Backstory - Climbing Mt Blanc

Summit day began well. I awoke just after midnight to set up my camera inside the ‘boot room’ to collect footage of everyone preparing their gear. Curiously nobody was in particularly high spirits. Few had slept more than a couple of hours and there was anxiety in the room.

As the groups moved outside I followed. The excitement grew as everybody roped up and headed off in a single file of headtorches towards the flanks of Mt Blanc. I was so enthused I even did some hand-helds marching up and down the first slope. How I wished I’d saved up that snatch of energy for later in the day.

There was no point filming in the dark and I gratefully left my camera under wraps for the next few hours. Just before we tackled the ice wall my group decided to split. Some wanted to go back. I pushed on.

As the sky lightened and sunrise became imminent my guide Ric Potter turned to me to ask if filming could wait. We were on a particularly steep stretch. I nodded -- thankfully, I confess. My mind was blurred. Although in my planning I had noted sunrise as a key frame I felt too cold and exhausted to counter his guidance.

At the first safe opportunity Ric gave me the go-ahead and I pulled out my camera. Too overwhelmed to set up the tripod I rested it on the snow and filmed ground shots of the beaten snow pathway, tipping it slightly against my leg to capture a line of climbers moving up the mountain. It was good enough to make it to the final edit, just. I still regret not having the strength to set up my tripod though.

Those last few hours were immensely hard. But by the time we reached the summit my fatigue had morphed into triumph. I managed more than a couple of pieces to camera. I zoomed out to shoot panoramas of the Alps, and focused in on other climbers as they high-fived friends at the summit. It was an exhilarating feeling; I could have stayed up there all day. Ric was my voice of reason and said I needed to wrap. His instruction could not have come sooner.

On the descent my body was so wrecked I did not once manage to haul my camera out. Even more shamefully I did not even think about it. My mind was now focused on getting myself safely down to the refuge. For television this part of the journey may have been the most compelling; I had asked too much of my physical self and I wish I could have recorded that personal struggle. That is a story I will have to do another time -- either with more stamina so I can intermittently film the process, or with a crew. No kidding this assignment was one of my toughest.