Saturday 23 April 2011

Eperon des Cosmiques, Les Courtes & Brevent

Busy old week with Tom here - he never stops.

After the Profit Perroux we decided on another trip up the Midi and went for the classic Rebuffat route on the Eperon des Cosmiques. I'd left Tom in Peter's capable hands earlier in the week and they'd managed to climb the wrong route so I had no choice but to go with them this time and show them the way.

The route is totally dry right now so we quickly traversed in to where the real climbing starts and I was sent up the crux. The crux pitch is, to be honest, pretty rubbish. About 15 metres of nice granite slab climbing lead to an overhang and then it is simply a case of pulling on the in situ aid. Unfortunately there wasn't as much to pull on as there had been last time so I had to put a few bits of my own in, and this coupled with my lack of upper body strength and the altitude meant I was gasping by the time I got through it, much to the amusement of the lads.

Start of the crux pitch

Hard graft

After the crux there are 3 easier pitches, but really good quality climbing and with the odd brutal move thrown in over some small overlaps. Tom and I knew how much Peter loves brutal climbing so we sent him up on the lead - very kind of us I thought. Once off the route we did the Cosmiques Arete for the second time in as many days to round off a great day.

Next up we went for a go on the Swiss Route on the north face of Les Courtes. Tom had been itching to get on a big route and I was keen to complete the full set of routes on each of the big 3 faces in the Argentiere basin. Things started badly when the cable car broke for half an hour and only got worse when I decided not to take the high traverse to the route because it had been pretty hideous 2 weeks ago and was likely to have got worse. As it turned out loads of people did it and it looked fine, but such is life.

The skin up was tough in the heat but the route looked in bomber condition so we ploughed on. Once near the route we could see a team already on it and moving very fast so we were encouraged even more. However, having got to the bergschrund I saw that it had actually collapsed in the hour or so that had passed since the other team crossed it. There was a path, a big gap and then more foot prints, and a big block in the schrund with some boot tracks on it. I went into the schrund to try and get across anyway but part of it collapsed under me, and the rest of it looked grim, so we headed home. Sometimes everything is just telling you to go home and friday was on of those days. Route looks great though and someone braver than me might have crossed what was left of the schrund, so could be a good option when the weather clears.

North face of Les Courtes. The Swiss route takes the obvious ice gully up the middle of the lower face then drifts left up the snow to the summit.

The forecast had originally been for saturday to be quite a good day but having looked at it on friday evening, things had changed for the worse so we abandonned our plan of a route on the Midi north face and instead went up the Brevent to do the "Frison Roche" on the face right under the cable car. With a possible thunderstorm in the afternoon it seemed wise to pick something we could do quickly, and this fit the bill.

The winter has been so lean that it is already possible to get to the route in trainers and there is only snow on the 5th pitch, which is just walking anyway. One word of warning - it was FREEZING on pitch 4(which is in the shade), to the extent that we got hot aches - not something you foresee when rock climbing.

The cragging at the Brevent is dry now but there is still 2 metres of snow so you miss out the bottom 20% of the routes. With this in mind, and knowing that the routes are all about 15 grades harder than the book says, we headed straight home after the Frison.

Pitch 1 on the Frison Roche