The waiting and excitement began with a fantastic hike up towards Gran Paradiso - the highest peak in Italy at 4,061m and ideal preparation for taking on Mont Blanc. My friend Lee Bradley and I spent the evening relaxing, laughing and eating good food with our group and guides, and enjoyed a cheeky beer.

Green landscape view of Gran Paradiso, Italy
Hiking towards Gran Paradiso. Photo: John Bagley

The following day, we had a nice early start en route to our first summit. With the adrenaline pumping, we headed towards the glacier and over snow to practice using our climbing equipment - in particular, we learned how to use an ice axe, and techniques for using our crampons.

The adrenaline was in overdrive as we began our climb - the culmination of everything we’d worked hard for.

We were on the glacier as the amazing sunrise illuminated the mountains, allowing us to look up towards the route and the day's challenge.

Climbers with head torches approaching the Gran Paradiso glacier as the sun begins to rise.
Towards the glacier of Gran Paradiso. Photo: John Bagley

Zig-zagging and climbing up the glacier and across crevasses we came to the bridge… It’s not as bad as the photo looks! But the experience is hard to describe. Only time will tell if this bridge will still be there next year, as the gap gets wider.

A wooden ladder bridging an ice crevasse on Gran Paradiso in the Alps.
Don't look down... Photo: John Bagley

After we conquered this, it was a slightly steeper climb to the summit, and we readied ourselves to scramble up.

A metal ladder for ascending an icy wall on Gran Paradiso, the Alps
Clambering up the ice. Photo: John Bagley

The last push was a scramble to the summit, where we enjoyed superb views of the surrounding Alps, knowing we were on the very top of Italy. After celebrating and taking photos with our group (don’t lose a glove while taking a picture in the wind!) it was time to make our way down to the hut, for hot food and drinks.

Climbers nearing the summit of Gran Paradiso, Italy, with expansive views of the Alps
Nearing the summit of Gran Paradiso - the highest point in Italy. Photo: John Bagley

After a day of rest in Chamonix (and the chance to get more kit if we needed it), it was time for the main event - climbing the legendary Mont Blanc.

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We caught the ski lift and the train to the start of our trek, the Tête Rousse Hut, where we enjoyed an incredible sunset, met other climbers, and peered up at the Goûter hut, which we would pass on the way up to the summit of Mont Blanc tomorrow.

Climber watching sunset at the Tête Rousse Hut, Mont Blanc
Sunset at the Tête Rousse Hut. Photo: John Bagley

Then we were off. After another early start, the adrenaline was in overdrive again as we began our climb - and the culmination of everything we’d worked hard for.

Cimbers nearing the summit of Mont Blanc
Getting closer to the summit... Photo: John Bagley

The landscape was was just… wow. Once we got close to the summit the wind became more powerful, and while we could sense that we were close, it seemed (and looked) never-ending at some points.

Climbers nearing the summit of Mont Blanc on a sunny day
...And closer still. Photo: John Bagley

The summit did indeed follow, however! Lee and I made it, thanks to our superb guide. There had been some uncertainties with high winds and snow melt following a really hot summer, but everything fell into place for us. It was with relief that we got to the top, as the altitude and steep climb had left us short of breath.

Climbers approaching the summit of Mont Blanc in France
John and Lee approaching the summit. Photo: Nacho Morales

Knowing we were on top of the Alps was incredible, as was the view. We were lucky to summit on a clear day, and the panorama of the surrounding mountains left me speechless. Mont Blanc was on my bucket list and if it’s on yours, I suggest you go for it! I had a fantastic time with fantastic people.

Climbers crouched on the summit of Mont Blanc, France
John and Lee on the summit of Mont Blanc. Photo: John Bagley

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