Thursday, 5 July 2012

L'ete Indien - double entendre

With the weather returning to its default setting for summer 2012 (unsettled), and me off to India tomorrow, I managed to squeeze in a final day of climbing with Peter and Stuart today, when we climbed the appropriately named "L'Ete Indien" (250m, 6a+) in the Berard Valley.

The walk in is about 1hr 15, and then the route is 7 pitches. The quality is absolutely superb, definitely one of the best routes I've done in the Aiguilles Rouges, and is fully bolted and easily abseiled at the end - a perfect shortish day.

All 3 of us forgot our cameras, but Peter's girlfriend Kerry walked not far from the route and managed to snap some shots, which are pretty impressive considering they were taken from 400 metres away! - 

All Photos Kerry Holden - 

So my Indian summer begins now, and I'll be back at the end of July. For those interested I'll be trying to update my personal site where possible, and this blog will obviously be up and running again when I get back. Hope the weather picks up for everyone in July, but I'd rather it was sunny in August :) 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Saas Fee (again) - Lagginhorn & Allalinhorn

Wanting to make further use of the free lift passes in the Saas Valley, and keen to get a ski in while it was still possible, Emma, Matt and I made the 2 hour drive over to Saas Fee and having pitched our tents and got our guest cards (the ticket required to get the free lifts) from the campsite, we quickly headed up to the Mittel Allalin. 

Perfect temperatures for skiing....And it got hotter!

Random tourist trying out Matt's skis

The Allalinhorn from the Mittel Allalin station

From there it was a simple skin up to the summit of the Allalinhorn (4027m) via its normal route. The wind was howling however, so after a quick summit snap we were quickly on our way and got a fun but slightly slushy ski back to Mittel Allalin. Despite the variable conditions it felt great to be skiing again, and with half an hour to spare Matt and I decided to carry on skiing down to the top of the Felskinn lift instead of catching the Mittel Allalin train down with Emma. As it turned out we got some really good turns but the thin snow cover (hardly surprising 2 days before the start of July!!!) meant that we couldn't cross the pass required to reach the lower station. After an aborted attempt at climbing some ladders/cargo netting/metal beams up to the station we accepted that we'd messed up and strapped the skis to the bag for the long walk. It actually turned out that the walk was only just over an hour, and worth it for the extra ski. 

Skinning up

Emma skinning up the final summit slopes

And the summit ridge itself

The happy couple on top

The following day we swapped skis for mountain boots and I climbed the Lagginhorn (4010m) by its W ridge, whilst Emma and Matt headed up the Weissmies. To access the Lagginhorn W Ridge from Hohsaas you have to traverse under the W face, and with lots of loose snow and rock perched above you, and bits of fallen debris everywhere, it's not the place to linger. You might also just go on a glacier on this section, but I think that with glacial retreat you probably miss it altogether (I wouldn't walk anywhere on a wet glacier without a rope on, but being alone felt fine even to me - the World's most cautious mountaineer!)

Looking across to the W face and ridge of the Lagginhorn

Once on the ridge it is a pleasant, easy scramble followed by a long snow plod (with slopes up to about 35/40 degrees) to the summit. I felt the altitude despite the previous day's acclimatisation but still made it in 2hr 45 from Hohsaas, without ever really going for it. The views were amazing from the top but with the weather seemingly coming in I quickly got some photos then scurried off.

Final snow plod

Last few steps to the top

Lagginhorn summit cross

Looking across to the Weissmies as the weather turns

On the descent I followed the W Ridge all the way to the bottom instead of crossing back to Hohsaas, (this way definitely avoids any glaciers) and instead walked the short distance back to Kreuzboden (the lower lift station) where I met up again with Matt and Emma for a well earned Weissbier. The peaks above the Saas valley are not as extreme as the Mont Blanc Massif, but there do provide acclimatisation, amazing views and some fun days out, and are well worth a visit when you're sick of having epics in Cham!