Thursday 20 March 2014

La Pepite, Grands Montets

I've no doubt there's still some nice snow out there but yesterday I was keen to go climbing and test out my shoulder (I re-aggravated a old rugby injury in November and have had very limited movement and quite a bit of pain since then). I thought that rock climbing might be a bit much but that if I could find some steady mixed stuff, I might be OK. The non-guidebook line "La Pepite" on the Grand Montets ridge fit the bill so John and I headed up there to take a look. 

Details on the line were sketchy but we assumed that it would have been climbed recently so if we found footsteps somewhere near where we thought the line was, we'd just follow them. Turned out it worked perfectly!

Our topo. What could possibly go wrong?

The first obstacle was the bergschrund, which I took a look at but I couldn't commit to a sketchy pull up on my bad arm so John took the lead and shot over. I'm glad I didn't go for it though as I only just made it over on a top rope without my shoulder exploding.

Owing John for that one, I led the first couple of pitches and they were great. The first was steady enough but without much gear - probably Scottish 3. The second is great and goes at about Scottish 4, with good protection.

Me contemplating pitch 1. Photo John Cuthbert.

Me leading pitch 2. Photo John Cuthbert.

John's view from half way up the second pitch. We got stuck behind a guided team and they told me that it was their second day ever climbing in crampons! It certainly seemed a strange route choice from the guide when his clients couldn't climb the crux and only managed it after over half an hour of swearing and knocking rocks onto John and I, who had to resort to cowering under a small overhang until they were done. Some poetic justice was dealt however when the guide placed a brand new cam at the crux and then one of the clients managed to push it further into the crack, making it completely unretrievable. That'll learn him. Photo John Cuthbert.

John took the crux and did an excellent job on some dry and tricky mixed, which would get Scottish 5 or M4+ depending on your nationality. I just about managed to follow but the crux move involved a hard pull on the right arm, which I can still feel 24 hours later! The climbing was superb but would be better with more ice and extremely difficult if there was much less ice than we found.

Me post crux. Note floppy, useless right arm!

Once past the crux there is a 100m easy snow gully which I fired up as fast as the altitude permitted, then a short, straightforward chimney takes you to the mellow slopes of the Petite Verte.

John on the final chimney.

Me at the top of the route. Photo John Cuthbert.

From there it is a simple case of walking back to the Grand Montets lift - access and descents don't come much simpler.

John and I agreed that the route was superb and with slightly more ice and no people struggling ahead of you, the route could easily be done in a half day. As it was we were done by early afternoon and it felt slow. 

I'm aching today and I think that climbing anything close to my limit is going to be out for this summer unless my recovery rate increases massively but it felt good to be climbing again and I'm psyched for some long, cruisy routes when conditions allow. In the meantime, it's due to tank down with snow over the weekend so it's back to skiing for now.