Thursday 16 September 2010

Final Flurry

After a day of furious rest following the Cordier, we decided to go up the Mer de Glace and do a route on the Pillier des Contes, beneath the Envers Des Aiguilles hut. However, after about an hour of walking, we got the guidebook out to check where we were and saw that we were right underneath "Vingt Milles Lieues sous la Neige" (TD+, 6b, 300m) which was described as one of the best routes in the Massif. Seeing little point slogging up any further with such a good route right next to us, we quickly decided to forget the Contes and started up Vingt Milles.

French team on an adjacent route.

The first proper pitch is actually the crux, coming in at a desperate 6b on a glacier polished slab. Luckily it was very well bolted and despite the precarious climbing it is very safe. Purely for historical accuracy, I must note here that Peter fell off seconding this pitch.

This is taken from the official start of the route which is now about 30 metres up due to shrinkage of the glacier.

The rest of the route is absolutely superb and very varied. Protection is excellent on the crack pitches, and anywhere without cracks has bolts so it's very stress free. That said, there are several 25 foot runouts on some of the bolted sections so it's not the place to push your grade. The descent is straight back down on bolted belays so all in all a great and stress free route.

With one day left in Cham and feeling pretty knackered from long days and lots of red wine the night before, Emma and I headed up the Grand Floria and did "Robin Wood" (TD, 6a, 180m). The route is excellent and varied but I felt the crux was really tough for the grade. Still, good weather, climbing and company made for an excellent day.

Emma at the foot of the cliff after I forgot to take any photos on the route!

Nepal and Scotland now beckon for me, so I won't be in Cham until after Christmas when it will be skiing time. Can't wait!

And don't forget - "There is no such thing as too much snow".

A Bientot.

Monday 13 September 2010

Cordier Pillar & Nabot Leon

With a couple of clear days left, Peter and I were keen to make the most of it and headed up for an attempt (my 3rd!!) on the Cordier Pillar on the Grand Charmoz.

After leisurely start we carried our kit up to the superb bivi site next to the Nantillons Glacier and then, despite the temptation to just look at the view all day, we went off to do a few pitches on the Red Pillar of the Blaitiere. We decided to go for Nabot Leon (TD, V+, 180m) and just climb for a couple of hours and then turn around. As it turned out we'd finished the route in a couple of hours so that was a good result. The route itself is simply fantastic, with interest maintained without ever being hard. Undoubtedly one of the best routes I've ever done in the valley and a must for any fan of granite.

Pitch 2 of Nabot Leon.

Away from the bivi by 6.15 the next day we hurried across the Nantillons glacier (notorious for rockfall) and were soon at the foot on the Pillar and trying to get our hands warm enough to climb. By 7.30 it was just about ok so we began heading up. Having done the first 12 pitches on a previous attempt  we made good time through the initial 1/3 of the route, which is sustained at about VS, with the occasional tougher pitch thrown in.

Low down the Cordier - long way to go!

The route is well equipped for an ab descent so we were able to go pretty light, armed with one small bag between us, and all seemed well until about 12 pitches up. Unfortunately a few of the pitches are in a chimney which had failed to clear of snow and ice, so the 3 pitches just before the route emerges into sunshine took us over an hour and a half. I even managed to take a leader fall whilst trying to climb ice in rockshoes, which was a blow to morale.

Still, we eventually emerged into the sun and debated whether to carry on given the gathering cloud. Eventually we decided to "go and have a look" (ie.carry on). As it turned out the top pitches were amazing - perfect golden granite high above the glacier and with the Chamonix peaks all around. We eventually finished the route just under guidebook time and had a quick handshake and began the descent with the cloud getting thicker by the minute.

This is what 600 metres of granite does to your hands!

Almost as soon as we began abbing the rain started up, and came and went the whole way through the 3 1/2 hours it took to ab. Given that I had no waterproofs, I filled my suffering quota for a year! Luckily there are plenty of ab points so we did lots of short abs in an attempt to avoid getting a rope stuck and it worked, as we got back to the kit at the foot of the route without a single stuck rope.

By the time we got to the glacier it was almost dark and very misty so we felt our way back towards our bivi site. As it turned out we almost tripped over it, which I admit was a complete fluke although Peter maintains he knew where he was all along!

We quickly packed the overnight kit away and started the walk down to Cham, which took nearly 3 hours. Great route, and quite a day!

Grand Charmoz with the top 3/4 of the Cordier Pillar marked.

Friday 10 September 2010

Aiguille Crochues

We’d originally planned to head up to the Aiguille du Peigne today but woke up to find the Aiguilles plastered in snow. In need of a change of plan we got out the Aiguilles Rouges guidebook and had a quick scan for something quick drying and not too hard so we could manage it in what was left of the day.

I spotted the Ravanel route on the south side of the Aiguille Crochues, 400metres, sustained 5/5+ and a nice summit so we headed up. The route follows the red line to the ridge then the right hand skyline to the summit, and the descent is the left skyline.

Top of pitch 7 - "like a big version of Jenga!"
The walk in is pretty brief, 30 minutes or so, and the route is simple enough to find. The first seven pitches are sustained and superb, albeit with the occasional loose block higher up. The whole route is bolted but fairly sparsely in places so it’s best to have a few grades in hand.

Once on the ridge it is pretty easy climbing with 2 short steep steps, so we moved together from the top of pitch 7 to the summit. There are occasional bolts even on the scrambling bits so you don’t need a rack and can move pretty fast.


From the summit we ditched the rope and down climbed the normal route and then made a hash of finding the correct descent and ended up on some horrible loose terrain, so keep your eyes peeled!


Eventually made it back to the Index chairlift in 6 hours round trip, which felt like good time, and were down for ice creams in the sun not long after! Great day, great route.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Aiguille de L'index x 2

View from the Index

The forecast over the last few days has been pretty average so tuesday was spent in front of the TV, and wednesday we headed up the Grand Montets for a look around to see how condtions were. We wandered up towards the Petite Verte but snow conditions were pretty grim and it was blowing a blizzard so we retired to coffee and lunch. Some guided parties carried on up though so I assume it's possible, albeit not much fun.

In the afternoon we decided to go for a fitness run on the SE ridge of the Aiguille de L'Index. With a short approach and easy but exposed climbing this is a great classic of the valley, although the Index is a renowned lightning conductor - you've been warned! Without wishing to encourage such behaviour, we managed it in 1hr 18mins round trip from the top of the chairlift and back again.

The forecast was poor again today so we headed up the Index again and decided that with the temperature dropping and clouds gathering we'd stick to the Index again and did the Fissure Gauche straight up the face. The guidebook said it was equipped but in reality only the belays are there so take a full rack.

This afternoon we wnet up the Midi for a chedck on conditions and everything seemed very, very snowy so we're staying below 3500m for now.

3 days good weather coming up so hopefully we'll be on something big ASAP!

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Plenty of action.

The original plan for this fortnight was to head to the Bregaglia but with recent heavy snowfall we felt that it would be too plastered for the big north facing rock routes and so headed to Cham with a good forecast for at least 4 days.


The trip started with an attempt on the traverse of the Chamonix Aiguilles which went well until the top of the Dent du Caiman, when the onset of altitude sickness prompted a (very!) hasty retreat. I've been straight up to 3500 metres before in the Alps and Himalaya and been fine but lesson learned - do something with an easy exit strategy first up.

Licking our wounds we opted for an easier day in the Aiguilles Rouges and clipped some bolts on the Petite Floria, an incredible summit but with a bit of a tricky descent down some loose scree unless you ab down one the sport routes - don't be fooled by the low grade of the descent route.

Top of the Floria.

Yesterday we headed up to the Red Pillar of the Aiguille de Blaitiere and did the uber classic (and superbly named) "Majorette Thatcher" (TD+, 6b, 180m). Peter was in his element with the brutal crack climbing on the route - this is definitely one for the jamming conniseur. I am certianly not in that category but the quality of the route as well as the views and exposure make for a great day out and a good option for a day hit.

Brutality on Majorette Thatcher. "For God's sake put a jam in youth!"

Thursday 2 September 2010

Back in the game!

I'm supposed to be off to the Bregaglia for a couple of weeks today but with the forecast in Cham looking good it seems likely I'll be there, so the blog returns! Hopefully have some idea about conditions tomorrow - psyched!