Sunday 30 May 2010

Winter Video

With Mont Blanc skiied and the Vallee Blanche descended for the final time, it seems winter is finally over, so I've put together a little video of images from the last 6 months. Hope it gets you psyched for next year!

Thanks to all the various partners who appear - here's to many more missions.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Contamine Route, Pointes Lachenal

With one day of good weather left and very high temperatures, Tom and I went up the Midi and skiied into the uber classic Contamine route on the Pointes Lachenal. After failing to change into rock boots without getting them wet on the snow we set off on perfect golden granite, and the great pitches just kept coming! As with many granite faces, the route finding is not amazingly obvious, but we managed to find the crux pitch easily enough, and Tom dispatched it pretty quickly. We reckon about E1 5c, and superb with it.

Tom high on the crux pitch

With the crux pitch out of the way there are 3 much easier pitches left, making about 10 pitches in total, and then an ab descent. With all the cracks and other potential rope snags, you need to be careful which line you ab, but with so many fixed belays about it's pretty easy. We stayed roughly on our line and occasionally headed out onto the face to the left to ensure smoother rope management.

From the bottom we had an hour left until the last bin down the midi and the last train down from Montenvers. For reasons which now aren't very obvious we convinced ourselves we could ski the Vallee Blanche quickly enough to make it, but having to pole from the Salle a Manger for nearly an hour, followed by a half hour walk on moraine to even get to the Montenvers ladders proved us wrong. The VB is all but impossible now, so don't bother. We eventually made it to Montenvers at 7, and were in town for 8, so not too bad.

Long walk aside, we both agreed that the quality of climbing on the route was as good as anything we'd climbed in Cham - highly recommended.

Saturday 22 May 2010

Variety is the spice of life

Quite the week just gone by, starting with rock climbing in Provence and ending on the summit of Mont Blanc!

With the bad weather lasting into it’s 3rd week, Peter and I headed down to Provence and had 3 superb days clipping bolts in the sun around Les Dentelles and Malaucene.

Well you can't go to Provence and not have a few drinks!

Peter latching the "thank God" hold on Mad Max, 6b.

Having got back we were both super keen for alpinism but there was a huge amount of snow, so having tried the Le Tour basin (woke up in the hut to find the wind howling across the glacier) and the Midi (just too much snow all round), we decided that the only way to salvage the week would be to ski Mont Blanc.

Acclimatisation was, to put it mildly, limited but we were both pretty confident that we could bash it out, so took the last bin up the midi and got settled in for the night.

Incredible sunset from the Midi.

The next day dawned clear as we made our way up the 3 Monts route, and after some fairly intense suffering (made worse by the glue on both Peter’s skins failing 300 metres from the top and him having to crampon it in deep snow) we somehow found ourselves on top. A quick change and we were off, skiing down the way we had come then down the Corridor, onto the Bossons Glacier and finally the Plan de l’Aiguille lift station.

Skiing away from the summit.

The track up and the ski down are currently really good, although the good snow ends at around 3300 metres and becomes slush, but it is nearly June so I musn’t grumble. There are still a few days of good weather left so I’d recommend getting on it.

Mont Blanc from near the top of the Bossons Glacier - not a place to linger!

As for alpinism there is a vast amount of snow everywhere making life pretty tough, but the classics such as the Cosmiques Arete and Pointes Lachenal have good tracks to them, so there’s still things to go at. Also, Tom has been out a lot recently and thinks the north faces should be really good. He’s also been skiing all the silly steep stuff, so plenty for the steep ski nutters to go at too.

Good weather is supposed to last until Tuesday afternoon so get out there!

Friday 14 May 2010

Lots of Cragging and Rain

Since bailing off the Haute Route 2 weeks ago the weather has been consistently dire, with plenty of rain and no sun. That said, it has occasionally stayed dry enough to permit some cragging so Gaillands and Le Fayet (the only crag that is dry in the rain) have seen plenty of me as I try to get some mileage in on the rock.

It looks like the bad weather may FINALLY be coming to an end, but conditions up high will take a while to settle so it's going to be at least a few more days before there's any chance of doing big routes. Tom has been skiing steep routes off the Midi recently and reckons there is a lot of unstable snow up there, particularly on lower angled slopes, so it looks it will be a case of wait and see. If it does clear and we get a good period of stable weather and freeze/thaw to consolidate all the snow, it could be epic.

L'Arete (6a), Frendo Area, Les Gaillands

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Haute Route - Aborted!!!

With high hopes we set off last wednesday for an haute route on steroids, the basic idea of which was to avoid the motorway on the normal route and ski as much steep terrain as possible.

Started off at the Argentiere Refuge, which was very nice indeed. Much nicer than the bivi these 2 guys (spot the light!) will have had on the Droites! Not sure if it was a planned bivi, but either way it will have been a chilly night.

After deciding against the Barbey Couloir on the Aiguille d'Argentiere we went up to the Col Superior du Tour Noir, the obvious low point in the middle of this photo.

Final slog up to the col.

Worth it for the view. The Matterhorn looked so close it was hard believe the route would take a week!

We dropped into the SE couloir off the col and found some good 45 degree spring snow, albeit in boling temperatures (I was in a t shirt and thin shell jacket and was dripping with sweat).

However, as we got lower (still above 3000 metres!) the snow got worse and worse and in the end it was knee deep slush, really tough skiing. At one point a wet avalanche came past us, which wasn't massive but big enough to be concerning, so if you do this couloir, get up early.

Despite the poor snow low down, the top half was superb, and it is a great ski and an amazing line, so highly recommended if in good nick. The guidebook gives it 5.2, 45 degrees, 600m.

SE couloir is the obvious curving couloir coming down from the col right of the peak.

After a night in La Fouly we had a good look at the forecast and reluctantly decided that the 2nd day would have to be our last. We got up early hoping to climb and ski the Pointe de Drone, but bad visibility stopped us, and we opted to cross the Col de Bastillion in order to reach our pick up point at Super St. Bernard. The col isn't really a touring col and required a bit of easy mixed scrambling to reach, but provided a nice gentle ski down to the road.

It's now 5 days later and the weather looks rubbish for a good while yet, so a good but disppointing call to abandon. There's always next year.