Thursday 22 August 2013

Petite Aiguille Verte & Aiguilles Dorees

This hot and sunny summer just seems to keep coming, so I've been out for a few days over the last week trying to make the most of it. First up, Gary and I went for a lap on the Petite Aiguille Verte and the E ridge of the Grand Montets. Given that the weather has been good for 90% of this summer, it seemed ironic to be out in the mist and cold, but we had a good time, and it was nice to get out despite the lack of views for most of the day.

Gary on the Petite Verte

A quick glimpse of some moody looking Drus

Where else can you have a coffee in your own house and then be here an hour later?

Me on a short, tricky section on the Grand Montets E ridge. Photo Gary Tulloch.

Looking to up the ante a bit, I teamed up with super keen London based climber Matt Groom and after much deliberation we headed up to the Albert Premier hut to do the traverse of the Aiguilles Dorees. With conditions quite dry after a long summer, we wanted something rock based, and with no danger of rockfall, either natural or kicked off by other people. The Dorees seemed a good idea, and with it being a slightly neglected classic, we figured we'd find some solitude. The guidebook says that the route is long, difficult to follow, and quite serious, so we also knew we'd find some adventure...

Sunset views from the hut. The Dorees is normally approached from the Trient hut, but with the chairlift which takes you most of the way broken, we decided we'd rather go from the Albert Premier.

The approach was pretty long (just under 3 hours), but we got our heads down and managed to beat daylight to the route, and so had to sit in the freezing darkness for half an hour and wait for the sun.

First light on the route

Matt and the Aiguille d'Argentiere

Matt on the ridge

The climbing on the route was great, and the route finding interesting, so spirits were high by the time we reached the snow traverse section. Unfortunately the snow was gone and had been replaced by patchy black ice, so we had to take the direct line, which takes in a 6a corner. Matt was up it in no time though, and we still thought all was well. 

However, when we finally reached the foot of the Tete Biselx, the whole thing looked like a pile of chossy, awful rock. On the approach to the route we'd seen the evidence of 2 huge rockfalls, and now it looked as if one had originated from where the route was supposed to go. Add this to the fact that smaller rockfalls had been more or less continuous from the face, and we were suddenly not that keen on pushing on. There looked to be no good way up the peak, and nor did it look possible to get around the face and continue another way. We were both gutted to turn around, especially after putting in so much effort on the approach, but neither of us wanted to go anywhere near the Biselx, so that was that.

I've been meaning to climb the Dorees for years now, so I was disappointed not to do it, but a good time was had despite not finishing the route.

Matt looking back at the bigger rockfall

The smaller of the 2 rockfalls!

It looks as if there is now a spell of dodgy weather coming up, but I'll still be getting out where possible and blogging when I do.

Postscript - I had a text from Matt today saying that having checked a few guidebooks it seems that the chimney we were supposed to climb had indeed fallen down in the major rockfall! Scary stuff.