Sunday, 26 June 2011

Mont Blanc video + new website.

I'm currently building a new website, of which this blog will be a integral part, and I've just finished an article about Mont Blanc, plus a video to go with it (see below), which I thought I'd put on here.

The new site will hopefully provide a place for people to record their routes and find up to date reports on conditions across the massif. It should all be ready in a couple of weeks and will live at

Until then, enjoy the video and the sunshine in Cham.

Mont Blanc from Charlie Boscoe on Vimeo.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Arcteryx r320a Harness Review

I recently reviewed an Arcteryx harness for, check it out here -

Rain, rain, rain in Cham right now :(

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Tour Rouge & Pointe Elisabeth

Last week it looked like we finally had a good window of weather so Peter and I headed up, again, to the Envers area. We'd hoped to do a short route on our approach day followed by something long on the second day, but unfortunately the weather didn't quite do as it was told.

The forecast had been for 2 dry, sunny days, so it was a bit of a surprise when it started to rain half way up "Le Marchand de Sable" (6a+, 330m, TD) on the Tour Rouge E face. This is apparently the classic of the Envers area but watch out as all of the pitches were massively under graded. I've no doubt that the crux pitch would have been the same, so the rain came at the perfect moment - just as a I was looking up at the hardest bit! I would obviously have sent it had it not rained....

6a pitch on Le Marchand de Sable

With a good weather forecast it seemed a shame to pay for the hut, so why not bivi instead? 

By the next morning (following an slightly damp bivi) we had no faith in the weather forecast and opted for "Le Monde a l’Envers, ou pas de Charlotte pour les Ouvreurs" (6b+, TD+, 280m) on the Pointe Elisabeth instead of a big option.

The route is now 50 metres longer than it used to be due to glacial retreat so I led a quite loose pitch up to the first belay. On the ledge just below there was some incredibly loose big blocks, so having looked everywhere and shouted to check if there was anyone about, we did some trundling. This was obviously a public service, but also extremely good fun. Peter led after this as I was having one of those days where it just isn't happening. He tried to give me some stick but I reminded him that it is never happening for him on skis!!!!

The rest of the route is good, but not that obvious, so I think we wandered off route a few times. We also ended up on the wrong part of the upper ridge and so didn't go to the summit, but the weather was again threatening so it wasn't a hard decision to bail a pitch or 2 early. 

Not a bad spot to go rock climbing

There is some good weather forecast for next week when I am back in UK, but I still think rock climbing will be the way to go - safer and easy to escape if the forecasts are a bit shaky.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Amok, Pilier des Contes

Still no sign of any settled weather here so Peter and I opted for another day on the Pilier des Contes, below the Envers hut. We'd been there a few weeks back and knew that it dries quickly and has some amazing granite. There's always a catch though and the walk in is the big downside of the crag. We came up the glacier this time and stayed on the right hand side all the way. However, since we'd last been to the crag, the moraine you climb to access the routes seemed to have got even worse, and this time it was so loose that I was actually kicking steps into the "rock". In total the walk in took about 1hr 40. On the way back we decided to walk out via the Envers hut, which only took about 1hr 45 from the base of the Pilier. So there you go - walking via the hut is longer but walking up the glacier is grim! Which ever option you choose, the Pilier des Contes is in an unbelievable position and gets sun all day long, so its worth it.

We'd both wanted to do "Amok" (6b+, ED, 250m) for ages, so we got on it. There was some early amusement when I fell off about 6 feet up the first pitch, but after that it all went very smoothly. I say that anyone who likes to socialise on a saturday night shouldn't be asked to lead the first pitch of a sunday morning route anyway, especially when it is a 6b slab.

Peter on the 6b+ pitch
The route is 8 pitches in total and most of them are exceptional - perfect granite, amazing views, lots of sun, and easily protectable. Pitch 6 is probably the pick of them, a 30 metre crack system followed by an amazing slab/arete.

Pitch 5

The slab at the top of Pitch 6

 As with many of the routes around here, the sections which can be protected with cams are left untouched, but the blank sections have bolts. The belays are all bolted too, so you can ab down the route in 4 x 50 metre abseils. You can actually get back down to the ground from the 3rd belay, you just need to ab into the big grassy couloir just right of the route. With 50 metre ropes we ended up about 1 metre off the ground but there was a ledge where we could get off the rope, so we just jumped the last bit! 

Despite the walk in, the Pilier is a superb option in this dodgy weather. I keep hearing about people hurting themselves trying to do snow/mixed routes this week, so just keep it simple and go rock climbing in the sun at the Envers until the weather picks up.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Aiguille Croux, Val Veny

With the unsettled weather continuing, Peter, Tommy, Kip and I were looking for a mountain day which would provide a good summit without too much commitment in case a storm blew in. After much deliberation we found the SW face & S ridge (AD-, IV, 250m) of the Aiguille Croux in Val Veny on the Italian side of the Massif. It makes an appearance in Gaston Rebuffat's book "The Mont Blanc Massif, the 100 Finest Routes", and is described elsewhere as an, "Absolutely delightful moderate rock climb, one of the best in the entire massif for this grade". High praise indeed.

The walk up to the Monzino hut looks like its going to be horrific as you can see the hut high above you when you leave the car park, but it actually only took about 2 hours, and we weren't rushing. We thought that the hut was closed but when we got up there we found that the guardian had arrived that day. Having brought no money this could have been a bit awkward but he kindly let us stay in the winter room, and lent us a pan (which we'd forgotten).

The Aiguille Croux with the route marked in red.

The West face of the Aiguille Noire from just above the Monzino hut.

The next morning we had a slow start and were away from the hut about 8.30, a shocking state of affairs for hardcore alpinists. The walk up to the Croux is pretty brief, about an hour, and you soon find yourself at the foot of the ridge. You can join it slightly higher up but we decided to go right from the bottom. 

Heading into the foot of the ridge

It is mainly scrambling with the odd steep step, and there are probably quite a few routes, you just follow your nose. 

Low down on the ridge

Slightly higher up, roping up for the odd tricky step.

As you head higher and higher you end up drifting onto the crest of the ridge, and about 100 metres below the summit you encounter some "proper" climbing. Initially it is on the crest of the ridge and whilst not particularly hard, it is spectactularly exposed, with the whole south face of the mountain dropping away below. About 50 metres below the summit you reach the crux slab which is again not that hard, but tough enough in mountain boots. The whole top section is bolted though, so we climbed the entire route from the hut using nothing but quickdraws despite bringing a small rack. This is however, dependent on being confident doing some exposed scrambling without gear, so chuck in a couple of cams if you're not sure.

Tommy on the final slab before the summit, Kip and I not far behind.

Me about to start the final pitch.

The summit itself is supposedly an incredible view point, but the whole day was pretty misty so we only glimpsed the views, but what we did see was incredible. I think on a clear day the view of the Aiguille Noire and the Freney face of Mont Blanc would be immense.

From the summit you simply ab down the first 50 metres of the route and then down the face below (the west face?). We had 2 x 50 metre ropes and needed them, doing 45 metre abseils. There are good fixed anchors but the face is quite big so you need to keep your eyes peeled to find them. 4 big abs lead you back to the snow field you cross early on on the route up, and from there you head rightwards, following the normal route back to the hut. From the hut is just a case of walking about 90 minutes back to the car. 

Heading home from the summit

We were amazed with the location of the hut and the route, as well as the solitude up there, and everyone agreed that it was one of the best mountaineering days we had had for ages. A hidden gem.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Aiguille de L'M, SE ridge

The weather has been continually unsettled here in Cham so the big challenge has been finding things worth doing whilst dodging the rain. At the weekend Peter and I decided to chance it and see if the traverse of the Escandies, high above Trient, was dry. A 4am start and an hours walk later we looked up and saw the route soaking wet, so we abandoned that idea and went for coffee.

5.45 am in Switzerland and already heading home.

This week I have had mates out from UK and the weather has continued to thwart our efforts at getting into the hills. Sunday was saved by having a crevasse rescue day on the Mer de Glace, which I like to do at least once a year to keep my hand in, and then today we decided to go and have a look at the Aiguille de L'M. The forecast was fairly inconclusive, so we hoped we could just avoid getting wet and bag the summit.

We had wanted to do the NE ridge, but when we finally got to the foot of the mountain we saw that everything looked pretty wet, so opted for the easier SE ridge. The access is simple enough, you just climb the couloir to the left of the NE ridge all the way to the Col Blanc, and then turn right. Route finding is ok, you just need to follow your nose and look for the weaknesses, and after about 100 metres of scrambling you find yourself on the pretty exposed summit of the M. Unfortunately we were in cloud by this stage so there was no view but it is, by all accounts, one of the best spots in the massif.

Heading up the snow towards the Col Blanc

Low on the SE ridge

From the top we abbed most of the way back down to the Col Blanc (on good in situ anchors), with brief bits of downclimbing, and then down the snow back to the foot of the NE ridge. From there it is a simple case of walking back to the Montenvers.

Despite the bad visibility it was really satisfying to actually get up something, and it was good to find out a bit more about the M - it is a perfect option for a short weather window or a slightly damp mountain day.