Annette and Tony are a couple from the South West of England who both work for the Police. The two of them share a love for the outdoors and anything that would be a challenge or adventure. Their travels generally take them anywhere mountainous, including the English Lake District, wild camping in Scotland and hiking in the Dolomites where they “can reach great heights and see views that are out of this world”.
Last August, they departed on an adventure to climb Mont Blanc, with Annette not knowing in advance what fantastic impact her summit attempt would have on her life…
What kind of people made up your group?
Our group consisted of 2 people from Australia and 2 other travellers from Britain. We all got on really well. It was as if we had known them forever. We trained to climb Mont Blanc as a group of six, but two others of the group were unable to attempt the summit. This meant we summited with the two British guys. We supported one another, shared laughs and worked as a team to get to the top.
When did you start planning your Mont Blanc climb & how did you prepare for the ascent?
The trip was a 40th birthday present to ourselves so we started planning and saving two years in advance, so that we would be prepared at our best when we would actually be climbing Mont Blanc. We bought the necessary kit and clothing over those two years to give us the chance to try it out before the trip. This included buying walking boots, so that by the time we went on the trip they were broken in and comfortable. We trained by running, both short hill sessions, longer runs on the flat and circuit training on the beach. This included a half marathon along the Jurassic Coast in southern England. We went on lots of bike rides, some shorter hill routes and other longer rides across the Mendips and in the Lake District. We also spent days hiking in North Wales, Scotland and any other hills we could find, including a number of 2-3 day walking trips carrying our kit with overnight stays.
What were your expectations of climbing Mont Blanc on beforehand?
We expected the trip and summit attempt to be hard work, mentally and physically. We knew that summiting was not a given and that the trip was not about reaching the summit of Mont Blanc. It was about learning some skills and doing some alpine climbing. We went with the mindset that if we made the summit then it was a bonus. Don’t get me wrong, we would have been disappointed if we hadn’t reached the top, but we did not want to put the pressure on ourselves and not enjoy the trip.
What were the first days of the Mont Blanc Ascent trip like?
The first three days of the trip were amazing. We learnt how to use crampons, poles and an ice axe on both the snow and ice. We practised walking on the snow and working as a team to negotiate crevices safely. We also managed to summit a smaller peak which gave us confidence and was a great sense of achievement. We got used to the way of life in the huts and sleeping at height, which helped us to acclimatize.
Did you feel confident about ascending when you woke up on summit-day?
When we woke on summit day, we were nervous and excited. We had confidence in the skills we had learnt and were looking forward to the challenge, but we were still not 100% sure that we would reach the summit. The entire trip we had the perfect weather and the day we would actually be climbing Mont Blanc did not disappoint.
What was the role of your guides in your successful summit?
The guides were brilliant. We had one guide between the six of us for the training days. He challenged us and tested our fitness to make sure we were ready to attempt the summit. For the three summit days, we had a guide between two of us. The support that they gave to us played a big part in our successful summit. The mountain guides were honest and all the way along to the top gave us advise, encouragement and reassurance.
We heard something special happened on top of Mont Blanc?
At the top of Mont Blanc Tony proposed to me. He had carried a ring with him all the time climbing to the top. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. Needless to say, I said ‘yes’. I knew nothing of his plans and he did not tell the guide so as to not put any pressure on the guide or me to get to the top. It was a magical moment and one I will never forget. (If I had said ‘no’ it would have been a long walk down!!)
Is there a special reason why Tony proposed right here on the top of Mt Blanc?
He chose to propose at the top of Mont Blanc because it was an opportunity of a lifetime. What better place in the world is there? To get there, we had worked as a team and went through a huge physical and emotional battle to get to the top. The views were spectacular and it was like being on the top of the world. We are both happiest when we are climbing mountains so there would never have been a more perfect place.
We wish you both a most wonderful wedding day and lots of love in your marriage!
Climbing Mont Blanc