Friday, 1 November 2013

Cunningham Couloir

All week it's looked as if today (Friday) was going to be a washout, but the weatherman suddenly got optimistic and predicted a half decent day. Tom and I had initially thought about doing Fil a Plomb, but with the winds due to increase and some cloud expected in the afternoon we decided to save it for a better day and headed up the Midi with no fixed objective. 

The day got off to a great start as we stood back and watched the race for the abseil anchors from the Midi bridge. Word has got out that the routes accessed via the bridge abseil, on the Midi NW face, are in good nick and they've been getting hammered recently. Tom and I were in no rush and so watched the chaos and once it had subsided, debated what to go for. 

Jon Bracey abbing off the bridge, headed for some hard climbing.

We thought about heading for the Tacul Triangle but didn't fancy the walk, and also considered the Cosmiques icefall but with no info on conditions figured it was a long shot. We eventually decided to follow the hordes over the bridge and go for the "Shit route", so named because the top few metres on the final pitch is formed from frozen "waste products" spilling out from the Midi toilets. No-one we'd spoken to was heading for it, and we'd heard it was a good route (provided you didn't sniff too much on the final few metres).

The ab off the bridge was as gripping as ever, but the abs went smoothly enough and we were soon at the foot of the route. Unfortunately the team ahead of us had changed their minds and decided to do "our" route so we let them get onto it and settled into our down jackets. Things started to go wrong when we noticed just how slowly they were climbing and how much ice they were sending down the route. The speed they were going we figured that they might not even make the last bin, meaning that we wouldn't either - not good. By this stage it was too late to ab down further and join the queue on the other routes so there was nothing for it but to climb up the Cunningham Couloir, under the bridge and onto the Midi N face.

I'd always thought that the Cunningham looked a bit chossy but easy enough. Turns out it is about Scottish grade 3, but it feels like everything is held together with blu-tac so both Tom and I got a pretty harrowing, low angled chossy lead. Safe to say I won't be doing it again, but it's good to know that you can escape in dire straights. 

Tom Moores describing the excellent climbing that can be found in the Cunningham Couloir.

Bird, Blanc, Bottle.

Bad weather on the way now and the Midi shuts for 7 weeks starting on Monday, so summer is officially over. Let it snow!