Tuesday 6 August 2013

Rochefort Arete, Papillons Arete, and general conditions

I only got back to Cham late on Saturday night after a blissful week of lounging around in Tuscany, so it was quite a shock to the system to go from hardcore tourism in Pisa on Saturday to kipping at the Helbronner with Matt on Sunday night. 

From the sublime (complete with tourists all doing the "I'm holding it up" act)...

to the ridiculous - The Alpine Clown in full costume

With neither of us acclimatised nor keen for trying too hard, we were looking for something to do which was neither too high, dangerous or committing, and something which would provide some good views. The classic Rochefort Arete seemed to tick all the boxes so that was that.

Away from the hut by just after 5, we were taking crampons off and beginning the scramble up to the Salle a Manger an hour later. It would be fair to say that we were both pretty lukewarm about the loose nature of the terrain, and when the seemingly inevitable happened and a huge rockfall flew past us, it was quickly decided that we didn't need this sort of thing in our lives, and we headed off. Always a shame not to be rewarded for a rubbish night's sleep, but I'll wait until Spring when the approach is a bit more glued together before going back. Everyone else who'd been behind us carried on by the way, so it's perfectly possible to get up there if you have the required psych/danger tolerance.

A sight rarely seen - Matt doing summer alpinism

Beautiful morning light on Mont Blanc

Matt enjoying his second breakfast after our retreat

Having turned back we decided to go and climb the Entreves just to do something with the day, and to check out conditions. If I could summarise things right now, it would be "dry". Some of the bergrschrunds, particularly on the Tacul are enourmous, and routes like the Tour Ronde N face look really icy and unpleasant. The rock, however, looks great, and just about everything is dry, including big routes like the Gervassutti Pillar. If you're climbing up the Midi right now, I would recommend sticking to rock climbs - there are some amazing routes to be done so get on them while it's too hot and dry for anything else.

With that in mind, Sharon and I decided today to do the Papillons Arete on the Aiguille du Peigne. The route itself is just brilliant - perfect granite, nothing too hard (provided you don't get lost at the crux...oops!), loads of gear, and amazing views of the towering Chamonix Aiguilles. 

Early morning light on the M and Petit Charmoz, with the Drus and the Verte behind.

Looking up at the Papillons

All was going smoothly until the end of the route when the weather suddenly went from sunny to misty in seconds, and then a minute or 2 later, a flash of lightning came so close to us that I felt a jolt through my feet. Quite the incentive to hurry down! We duly hurried, and the "storm" only lasted about 10 minutes, so we walked out in perfect sunshine to a very welcome can of Orangina at the mid station cafe.

Conditions are great around the Aiguilles now with just about everything dry. I could hear rockfalls all day though, so choose your route carefully and you'll have a great time.