Friday 8 August 2014

Pointe de Bayere, Grand Montets

The weather has finally cleared for a few days here in Cham but things are still far from settled, leaving Tom and I looking for a good objective but nothing too serious if the weather man had got things wrong - a distinct possibility judging by his recent performances. We opted to go for the SW ridge of the Pointe de Bayere, a peak on the ridge which descends west from Grand Montets, high above the Pas de Chevre ski route.

Tom on the approach with the Dru, Mont Blanc and Chamonix in front of him - not a bad start to the day.

The approach down took about 45 minutes and there's no real path but you'd struggle to get lost with a big rock ridge next to you. The start of the route was made obvious by the fact that British guide and general nice bloke Rob Jarvis was stood at the bottom, but if he happens not to be there when you climb it, it's where the approach terrain really starts to steepen, at the end of a 50 metre long section of white rock. There's also a random collection of old ski poles at the foot of the route but you only spot these once you're on top of them.

The initial few pitches are ok but slightly grassy and quite a shock to those who haven't climbed granite for a while (like Tom and I). Granite is such a funny rock because there are often no real holds and it's a case of jamming limbs into cracks and contorting your body to move upwards. This route specialised in this sort of climbing and once you remember how to do it you feel fine but it's a rude awakening for a pitch or 2.

Me hamming it up on pitch 1, with Tom laughing below. At least, I hope I was hamming it up and not genuinely gripped - this bit was only given 4a in the guidebook!
Photo Rob Jarvis, High Mountain Guides.

Rob's client Matt was pretty worked after a hard week in the hills so they decided to head home after a few pitches, leaving Tom and I on our own for the rest of the day - a rare state of affairs 45 minutes from a lift in Cham.

The rest of the climbing was absolutely superb but very traditional in nature - if you haven't climbed much grit or granite you might find the grades tough and strong fingers will not save you! The quality is high though and the pitches started passing with relative ease, all in a fantastic situation.

Tom on one of the lower pitches.

The view from the belay on the stunning corner pitch. This and the one above it (more of the same but a shorter) are the crux pitches.

Tom on the traverse round to the north side of the ridge.

This pitch (plus the corner pictured above) are the highlights of the route. This features very easy climbing on a beautiful slab, hanging hundreds of metres above the glacier below.

Once the technical pitches are done, it's just a case of scrambling along the ridge until you're above the Bochard telecabine and then walking down to the Lognan lift. The walk down is pretty grim, with steep gravel tracks all the way, but with such a good route in a bag it seems well worth it.