Monday 29 September 2014

Vent du Dragon & German Gully

The sun is still shining here and it almost feels as if summer is starting rather than coming to an end. The best part is that town and the mountains are quiet and the trees are turning orange, making the Valley look stunning. 

I decided to make the most of the good weather and continue the resurrection of my mixed climbing career, which has stalled (died?) over the past couple of years. First up was the German gully on the Tacul Triangle with Charley Radcliffe.  The first 2 pitches were great fun and a little thin in places, making for some good climbing but nothing too stressful. The ice ran out after 2 pitches so we abbed down, had lunch and then did a random pitch just to the right of our route just to get a bit more climbing in. Conditions are great on the Triangle right now and "Inadvertance" looked particularly good so I think I'll be back soon. Overall, a great day and the slog back to the Midi didn't feel quite as bad as it did a few weeks back, which was a pleasant surprise. 

Me leading the first pitch of the German Gully. Photo Charley Radcliffe.

Charley arriving at the first belay. I managed not to get any other shots so you'll have to take my word for it that Charley's pitch was good too.

Sunday saw Tom Moores and I up at the Midi again, this time heading for "Vent du Dragon" on the NW face. The abseil off the Midi bridge never seems to get any less intimidating even though I've done it half a dozen times...

Tom heading down to join me under the bridge.

Once under the bridge, 4 more abs took us to the foot of the route. 

The Cunningham couloir is so atmospheric that it's hard to believe we were drinking coffee in the Valley little more than an hour before I took this!

The route itself is just brilliant but the quality of the line was unfortunately not matched by my performance on the crux, which I managed after a pretty undignified thrutch and much grunting! I was pretty rubbish at mixed climbing to start with and a couple of years not doing much hasn't helped...

Luckily I was armed with "Mixed Master Moores" who pretended to find it tricky but basically cruised everything. Of the 3 best known routes on the face (The Burnier-Vogler, which I did in the pre-blog days, and the Profit-Perroux), this is by far the toughest and the best. Conditions are excellent and the Profit looked super fat so I think these routes are going to be pretty popular for the next month and rightly so.

 Tom about to join me on a belay.

Brilliant climbing on the final "proper" pitch.

I heard a BASE jumper fly past me when I was on the final section of the route and we spotted his mate about to jump when we were standing on the last belay. I got this shot and it made me realise 2 things - I wish I had a camera that could take more than 10 shots in a single burst, and that I NEVER want to do a BASE jump!

The weather is looking a bit more unsettled and autumnal over the coming week but there's still potential for a bit of sun here and there. I'll be trying to get out so stay tuned.

Monday 15 September 2014

Perroux Gully, Triangle du Tacul

It's been a long time coming but maybe, just maybe, summer is here...

I had a wonderful couple of days last weekend in Annecy, doing some jumping in the lake, cragging and via ferrata and then headed back to Cham and snuck in a quick hit of mixed climbing on the Triangle du Tacul - not a bad few days all told!

Conditions on the Triangle are superb right now and the Chere couloir looks as fat as I've ever seen it. The Contamine-Mazeud and Contaminte-Grisolle were both tracked and looked good and the German gully looks pretty much formed. Elsewhere, the rock routes on the Midi south face and Eperon des Cosmiques are bone dry and, unusually, had nobody on them.

Our route (the Perroux gully, right next to the Chere couloir) was fantastic and we did 3 contrasting and really enjoyable pitches. The final bit just before you traverse into the Chere was formed but only just and with neither of us having climbed much recently we didn't really fancy a thin and probably quite scary lead so we abbed down and hoofed back to the Midi. Conditions should only improve so I think Tom and I will be back to the Triangle soon to finish off the Perroux when it fattens up and also to have a look at the German gully. 

Here are a few shots from the last few days - 

Sharon on the Col de la Colombiere via ferrata.

Tom Moores showing off at Lake Annecy, with me and Sophie looking on (in awe?). He landed it by the way.

Tom, 24 hours later on some high quality mixed ground. You've got to love Chamonix life.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Rebuffat Gully, Tour Ronde & Aiguille de Toule

Charley Radcliffe and I had heard good reports about conditions in the Rebuffat gully on the Tour Ronde and so headed up for some mixed climbing. The walk in was fast and the route looked good at first but as we got right underneath it, we saw that the first ice pitch had completely fallen off, leaving a wet, black streak instead. 

I figured that it might be possible to get around it but a pitch of horrible, chossy rock and rotten snow convinced me that we were a week late for the route. Ironically, there is good ice on many routes across the Massif but we managed not to find it! 

On the way back to the Helbronner we decided to nip up the Aiguille de Toule so we soloed up the north face and then down the west face, which made for a fun couple of hours.

Charley on the Toule north face.

After such a wet summer, conditions are getting really good up high and this could be a brilliant mixed climbing season. I haven't done much mixed over the past few years but I'm feeling super keen right now so hopefully we'll get a sunny, cold autumn.

Monday 1 September 2014

Aiguille du Peigne Ordinary Route

The weather has taken a turn for the better here in Cham but Sunday still looked pretty unsettled so Tom Moores and I were unsure what to go for. There were added complications from the fact that my recently repaired shoulder is still pretty delicate and Tom can barely get his damaged toe into a rockboot. All in all, it didn't add up to us looking for something hard.

The Aiguille du Peigne fit the bill because it would mean we'd be able to move fast over lots of terrain and get a great summit without too much commitment or stress. That's not to say it was easy though because neither of us had had much sleep the night before (me due to work commitments, Tom due to dinner-at-Munchies reasons) or had done any exercise for a week. Suffice to say that the walk in felt tough...

"Magnum" Moores showing off his rack in the approach gully.

PGHM doing their thing on the Frendo Spur.

Amazing views of the Midi N Face.

The route went smoothly enough and we soloed/moved together up rock of varying quality to reach the Col du Peigne. The outlook from here is so good that we decided on a leisurely lunch just above the Col, with stunning views of the Blaitiere and Fou.

Tom approaching our lunch spot.

Above the Col there are 2 pitches which we did in rock boots and which took us onto the spectacular Peigne summit ridge. With hindsight, the pitches wouldn't have felt that different in mountain boots but rockboots definitely sped things up. The final summit ridge is mind blowingly exposed but the climbing is easy enough that you can take it all in without too much stress.

Tom about to join me on the summit ridge.

The final summit ridge, which is surely one of the best and most exposed ridges in the Alps.

A Brocken Spectre from near the summit. I'd never seen one of these before so I was chuffed to bits.

Tom on the final section to the summit.

Tom on the crux move of the route - the squirm onto the summit block!

One more photo for good measure.

From the summit we shot down the abseil line, did some traversing, downclimbing and walking and were soon back at the lift, toasting an excellent day. The Peigne is a brilliant summit and although we both felt afterwards that we'd have preferred slightly more technical climbing and a bit less easy scrambling, the peak fit our requirements pretty well. 

Tom on the spectacular abseil off the Aiguille du Peigne summit.