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.