeth­er safe­ly in the moun­tains. I know some of the best vis­its I’ve had with my dad have been on climb­ing trips. Hav­ing time to relax sit­ting around huts, or in camp with­out the elec­tron­ic dis­trac­tions of dai­ly life lends itself quite well for con­nect­ing with peo­ple. This week I climbed in France and Italy with Rob and Sonia, a fit father-daugh­ter-duo that were new to mountaineering.

When Rob and Sonia arrived our weath­er fore­cast looked grim. Almost every day it showed unset­tled air, with pre­cip­i­ta­tion, elec­tri­cal activ­i­ty, and high freez­ing lev­els. Our acclima­ti­za­tion took a bit of weath­er dodg­ing, but luck­i­ly for us the storms gen­er­al­ly wait­ed until lat­er in the day or the evening/​early morn­ing. We spent our first day off the Grand Mon­tets tram, with an intro­duc­tion to cram­pon­ing, self-arrest, and move­ment on rock ter­rain wear­ing boots and crampons. 
The fol­low­ing day our next venue was the Glac­i­er du Tour. A two-hour hike led us up to the Albert Pre­mière hut, which is perched on a lat­er­al moraine pro­vid­ing fast access to the glac­i­er, to review cram­pon tech­niques. After din­ner in the hut, we turned in ear­ly try­ing to get some sleep before our first route the next morn­ing. At 4 am we were drink­ing cof­fee, fol­lowed by lac­ing up our boots, click­ing our head­lamps on and head­ing to the Aigu­ille (nee­dle) du Tour (the town below the peak). A cou­ple thou­sand feet of gain led us to some rock scram­bling, in the Col du supe­ri­or, where we crossed into Switzer­land and gained the Tri­ent Plateau.
Tra­vers­ing across the upper reach­es of the Tri­ent glac­i­er, we soon left the ice and got onto the sum­mit pyra­mid of the Aigu­ille du Tour. A half hour of climb­ing over the clas­sic alpine rock ter­rain land­ed us on the 3,500 meter peak. 
After descend­ing from the Glac­i­er Du Tour we found our fore­cast had not changed. An unset­tled fore­cast with elec­tri­cal storms does not lend itself to safe­ly ascend Mont Blanc (the peak of choice for this trip). The long com­mit­ting fea­tures, and expo­sure to rock fall on the nor­mal route of Mont Blanc require an ide­al fore­cast for a safe ascent. For­tu­nate­ly Cha­monix has a cen­tral loca­tion mak­ing it easy to trav­el to Italy or Switzer­land, which can offer bet­ter fore­casts when the low pres­sure seems to be focused on Cha­monix. After dis­cussing our options and close­ly mon­i­tor­ing the weath­er mod­els we made the final call to cap­i­tal­ize on the less dra­mat­ic fore­cast to our south and head to Italy for a try at Gran Paradiso. 
The Nation­al Park of Gran Par­adiso offers a nice con­trast to Cha­monix. There are no lifts inside the park, and the climb to the hut takes about 2 ½ hours cov­er­ing 800 ver­ti­cal meters, thru an idyl­lic larch for­est and into the sub alpine. Once you pop out of the trees the view of Gran Par­adiso (the high­est Ital­ian peak) is notice­able to say the least. 
After a night in the Cha­bod hut, again a 4 am wake up had us on the move. The sum­mit day involves about 4,500’ of ver­ti­cal gain, some steep snow/​rock ter­rain and about 11 miles round trip hut to hut. The pre-dawn morn­ing start­ed off with the clas­sic sum­mer Euro­pean fore­cast of Sul­try con­di­tions”. Mean­ing warm, hazy, and gen­er­al­ly unset­tled. We climbed quick­ly, with good con­di­tions, and made it up on top with clear skies, and excel­lent views. 
After a bit of time on top with Madon­na, and some of the friend­liest sum­mit con­di­tions I’ve expe­ri­enced, we rap­pelled off the sum­mit block and start­ed our descent. 
As we start­ed down we watched the cumu­lous cloud growth over­take the Cha­monix ridge­line, and Mont Blanc, adding valid­i­ty to our deci­sion to change objec­tive. Due to the fit­ness lev­els of our guests we beat the after­noon weath­er with time to spare, and despite a poor fore­cast with tim­ing, flex­i­bil­i­ty, and effi­cient climb­ing we man­aged to only get hit by a cou­ple rain­drops and climb two engag­ing peaks of the Alps! 
- Alan Rousseau