Old friends; old mountains

Around this time two years ago, I was putting together the table plan for Ben’s and my wedding. Thinking that they would get along – both Oxbridge graduates, both very intellectual and both fierce Tories – I sat Ben’s school friend Craig and my school friend Ellie next to each other.

Last weekend, Ben organised a stag do for Craig in honour of his upcoming wedding, to Ellie. Needless to say, we’re more than a little bit excited about that event.

Anyway, although the weekend was spent wine tasting (or, I should say, wine overindulging) in Dijon, Craig, and a third school friend, David, came a couple of days early to spend some time relaxing in the mountains. We went rock climbing, we hiked the Aiguillette des Houches, we BBQ’d on one of the most beautiful, delicate summer evenings we’ve had so far this year, and we all suffered from sore heads in the mornings.

The groom to be

David and Ben atop the Aiguillette des Houches

We were lucky to have a few more days of David, who recently left his job in litigation and is, thus, in the same blissful post-corporate-world-state as Ben and me. With his newly conceived goal of climbing Mt Blanc, we took him up the Aiguille du Midi with the intention of getting him used to crampons and covering as much of the Midi-Plan traverse as possible, typically a straightforward snow walk along a sometimes slender ridge between its two eponymous Aiguilles.

It was a cloudy day, still early in the season, and the mountains felt as though they were all ours’ as we set out through the powdery snow, crampons kicking firmly to gain purchase. Those first few moments were quite magical for me; whether it was the thin air, the deliberate steps, or remembering the relief of a solid axe placement, I became imbued with a feeling that I was not only walking out in these high mountains now, in 2011, but I was also, simultaneously, walking out for the first time when we came to the Alps as a bunch of ill equipped and ignorant university students in 2006; as a slightly more experienced but still utterly awestruck NOLS student in the Cascades in 2007, and as a honeymooner in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca in 2009.

Things got somewhat less romantic after lunch when a blizzard blew in; as the wind and snow stung our faces, I struggled to distinguish ridge from sky in the whiteout, and shortly before the final climb back to the cable car, the sole of my mountaineering boot fell off!

Luckily, none of this seemed to deter David, and we’re hoping that he’s back soon for that Mont Blanc attempt, as well as more discussion of religion, humanism, and our favourite political bloggers.  


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