Wednesday 14 March 2012

Cham in a nutshell

With a high pressure system blowing into Cham, people are getting out and doing plenty of climbing, and Tom and I were keen to join them. We hadn't heard about conditions on "Late to Say I'm Sorry", on the Grand Rocheuse, but it looked good and we were feeling confident and so caught the last bin up the Grand Montets on Monday night and settled into the toilets in preparation for an early start. 

Tom gets all the Grand Montets powder hounds excited - "60cm of fresh dude!"

Sunset views

Up and away by 4.30 we were soon over to the short skin up to the bergschrund, and were both slightly concerned at just how warm it was. I didn't even put my gloves on! Still, the route looked superb so we were quickly on our way up the bottom of the Couturier, when suddenly a fist sized rock fizzed pretty close to my head. There had been a steady trickle of small pebbles since we got over the 'schrund, but this was the first big rock, and it was followed not long after by 2 more. Rockfall wasn't really a hazard we had considered given that we were climbing a north face in early March, but the rocks were indeed falling and we were keener to get out of there than hang around considering where they were coming from. 2 abs and some down climbing got us back to the skis, and it now only being 8am, we were keen for a new plan. 

Tom downclimbing back towards the skis

The S Couloir of the Chardonnay seemed like a good idea, so we shot down to the Argentiere Glacier, ditched the climbing kit and began skinning. Tom beasted me up the skin track towards the Col du Chardonnet, and we were there pretty quickly and soon bootpacking up the couloir. Conditions were actually pretty good, but having got to the col which separates the lower and upper sections of the couloir, things looked pretty grim above. As ever, Tom was keen to check anyway, so I sat and took in the view while he went for a look.

Looking back at the Verte, where we'd been that morning

My view for most of the morning - Tom burning me off!

Chardonnay S Couloir

Looking across to the Matterhorn, Grand Combin and Aiguille d'Argentiere

Predictably enough it was pretty rubbish, and by the time Tom got back to me, the bottom section had re-frozen, so not a great ski all told! Still, today really encapsulated Cham in that we were able to get to a big north face in 20 minutes from the cable car station, try it and retreat, and then shoot across to a big ski objective and then finish in town by 4pm. You've got to love this place.

Lower section of the Chardonnay S Couloir