Today would seem to be a good time to write this post. Christmas dinner was over five hours ago and I’m still not remotely hungry; I really can’t think why that is.
Since our first season in 2004 over three thousand people have signed up to climb with Mont Blanc Guides, and whilst I’m happy to say we’ve managed to get many of them to the summit of Mont Blanc, rather too many still turn up every year having underestimated the challenge. There is one overriding reason why people drop out of our courses, and it has absolutely nothing to do with lack of previous experience, climbing ability or determination. It can in fact be summed up in one word: overweight.
Climbing mountains is all about power to weight which is why we so ruthlessly go through clients’ rucsacs on the first morning and throw out all but the essential items. The ideal body type for this sort of activity is something you might see at a triathlon or marathon, it’s certainly not the sort of thing you would want for the beach. Very few of us (including me) are that skinny of course, but to have a good chance of getting up Mont Blanc you need to get into one of the first three categories above, otherwise the odds are going to be very much stacked against you.
To give an example, in 2014 one of our clients, Ian Kemp, made it up Gran Paradiso and battled to two thirds height on Mont Blanc before finally having to admit defeat when his legs gave out; Ian is a big strong lad but by his own admission he was just carrying too much extra weight to make the top.
In 2015 Ian was back having lost 10kg, which is clearly a lot of weight to lose but as I say, Ian is something of a rugby player. This time he cruised to the top with no problems and told me afterwards he couldn’t believe how much easier it had felt. Ian very kindly wrote us a testimonial (scroll down the the person in black with his arms out), but I think he gives us too much of the credit, as guides we can only take care of the safety and point people at the summit, after that it’s up to them. Ian’s achievement was entirely down to him and the result of his own determination to get in shape, and in my view never was a summit more thoroughly deserved (though he did tell me as he left how much he was looking forward to putting the 10kg on again!)
To summarise, you don’t need to be skinny to do this but if you are carrying a bit of “spare”, just try to get rid of as much of it as you can before coming to climb Mont Blanc, it really is the best thing you can do to improve your chances. Anything you can do will help, and while we won’t discriminate, you can rest assured the mountain will.