Saturday 9 April 2011


Some things in life are inevitable - death, taxes and the Aiguille Verte handing my ass to me on a regular basis. Better climbers than me have taken many attempts before finally reaching the summit of the Verte so I don't know why I thought I'd manage to get up on just my third try.

The first attempt was via the Grand Montets ridge and was somewhat spoiled by our failure to get up early, and also by bad weather. The guidebook explicitly states that the ridge is very commiting and once past a certain point, retreat is extremely difficult. It was therefore a bit of a blow to morale when I woke at the bivi on the ridge to the sound of rain and the immortal words "Its not good news, youth" from Peter. As it turned out we did reverse the ridge, but I can't say it was much fun.

Today we decided to have a go on the Couturier couloir, and made good time up to the base and up the initial snow slopes. The route had much less snow and much more ice than last time I was there, and was also steeper for longer, with most of it at 55 degrees or more on the left of the rock rognon. We had hoped to solo all the way but with conditions as they were, and Peter never a great fan of ice (let alone soloing it), we decided to move together. As it turned out the route was in such icy condition that we could move quickly and get really good protection in, so soloing wouldn't have been much quicker anyway.

Looking up at the Couturier

Problems started when my feet began to really hurt, and boredom simultaneously set in. I'd frost nipped my feet on the Droites a few weeks back, and the continuous front pointing was agony. Added to this was the fact that we were both finding the climbing pretty tedious, so we decided to head home from 2/3 of the way up. Maybe we should have carried on for fitness/training etc. but to be brutally honest, we couldn't really be bothered, especially with 3 sunny days to come which we could make the most of if we weren't too knackered.

Heading down the Couturier

Having abbed down easily the ski out was fairly rough - terrible crust on the glacier followed by mud/slush on the pistes. Not vintage.

Despite this incredibly negative report on the day we did actually have a really good time thanks to sun, good views and excellent conditions for banter. Here's to attempt number 4....

Today we went for a slightly easier day and went to do the classic Rebuffat route on the south face of the Midi. The route is about 200 metres long and never very hard, but never very easy either and so sounded perfect for a first day back on mountain rock.  The route can be rammed with people but today there was only one other party on it, which was nice. The route can be exposed to falling snow at the start of the season but it seemed fine today and we only had to cross 2 small snow patches. It also features probably the best descent in the massif - one abseil direct back to the cable car station.

Following the famous "S" crack on the Midi south face

Me leading the final pitch

Its like summer already up at the Midi with more people on foot than on skis and all the usual routes - cosmiques arete, chere couloir, traverse of the pointes lachenal - all busy. Is winter finished?!?!