Thursday, 26 September 2013

Ecandies Traverse

The weather has been stunning for the last week here in Cham and with it all forecast to change over the weekend, I decided I'd better leave the laptop for a day and get a route done. As ever, Peter was psyched and so we decided to do the Traverse of the Ecandies, high above Champex. We'd started the walk in to the route once before but turned around when it started raining so a return date had always been on the cards. 

All the guidebooks talk about walking in from Champex but with us trying to do the route in a day (without a bivi after the approach) we thought that we could get in just as quickly from the Col de la Forclaz. The theory went that any extra time walking would be made up in having to drive 40 minutes less each way. It didn't quite work out!

Initially the walk in went fine and we made good time towards the Fenetre d'Arpette col before branching off across scree slopes towards the Trient Hut. Although long, the approach was fine and we were at the Col des Ecandies by 10.30.

Me on the walk in, with the Trient Glacier behind. Photo Peter Riley.

Me early on the traverse, checking the route. Photo Peter Riley.

Looking along the ridge from near the beginning. 

The traverse itself is just fantastic, with plenty of easy but brilliant scrambling plus the odd trickier pitch. The one bit we did skip is the famous "Saut de l'Ange" (Angel's leap) which involves jumping from one pinnacle to another. We'd naively imagined that this would be between 2 big, flat areas but it is actually between 2 small, sloping little ledges with massive exposure and a horrible potential swing if you messed it up. I was leading and didn't fancy it but when Peter arrived he assured me that we just needed to "man up". One closer look and he quickly decided that he was with me and didn't fancy it either! A quick abseil and a shuffle along a ledge saw us back on the route and on our way, with our tails firmly between our legs. 

The remainder of the route went very smoothly and we were on the summit 3 hours after starting. From there the fun really started when we realised that in order to get back to the car, we'd have to descend towards Champex, cut across to the Fenetre d'Arpette path, climb up the Fenetre and then walk down to the car. Ouch. We ended up walking for just under 9 hours and climbing for 3 so I guess all the guidebooks are right when they say to come in from Champex. Still, it was great to be out and we got a superb route done as well as clocking up some good mountain mileage. 

Heading for the final summit. Photo Peter Riley.

Just below the crux. Photo Peter Riley.

Me heading off on the final section before the summit. Photo Peter Riley. 


The Fenetre d'Arpette

All change with the weather now but with a bit of sun still lingering around for a few days. I might just have to get out at the weekend...