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.