Sunday, 27 June 2010


                                        Finally, the sun is shining in the Alps! Only took a month....

Looking for some fitness, acclimatisation and nice mountains, Owen and I went off to Saas Fee last week and found all 3, doing the traverse of the Dri Horlini followed by the traverse of the Weissmeis.

The Dri Horlini is a great little peak above the Almelgeller hut, and although there are some bolted routes up the faces, the traverse is the classic route. The approach is about 15 minutes, and the climbing continuously interesting without ever being hard - highly recommended.

Owen and Me on the Dri Horlini.

The next morning we were up and away early on the traverse of the Weissmies, the most easterly 4000er in the Valais. We climbed the SW ridge and descended the NW shoulder to the HohSaas cable car. The SW ridge is a long snow plod followed by some stunning but easy scrambling and finally a knife edge ridge to the summit. We found perfect neve the whole way and soloed to the summit, before roping up for the heavily crevassed descent. As the guidebook had said, the views were incredible, particularly at sunrise, and we had the entire south side of the mountain to ourselves - amazing.


Final snow ridge to the summit of the Weissmies & brewing up on top!

The next day was supposed to be an admin day but I couldn't resist popping out for a route up Brevent when Paul called. We'd hoped to do the Frison Roche and then some cragging but handily enough the top lift was closed, so we shifted objectives and did "Tartiflette", a great little 6 pitch route just above Plan Praz. The climbing was pretty stiff at the grade, (at least I thought so - Paul said it was tough but showed little sign of it. I think he just being nice.) supposedly 5+/6a but great fun and a great half day hit.

Paul on "Tartiflette."

To round off a superb week, Peter and I headed up to do the Frendo Spur on the Midi, after Tom had soloed it in 4 hours (!) and said it was in OK nick. Peter had spent the previous month on an oil rig so we felt a one day onsight ascent might be a bit tough so decided to take our time and enjoy it over 2 days.

The Frendo Spur

The first day we got the 9am bin and got stuck into the lower rock section but were dismayed to find large chunks of it covered in soft, unconsolidated snow and we went much slower than we hoped.

Still, we made steady progress, and managed to find a reasonably snow free line up to the bivi spot at the start of the famous snow arete. Despite some loose rock the quality of the climbing is very good, and pretty sustained at around Severe in the upper section with some trickeier moves thrown in too. The crux is about VS, and pretty steep and exposed but good fun and plenty of holds if you just keep pulling.

On the "rock" section.

Some kind person had dug out some nice platforms so we had a really comfy night and were treated to some amazing views as the sun set.

Keen to get up the snow in good conditions we were away from our bivi just after 5am and started our way up the arete. From the Midi bin I'd always thought it looked pretty gripping but hoped looks would be deceiving. They weren't. The snow was pretty soft in places and we were both relieved to finally reach the sanctuary of the Rock Rognon and a good belay.

Peter enjoying the soft snow on the Arete.

Unsure of which way to go we decided to go left of the Rognon as Peter had heard there were bolted belays and we figured bad snow and good belays was better than bad snow and bad belays. The snow was indeed pretty rubish but we still managed to make good progress as the abundant protection spurred us on to climb pretty fast. As it turns out there are indeed bolted belays, and the steepest section is only around 70 degrees, so not too bad at all. (That said, when we were coming down the Midi we noticed that the right of the Rognon basically looked like a steep walk, so we'll know to go right next time.) Pulling over the top was a great feeling, as was piling into a full english brekkie down in town!

Nearly there - snow arete visible behind.

The route is certainly possible now but given the amount of poor quality snow, I think I'd leave it a bit longer and let this good weather dry it out a bit.

Weather looks good again tomorrow, and tuesday looks OK although possibly a bit shaky in the afternoon. Let's hope it holds - we've waited long enough for it!