Adventures come in all sizes, so I like to imagine that my life is a planner full of fun experiences, each chalk full of opportunities to explore and grow my imagination. Anyone who knows me will attest to my desire to do everything in a big way, which is why choosing to race Ironmans was no surprise to my crew. I’m used to hearing “you’re crazy.”
PSH, I welcome it.
So after a few years of the swim, bike, run life, I decided it was time for a change. I might also add that I felt a force to change my routine due to the injuries I was facing (my last post goes into detail on that). I’m pretty honest about not enjoying a long bike ride, and those open water swims with 10,000 flailing arms and legs can be a bit much. So I started to contemplate my other options, keeping in mind that I’m more a feet-on-the-ground kinda gal who needs to feel more in control of her activity (other than running). And because I was wrestling with being in my 30s and crossing off that non-existent bucket list, I started to drift towards big thoughts. What can I do that is BIG? Like big girl, big heart, big adventure kind of BIG?
I know - I’ll climb a mountain.
No, not just any mountain. Someplace far away, that might scare me a bit, but that will ultimately move me in ways that are far beyond physical. I huddled up with friends about the biggies - Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Everest - but no one was on the same page about timing, and as soon as I got it in my head that I wanted to do this, I just knew I couldn’t let anyone hold me back.
So I made a choice: MONT BLANC!
Mont Blanc - as Wiki likes to put it - is the highest mountain in the Alps and the highest in Europe west of Russia's Caucasus peaks. It rises 15,800 feet above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence.
The photos prove this is one breathtaking place to be and I need my breath taken away. I have been looking to break a cycle I’ve been in and I was glad to make the decision, pick the adventure and lock the dates. Only problem - no girlfriend of mine was down to come with. Between the prices, the long time away and the volume of what I was asking of them - I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t get a thumbs up. But it soon became clear that this trip alone might just be exactly what I have been in need of. Let’s not beat around the bush, people - we need our time away. I have no kids, great co-workers who will back me up and a husband that is self-sufficient (Jay, will you really be ok??? :) So it’s time I reward myself with a little field trip to the top of the world.
So what does my trip to Mont Blanc involve? Well, I’m glad you asked!
I’m traveling alone but I will be meeting up with about 9 others from across the world, all coming together to share this amazing experience. I do not know these people but I have been tipped off that they are around my age, from areas such as the UK and Australia and there are likely 3 other solo female travelers. Though this will be an intense adventure, I will not be summiting (reaching the peak of Mont Blanc), but I will be trekking throughout the range for 9-10 days, at about 10-14 miles a day, through France, Switzerland and Italy, with bag in tow. My pack will likely be 17-20lbs as it will be carrying my clothes, supplies, food and water for the entire hike. Each night, we will stay in either a small hotel or a hut, so I’ll have access to certain amenities like showers and maybe wifi if I’m lucky (Gotta Instagram those pics!)
Now onto the preparation! Gotta be mountain ready!
You better believe that just a day after booking this trip, I walked into REI like a kid in a candy store. I didn’t yet have my official packing list but I had a general idea of what I needed, so I began to wander through the camping aisles, though I did feel a bit overwhelmed. The next day, I came back with a mission, hitting up Paragon Sports and scoring myself an awesome Osprey Kyte 48L maroon pack, trekking poles, Lowa hiking boots (my low-rise Merrells were not gonna do the trick), some sweet wool hiking socks (obviously the most stylish I could find), among other completely unnecessary tchotkes. This was all about 8 weeks ago, so time was ticking and I needed to get my gear broken in.
And I did just that.
I linked up with friends and went on several hikes this summer around the Catskills and throughout upstate New York, where I filled my pack to about 17lbs and gave myself a real-feel experience. The sweat, the sounds of nature, the mental space I found myself in…it was all exactly what I’ve needed. I always loved the outdoors and getting dirty is not an issue for me. As a matter of fact, I don’t feel I’m really in it until I’m in a stinky, sticky, covered in the elements state. There seriously is nothing more grand than getting some one-on-one time with mother nature. No matter where we live, I know we all take it a little for granted. Do we realize how amazing this world really is? I mean, New York state alone always blows me away with its beauty.
Ok, so now the time has come and I’ve got just FOUR DAYS till departure (Monday, July 31)! I have the supplies, I’ve done the legwork, I bought travelers insurance (Mom, I won’t let it come in handy - I promise!) and I’m all set to jet to a new beginning. The level of pumped I am is kind of off the charts. It’s that rush I remember from those nights before a big race, where butterflies are blowing up your stomach, except this time I don’t feel like throwing up :) Besides, I have like 36 hours in the area to explore on my own and rest up before I meet the rest of the group. I might look into a trail run to kick start the happy. Because when in the mountains, right!!!
I am SO STOKED to share this adventure with you through photos along the way and a post when I return. I hope after reading this you too can unlock a new passion or open a door you may never have tried before. Personally, I was looking for an awakening; I wanted to create a moment for myself where there is beauty, silence and a whole lot of love for myself and others around me. If all that takes is just a walk in the park, I highly encourage you to do that. It’s not an escape - it’s a release. Let’s all go find our “Wild” adventure and in turn, find our happy.
To the top!
P.S. - For your reading enjoyment, check out this list of supplies our guide sent along just last week (luckily, I had everything set except for that damn silk sleep liner!):
Hiking boots - Comfortable and broken in, ankle support important, fabric cooler than leather
Lightweight flipflops - For use in huts
Socks - 2/3 pairs Good quality coolmax or merino wool hiking socks, pair to wear/pair to wash
Underwear - 2/3 pairs 1 to wear, 1 to wash, 1 spare - synthetic not cotton
Hiking shorts/convertible trousers - 1 pair Knee length with synthetic material
Hiking trousers Softshell - for cooler days and evenings good
T-shirt base layer - 2 Synthetic wicking type not cotton
Long-sleeved base layer - Merino wool or synthetic
Fleece midlayer/gilet Optional - additional fleece shirt if get cold
Fleece or Insulated jacket - Use for evening wear or on cold days, either fleece or primaloft/down jacket
Waterproof jacket - 2 to 3 layer Goretex or similar breathable material
Waterproof pants - In case of rain
Warm gloves - Fleece or waterproof
Warm hat - Fleece or wool
Sun hat - Baseball cap or full brim
Bandana - To protect the neck
Sleeping shorts/pyjamas - As will be in shared dorms some nights
Hiking gear Rucksac - Around 40 litres in volume and lightweight
Waterproof rucksac liner(s) - Very important to keep gear dry, either one large bag or multiple smaller ones to keep kit separate
Waterproof rucksack cover - Optional – some sacks have them integrated
Small towel - Lightweight microfiber towel, smaller the better!
Sunglasses - Minimum category 3/good UV protection
Whistle Optional – useful if hiking in fog
Trekking poles - Essential - saves the knees
Watch - With alarm useful
Water bottle/bladder - 2 litres capacity needed
Headtorch & bats - Lightweight LED with new batteries
Penknife / Leatherman - Optional – useful for picnic lunches
Resealable plastic bags - Useful for keeping items clean and dry
Ear plugs - Essential for sleeping in refuges, eyemask useful too
Camera & batteries - Ensure sufficient memory on the card and spare batteries
Mobile phone, charger, adapter
Sleeping bag liner - Silk liner for use in huts
Health & Hygiene Razor - A couple of disposable razors
Tooth brush+paste - Small amount to last 9 days
Soap For body and clothes - NB try to bring biodegradable
Shampoo - Small qty or sachets. NB try to bring biodegradable.
Deodorant - Small roll on
Contact lenses/mirror, glasses - If need them
Tissues/Toilet roll - Worth carrying a couple of packets of tissues
Hairbrush - Optional if needed
Wet wipes - Optional
Foot tape - For blister prevention
Compeed/Second skin - Optional, worth having individually
Suncrean - 75ml suncream spf 30 or higher
Lipsalve SPF 25 - Needed to avoid cracked lips
Paracetamol/Aspirin - Useful for headaches, minor aches
Ibuprofen - Great for reducing swelling
Antihistamine - Optional if needed
Prescription medication - Optional if needed
Bandaids - 6-8 different sizes
Rehydration sachets - Optional – bring around 6, can buy in pharmacies
Water purification - Chlorine Dioxide Optional to have maybe 10-12 tablets if fill up from streams
Chocolate - Worth carrying a few snacks each day in case of running out of energy
Energy gels or dextrose tablets
Passport with photocopies
Visas with photocopy
Travel tickets with photocopies
Medical/travel insurance with photocopies
Euros cash and credit/debit cards
Adventure voucher & dossier