With the arrival of the Foehn wind about 10 days ago, it seems that winter is over. To be honest it has been far from a vintage winter, the driest in the Alps for 40 years apparently, but a lack of snow can sometimes mean great climbing conditions and an early start to the rock climbing season and so it has proved this year.
As ever in Cham the key has been to be flexible and go with what conditions are telling you and not what you would like them to be telling you. Sticking by that (most of the time) we managed to do some incredible skiing and climb some amazing routes, and looking back on various blogs it is clear that the lack of snow hasn't stopped other people doing things in the mountains.
For those with time to spare, here is quick summary of my winter -
Has to be the first British ascent of Mark Twight and Barry Blanchard's "Richard Cranium Memorial" on the NW face of Les Droites. Having received virtually no attention since it was first climbed in 1991, it has now become a bit of a trade route for British climbers so maybe people do read this blog after all!
Poor snow low down (which subsequent ascentionists were clever enough to avoid by waiting a few extra weeks), poor route finding and some general British alpinist faff saw us spend a March night sat on top of Les Droites following the route described above. Ouch.
Despite one famous skier describing the NE face of Les Courtes as "an easy day" on his blog, it was a big deal for me and I was chuffed to finally ski it. We found firm and grippy snow and it was amazing to be skiing a face that big and scary looking. Thanks to Tom for pretending he was finding it hard too.
Failing to ski from the Plan de L'Aiguille once all season. Its the best lift accessed skiing in the Valley but was rarely covered enough to ski. A big omission from my winter - I'm going to live up there next year.
Most ludicrous thing I heard all winter
Some bloke soloed a route on the N face of Les Droites and then instead of walking off, decided to downclimb the Ginat, a 1000m grade 5 ice route. Makes me sweat just thinking about it.
Best thing about a mild winter
BBQ Season starts early! A hair dryer is amazingly effective at getting it going by the way.
As with last winter I've put together a short video of the season - hopefully it will get everyone psyched for next winter, and inspire the weather Gods to deliver a bit more of the white stuff.
Chamonix Winter 2011 from Charlie Boscoe on Vimeo.
Finally, the lack of blogging this week has been due to the fact that I've either been working or in Provence since my last post. John and I decided to nip down at the last minute and teamed up some of my old Lancashire crew. As ever in Provence the weather, climbing, coffee, wine, pizza and views were superb, and it took quite a bit of will power to leave on Sunday. Weather is still a bit iffy here so I think it might not be too long before my next visit down south.