Cosmiques with Mom
I like to think that climbing is in my genes because my parents were climbers. We travelled the world to climb. And it’s still with great pleasure that I go climbing with them. My mother, Martine, is always excited to go on an adventure. At 65 though, her knees are giving her much trouble. So, I try to pick climbs which don’t involve much approach or descent.
This year, we headed to the Cosmiques Ridge on the Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix, France. After a frothy capuccino and still warm croissant in town, we rode the cable car nearly 10’000ft up to the top of the Aiguille du Midi. There, the view stretches out to Mont Blanc and onward to Italy. The Aiguille du Midi is also the gateway to the Vallee Blanche, a classic ski run in the winter, which ends 10’000ft later back in Chamonix.
Hiking out of an ice cave, we made our way down the knife edge snow ridge which drops steeply down 3500ft to the north, and down to the col du midi on the other side. You don’t want to fall down on either side there. The terrain eases up passed the ridge. We contoured the base of the striking south face of Aiguille du Midi, which rises like a bright orange flame out of the glacier below and kept heading west to the start of the ridge proper.
Although I had already done this climb with my mom, she was thrilled and excited, blown away by the beauty of the scenery around, as though she was there for the first time. It felt so special to be here with her. We climbed up mixed terrain, some time on snow, some time on the reputable Chamonix granite. This ridge is climbed and guided so often that locals have drilled holes in the rock to make it easier to climb with crampons. Only in the Alps could you see that! We traversed a snow couloir, contoured gendarmes – one of them has the highest 5.13 crack in the world: Digital Crack – and made it to the crux of the route, a diagonal slanting crack up a used-to-be blank-now-drilled-all-over-wall. This section is always a bottleneck, with people struggling up the 10m high crux. We killed time rehydrating, soaking in the view and enjoying each other’s company until it was our time to climb. My mom made quick work of the section and we climbed on, traversing into the north side of the ridge before reaching the summit, where a crowd of people coming out of the cable car was snapping picture after picture of us.
My parents opened my eyes to climbing and taking my mom on climbs now is not only a way for me to give back, it’s also very rewarding to take such an accomplished climber with me. My mom has pushed the boundaries of woman climbing in her own way when she was younger. She climbed great classic such as the Gervasutti Pillar, the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey, did the first female ascent of the Naranjo de Bulnes in Spain, climbed in Peru, came first in many ski mountaineering competition. She is a true model for me and I am greatful to be able to share time with her in the mountains.