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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Google doodle on 229th anniversary of ascent of Mont Blanc

The Mont Blanc massif is being put forward as a potential World Heritage Site because of its uniqueness and its cultural importance, considered the birthplace and symbol of modern mountaineering.  It would require the three governments of Italy, France and Switzerland to make a request to UNESCO for it to be listed. Capped by snow and shrouded in mist sits Mont Blanc, the highest point in the Alps. Its summit, forever white, towers 15,000+ feet above Europe’s sea level. Lord Byron called it “the monarch of mountains.” And for centuries, no human had ever reached its peak.  Until 1786, that  year, armed only with alpenstocks and measuring equipment (the trek was for scientific purposes), Frenchmen Michel Gabriel Paccard and Jacques Balmat set foot at the top.

That was on Aug 8, 1786 and today Google doodle celebrates 229th anniversary of the ascent of Mont Blanc.

Mont Blanc meaning "White Mountain", is the highest mountain in the Alps and the highest peak in Europe outside of the Caucasus range. It rises 4,807 m (15,771 ft) above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world intopographic prominence.  The mountain lies in a range called the Graian Alps, between the regions of Aosta Valley, Italy, and Haute-Savoie, France. The location of the summit is on the watershed line between the valleys of Ferret and Veny in Italy and the valleys of Montjoie and Arve in France. The Mont Blanc massif is popular for mountaineering, hiking, skiing, and snowboarding.

The three towns and their communes which surround Mont Blanc are Courmayeur in Aosta Valley, Italy, and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains andChamonix in Haute-Savoie, France. The latter town was the site of the first Winter Olympics. A cable car ascends and crosses the mountain range from Courmayeur to Chamonix, through the Col du Géant. Constructed beginning in 1957 and completed in 1965, the 11.6 km (7¼ mi) Mont Blanc Tunnel runs beneath the mountain between these two countries and is one of the major trans-Alpine transport routes.

The first recorded ascent of Mont Blanc was on this day in  1786 by Jacques Balmat and the doctor Michel Paccard. This climb, initiated by Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, who gave a reward for the successful ascent, traditionally marks the start of modern mountaineering.  The first woman to reach the summit was Marie Paradis in 1808, and the first dog without human technical help was "Tschingel" from Grindelwald (making his climb before the first female honorary member of the Alpine Club). Now the summit is ascended by an average 20,000 mountaineer-tourists each year. It could be considered an easy, yet long, ascent for someone who is well trained and used to the altitude.

Each year climbing deaths occur on Mont Blanc, and on the busiest weekends, normally around August, the local rescue service performs an average of 12 missions, mostly directed to aid people in trouble on one of the normal routes of the mountain. Some routes require knowledge of high-altitude mountaineering, a guide (or at least a veteran mountaineer), and proper equipment. It is a long course that includes delicate passages and the hazard of rock slides. Also, at least one night at the refuge is required to acclimatize to the altitude; less could lead to altitude sickness and possible death.

In 2012,  11 people died in two separate incidents just days apart on the slopes of Mont Blanc,  which reportedly has  the highest fatality rate of any mountain in Europe. Some estimates put the fatality rate at an average of 100 hikers a year; others that more people die each year in the Mont Blanc range than in any decade in the Alaskan mountain ranges, including the far more dangerous and challenging 20,320-foot summit of Denali (otherwise known as Mount McKinley).  Some  guiding companies describe Mont Blanc as more of a "long walk" than any kind of challenging climb, although it does require crampons and ice axes to summit.  But we need to understand that Europeans in general and those who do such ventures in particular are in good physical condition and have the spirit of adventurism in them unlike most of us who prefer sedentary lifestyle ! – and despite physical strength, many could get attacked by avalanche …  the crowded slopes also mean competition for footing in narrow places, as teams attempt to pass each other, and long waits at some points for access to passageways -- which means that climbers are exposed to high-altitude health risks, as well as cold and bad weather, for longer periods of time.

More than the mountain, I have read about the pen – ‘montblanc pen’ of - Montblanc International GmbH,  a German manufacturer of writing instruments, watches, jewellery and leather goods, often identified by their "White Star" logo. Founded by the stationer Claus-Johannes Voss, the banker Alfred Nehemias and the engineer August Eberstein in 1906, the company began as the Simplo Filler Pen company producing up-market pens in Hamburg.  Today Montblanc forms part of the Richemont group.  A trademark identified with Montblanc is the white stylised six-pointed star with rounded edges, representative of the Mont Blanc snowcap from above, the symbol being adopted in 1913. The number "4810," the mountain's height in metres, is also a commonly recurring theme.

A Montblanc Meisterstuck M146 Legrand Black 14ct Gold Nib Fountain Pen costs Rs.50600/- in India !!!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

8th Aug 2015.


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