Thursday 8 July 2010

Summer Video

After the winter video, my mate Andy insisted on a summer one so here we go. Whatever you get up to in Cham, stay safe and have fun. See you for powder days in January.

Aiguille de la Republique

With time left for one more route, Peter and I headed up the Montenvers and towards the Envers des Aiguilles hut for a go at the Aiguille de le Republique.

The Republique from Montenvers. The peak is the tiny needle just left of the highest summit.

We found an amazing bivi spot below the route and got settled in for some serious sunbathing and tea drinking before heading up to do the first few pitches so that we could locate the ab descent for the next day. It turned out to be time well spent as it wasn't amazingly obvious how to descend the best way from the old tour rouge hut a few hundred metres up the route.

Not a bad bivi spot. Calm down ladies.

The next morning we were away early and climbing by first light. The first few pitches went well and within just over an hour we were in the large couloir leading up to the summit tower. However, we hadn't seen the forecast and so when big black clouds began to gather round us we thought we might be in for a thunderstorm and decided to head down. For the time it took us to descend the clouds got blacker and thicker and we were congratulating ourselves on a great call. As it turned out the clouds parted and the sun shone all day. You couldn't make it up!

Mer de Glace in the afternoon sun.

Unfortunately my time in Cham is up for now and I'm heading off for 6 months or so. Given the high temperatures recently and the fact that it's only going to get hotter, there isn't much need for conditions blogs - just go rock climbing!

One final walk out.

Sunday 4 July 2010

Aiguille du Peigne

Although we’re getting plenty of sun right now, the daily thunderstorm in the late afternoon is still ruling out any really big routes, so we’re sticking to day routes. An attempt at a big route ended last night when we got to the mid station, were about to walk into a bivi, and then were hit by a huge downpour, so promptly got back on the bin and ran away!

In search for a route which would dry quickly we opted to “send” the classic Papillons ridge on the Aiguille du Peigne. On the first bin, we were climbing not long after 8, and shot up the route pretty quickly, moving together virtually the whole way. The climbing is absolutely amazing, and only has a couple of tricky moves. There’s plenty of gear too, so pretty faultless all round!

Heading up the Papillons

From the top we scrambled up to join the west ridge to the summit, and the superb climbing just kept coming. The standard is slightly more sustained there, and we pitched up to the final platform below the summit.

Trying not to grunt too much on a typical Chamonix pitch!

However, by the time we got there we were starting to get a bit concerned about the gathering cloud, and one look at the infamous Lepiney off width crack sent us running away for the second time in 24 hours! We got held up by a guide and client on the way down and only just made the bin and narrowly escaped the downpour, so a good end to the day. We had two 50 metre ropes, although you could easily manage with one 60 metre. I tried to convince Peter we didn’t need the second rope but he offered to carry it the whole way, which won me over.

Peter is keen to go back for a return date with the Lepiney but I’m not too sure, looked a bit brutal to me!

Friday 2 July 2010

Forbes Arete

Chardonnay and the Albert Premier hut.

With the weather continuing with good days and evening thunderstorms, we were still reluctant to jump on anything too big, so we went up to the Albert Premier hut for the classic Forbes Arete on the Aiguille de Chardonnay.

We got away early hoping to get some good photos and beat the bad weather, but unfortunately the nights have been really warm and the snow had not refrozen, so the walk in was fairly grim in soft snow. Still, we crested the ridge at 7 and got great views of the Argentiere basin and across to the Matterhorn.

High on the Forbes

The ridge itself was a bit too snowy, and the snow was pretty poor, so we couldn’t go as fast as we would have liked (although we were still at the fast end of guidebook time). That said, on the sections with no snow the climbing was superb and you could tell that if it was a bit drier the route would be even better. The climbing is continually interesting and involves a lot of down climbing and some cunning route finding, all in superb positions and with plenty of protection.

Given the nature of the descent (lots of down climbing) we decided to take 2 axes each, and the whole way up I had been lecturing Peter about how he was a dinosaur for using axes with leashes, how he was living in the past, how he ought to embrace modern gear etc. It was therefore somewhat of a blow to morale when I dropped one of my tools down the north face when half way along the ridge. Still, as if to prove my point of how good leashless tools are, it conveniently stuck in the snow 40 metres down. Having been lowered down and climbed back out, I resumed my lecture!

Looking forward to the descent, complete with 2 axes.

The summit itself is fantastic, just perfect views in all directions, but we weren’t keen to hang around as we wanted to descend before the snow got too poor. With our 2 axes we were pretty fast down climbing and soon located a good spot to ab from and were walking back to the hut just over an hour after leaving the top. It’s personal choice whether to take 2 axes, most people don’t, but I like the speed and security it offers, so its up to you.

You can currently walk directly back to the hut but I suspect that in a few weeks it will be too crevassed.

Looking back up at the mountain from the balcony - a nice feeling.

Great route, great mountain, enjoy.