Altitude: 4,810 m, With the World Beneath Our Feet.
On what was one of the most amazing adventures of my life so far, in July 2010, 3 friends and I summited Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe at 4,810m, self guided, via the Gouter Route. We had been unable to make an attempt the previous year due to the weather, but for this week the weather gods really smiled on us and we had near perfect conditions. The previous day we had done the long climb to the Gouter Hut to arrive there before dinner time. After enjoying our hearty meal we were packed into their dorm beds with dozens of others to try to snatch a few precious hours of sleep before the alarm which was set for 2am rudely woke us.
Everyone frantically got themselves ready and we set off with the stars above and the distant streetlights of the valley below. We had our powerful headtorches lighting a few meters ahead of us and the lights of all the groups snaking their way up ahead and below us danced the often perilous path along the ridges.
We were acclimatised but unsure of whether the extreme altitude would affect any of us. Our group was strong and we all performed our different roles perfectly and it was very welcome to be greeted by sunrise just below the summit. I had been designated the photographer but there was very little time to take pictures whilst mountaineering with such perilous drops. The views were breathtaking when we reached the summit where we only spent a few minutes congratulating ourselves, knowing one of the hardest parts was still ahead - the 9 hour walk out. Despite the cold and the wind I managed to adjust my camera settings to take the series of photos that make up this image.
Unfortunately stitching them to make a panorama proved very difficult and unsatisfactory and defied all my attempts back then. Having taught myself some new editing skills recently I thought I should give it another go and thankfully still had all the RAW files available. Still a significant effort was needed as the pictures were taken in far from ideal circumstances - high winds, freezing temperatures coupled with people moving around. All my attempts finally paid off and I managed to get a usable panorama which I will share soon. I do love the version of it wrapped upon itself to create a tiny planet though.
Anyone astute will note that I am missing, as I was always behind the camera but I think that makes it more intriguing as the casual viewer tries and work out how it was taken!