In the early hours of Thursday 7 September, 27 Colliers graduates from across the UK gathered at Gatwick airport to make haste for Geneva. The much-anticipated Colliers 'Tour de Mont Blanc' had begun in earnest, after many months of fundraising and preparation. Here's what happened, in their own words:
After a delayed EasyJet flight and some misguided attempts at regaining some sleep, we landed mid-morning, greeted by our two German and French tour guides, Raffa and Anya. A further two-hour airport transfer south saw us settle on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, where we set off on day one of our four-day challenge.
Pre-trip complacency was swiftly put to bed as the steep ascent reared its ugly and challenging face. Battling the near-vertical slopes and chilling winds, as well as the weight of our bags, added to the physical demands of the rocky Val Ferret ascent. Once reaching the top we traversed along the mountainside, enjoying the picturesque views, before settling at the Rifigo Elena refuge for an evening meal and stay.
Stiff legs, a larger ascent and a clear day greeted us on day two as we committed to the invigorating climb up the Grand Col Ferret. With the fatigue of day one settling in and the wind intensifying ever still, the morning of day two was perhaps the most challenging of the trip. We challenged ourselves by selecting an arbitrary summit to hike up to, where we then found ourselves among the clouds as we crossed back into Switzerland from Italy.
A shaky and uneven descent, from which one Harry Clarke chose to sprint down before spraining his ankle (not all heroes wear capes), led us into an idyllic and rewarding traverse where we were treated to a tasty and authentic Swiss lunch. The afternoon was a pleasant route along a mountain river, where we were then picked up and driven to Champex for the night.
Fear swept the camp on the morning of day three as vicious rumours of torrential rain perturbed all. But buoyed by Harry’s determination to continue with the use of walking poles despite his injury, our ascent via the Fenetre d’Arpette was perhaps our most enjoyable. The descent was basked in clouds as the adverse weather took hold. We settled in the picturesque village of Trient that evening and enjoyed a hearty meal and well-earned rest.
Our fourth and final day started with the 2190m climb of the Col de Balm, which everybody decided to take slowly. It was here that we finally laid eyes on the majestic summit of Mont Blanc, before a gentle descent down to our finish point, Tré-le-Champ. Greeted with celebratory fondu, a beer, and an electrical fence that wreaked havoc upon tired minds, we were transferred back to Geneva airport via France on Sunday evening.
The challenge as a whole was undoubtedly more demanding than any of us had expected, but equally rewarding at the same time. We’ve raised over £11,000 for LandAid so far, and we aim to exceed £20,000 before year end. The charity has been extremely supportive throughout the challenge. Their resounding message of ‘uniting to end youth homelessness’ conveys their positivity and we encourage everyone to get behind their fantastic work.
We want to thank Colliers for supporting the trip. We would also like to thank Cambridge Finance, Orchard Building Solutions and Managed Fire Solutions for sponsoring the trek.
Thank you to everybody who has donated towards the Graduate Challenge so far. Anyone who still wishes to make a donation can do so on our fundraising page to help us reach our target for LandAid.