The founder of BMAS digital agency, Jojo Regan, has another passion – adventure. To mark his recent birthday, the entrepreneur set out on an epic trip to scale Mont Blanc, not forgetting to pack his Saira Hunjan 6oz Captive Top Leather-Bound Hip Flask.
This wasn’t Regan’s first grand expedition, with two trips to the North Pole; a circumnavigation of Norwegian National Park, Hardangervidda; and a Kilimanjaro ascent under his belt (most-likely an Ettinger one), Regan had clearly already developed an appetite for adventure.
In order to prepare for the trip, Regan ran between 5 and 8km every morning in advance of the long, slow climbs that he would face at high altitude. Then it was off to the Alps and Mont Blanc, via an acclimatisation climb up Italy’s highest mountain, the 4,080m Gran Paradiso.
Regan’s expedition team included his good friend, Alex Gerson, and alpine guru, IFMGA Mountain Guide and film consultant, Simon Abrahams (Abrahams has explored the greater ranges of North and South America and the polar regions, and he has also advised on films such as 'Batman Begins' and James Bond flick, 'Die Another Day').
Reaching the peak of Mont Blanc usually takes a total of three days, but due to bad weather the team had to attempt a summit in two. Working in marches of one to two hours at a time, followed by breaks for water, the group hiked up to the Tête Rousse hut, perched on the edge of the slope at 3,167m, where they (tried to) sleep before the challenging hike.
The group forced themselves to eat what they could following their 1am alarm, and set off into the dark night with only individual headtorches to guide each precarious step. A bitter wind blew, and the team began to cross the infamous Grand Couloir – a treacherous gully, prone to dangerous rockfalls. “Because of our route we had to cross it twice in one day,” explains Regan. “The morning was OK as the rocks were frozen in place but later in the day as the ice melted, there was constant rock fall,” he adds of the most hazardous spot on the mountain – the place where many accidents and fatalities have occurred.
Sunlight came at around 6am and the team were suddenly aware of the fantastic views before them. The wind picked up to near-dangerous levels, and one of Regan’s friends began to fail with altitude sickness. Abrahams’ group took refuge in a safety hut at around 4,000m, along with other weather-worried climbers. Despite the risky weather, Regan, Gerson and Abrahams headed for the summit – switching to a 20-minute marching strategy to help ease Gerson’s altitude sickness. Fortunately, the sun’s rays appeared, and the wind died right back, just in time to allow the men to summit in safety.
Summiting was pretty emotional
“Summiting was pretty emotional,” says Regan, “We had booked the trip over a year before, so it was a lot of build-up and finally making it there, after such a whirlwind of issues on the weather, was the biggest personal achievement to date for me.”
After a few celebratory swigs of Johnnie Walker Blue Label from Regan’s Ettinger Hipflask, the team began the seven-hour descent.
As they began to head down the mountain, the clouds gathered behind them, closing the route to the peak. Regan explains an old saying: “If Mont Blanc is wearing its hat then you can't wear yours! Meaning that once the clouds settle on top, it becomes too windy to summit.”