There was only really one thing I could write about this week. Whilst walking in the mountains a couple of weeks ago, I thought to myself how spectacular it could be to watch a sunrise up high.
On Tuesday (last week), it was due to be perfectly clear for the night and following morning, so I decided, somewhat impulsively, to test my theory. I woke at 03:30, and half an hour later I was on my way. I started in the valley, at the bottom of the mountain, and my target was the summit of Le Brevent. Although significantly lower than the peaks of the Mont Blanc Massif at just over 2,500m, it’s one of the higher mountains on the north side of the Chamonix valley, and a good spot for a sunrise.
On the way up, I deliberately avoided running, as I had training planned for later in the day. However, I had to move fast in order to get to the top for 06:30 (sunrise), which, according to the signposts, was over a 4-hour walk.
I used a headtorch but otherwise I spent the first 90 minutes surrounded by complete darkness. Until I reached the end of the tree-line, the street lights below offered little reference for how far I had gone. Each step of the trail looked the same and often I felt as though I was barely moving at all.
Whenever I looked up towards the stars, the sky would swallow the beam from my headtorch and, with nothing but black in my peripheral vision, I would suddenly feel completely off-balance. I’ve done this kind of thing in the past, but the novelty never seems to wear off and it always feels surreal. In addition to that, being the only one moving on the mountain, I almost felt more remote and isolated than in any desert I rode through five years ago.
As I exited the trees, I looked across the valley to the high mountains on the other side. The outline of the peaks was just about visible, but very clear were the tiny lights from climbers setting off to ascend Mont Blanc. They would have set off at a similar time to me, but from a starting point 2,600m higher up, after a night in the Cosmique hut.
If they’d glanced over, they might’ve been able to see my solitary beam of light on the opposing mountain. I doubted they would though, I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, whilst several kilometres away they’d have been wrapped in a lot more layers and focusing on the ice underfoot.
At about 05:30, the sky began to grow lighter. The silhouette of the mountains traced an ever-more noticeable line across the sky as it transitioned from black to deep blue. 15 minutes later I reached a closed-for-the-night mountain refuge. A couple of tents stood outside with their inhabitants still asleep. I found it amusing that they’d no doubt camped up here to get an early start, and yet I was marching by them. The now light-blue sky was already mesmerising with the valley below still shrouded in darkness.
I reached the top as the sky behind the mountains turned orange. No one else was around. I perched on the edge of a protruding rock and settled down with my breakfast. For the next hour I sat and watched the day take shape – in awe of the ever-changing view.
I don’t really have words to describe how unbelievably stunning it was. So, here are some pictures (I also posted a short video of the sunrise on my Instagram if you’re interested).
On the way down, after passing the campers that were now going about their morning routines, I realised something. I was where I was, purely for the sake of being there. I wasn’t training, I wasn’t completing a stepping stone on the way to a larger goal, and I wasn’t longing for the finish – I was just enjoying the moment.
That morning was one of the stand-out moments of my seven weeks here in the Alps. It surpassed all my expectations and, to top it off, the beauty of my current situation meant that I could go back to bed for a bit once I got home!
I have a race coming up soon (Ironman Estonia, in Tallinn on 5th September). I had hoped/planned to provide some context for this event by covering my journey from cycling to triathlon, but so far that task has proved a bit daunting.
In short, this race is important to me, and I’m therefore going to pause this weekly blog until it’s out of the way – so that I can focus my energy. Although it isn’t a huge task, I have already felt this blog stretching my capacity what with the training I’ve been doing. That was the goal behind this blog, but not to the detriment of the more important aspects of my life.
Thanks to all of you who have read these first few posts.