Sunday 12 June 2011

Amok, Pilier des Contes

Still no sign of any settled weather here so Peter and I opted for another day on the Pilier des Contes, below the Envers hut. We'd been there a few weeks back and knew that it dries quickly and has some amazing granite. There's always a catch though and the walk in is the big downside of the crag. We came up the glacier this time and stayed on the right hand side all the way. However, since we'd last been to the crag, the moraine you climb to access the routes seemed to have got even worse, and this time it was so loose that I was actually kicking steps into the "rock". In total the walk in took about 1hr 40. On the way back we decided to walk out via the Envers hut, which only took about 1hr 45 from the base of the Pilier. So there you go - walking via the hut is longer but walking up the glacier is grim! Which ever option you choose, the Pilier des Contes is in an unbelievable position and gets sun all day long, so its worth it.

We'd both wanted to do "Amok" (6b+, ED, 250m) for ages, so we got on it. There was some early amusement when I fell off about 6 feet up the first pitch, but after that it all went very smoothly. I say that anyone who likes to socialise on a saturday night shouldn't be asked to lead the first pitch of a sunday morning route anyway, especially when it is a 6b slab.

Peter on the 6b+ pitch
The route is 8 pitches in total and most of them are exceptional - perfect granite, amazing views, lots of sun, and easily protectable. Pitch 6 is probably the pick of them, a 30 metre crack system followed by an amazing slab/arete.

Pitch 5

The slab at the top of Pitch 6

 As with many of the routes around here, the sections which can be protected with cams are left untouched, but the blank sections have bolts. The belays are all bolted too, so you can ab down the route in 4 x 50 metre abseils. You can actually get back down to the ground from the 3rd belay, you just need to ab into the big grassy couloir just right of the route. With 50 metre ropes we ended up about 1 metre off the ground but there was a ledge where we could get off the rope, so we just jumped the last bit! 

Despite the walk in, the Pilier is a superb option in this dodgy weather. I keep hearing about people hurting themselves trying to do snow/mixed routes this week, so just keep it simple and go rock climbing in the sun at the Envers until the weather picks up.