Category Archives: Alpine
Back at the end of Feburary I headed up the Aiguille Verte again, this time with Tom Grant to ski the Whymper. The afternoons were still cold and we decided to climb up the Courturier from first lift. It was fast going until we reached the Calotte, where we found pockets of dangerous wind slab and some very open crevasses. We had to get the rope out and set up a few belays to pass safely and lost a lot of time trying to find the best way through. In hind sight it would have been better to carry on up the direct exit moving together over the grey ice. Determined not to get shut down so near the top we pushed on and finally arrived on the summit at about 2pm both feeling the altitude.
The snow on the ridge down to the start of the couloir was unstable so we walked down to the col, being battered by harsh winds. The effort had been worth it, the couloir looked in great condition. We found some nice soft snow at the top and then some crust lower down. The exit couloir was well filled and we skied through without a rappel and even found some cold powder on its right bank. The only thing baring the way now was the bergshrund, which looked huge. I didn’t feel like jumping it but also couldn’t be bothered to get the rope out so I managed to find a way through on the left.
Thanks to Tom for another great day in the mountains, the photos and my second Verte summit and ski in as many months
Yesterday myself and Jon Griffith headed up to the Argentiere basin for a bit of cardio training, the plan was to climb both the Couturier couloir on the Aiguille Verte and the Legarde direct on Les Droites. Unfortunately i woke up with a bit of a cough and cold so the plan changed to just one route. We got on the first lift up and i decided to take my skis up the route to see if any of it was skiable. We were stood on the summit by 12.30pm and although the skiing conditions were far from ideal with hard snow and ice close to the surface, i managed to ski most of the couloir, with one short down climb of about 15m and one longer one of around 100m. I would love to find this couloir in good condition one day and make a proper descent with no down climbing and GS turns but im still satisfied to have skied down this legendary line. Thanks to Jon for the day and his great photos, more here…
After recent good steep skiing conditions and some cool descents from other teams myself and Tom Grant were keen to ski something ourselves. However we had just had a week of bad weather and a lot of fresh snow and so we questioned the safety of skiing a big line. We decided to head up to the Albert 1ier refuge with the Migot spur in the back of our minds (which saw its first descent just the weekend before,) but happy just to do some mellow skiing on the glacier.
So after work on Friday evening we started at the Le Tour car park and made our way up to the hut. It was a beautiful clear night but very cold and we were grateful for the supply of wood to warm the winter room. In the morning we saw that the Migot spur was looking good to ski and that as long as the snow was stable we would go for it.
Breaking trail across to the start of the route was hard going and we had to wade through waist deep snow to get up to the burgshrund. We had spotted the best line which looked as if it would go without rappel and the route was well filled in. However as soon as we got established on the route we were on frozen icy snow which made for quick progress climbing. We did encounter some sections that were perfectly skiable but none of the cold fresh snow had stuck to the route and in places the wind had left the snow with an icy sheen. To descend on our skis would have meant a lot of side slipping and most likely short sections of down climbing, probably only making turns on about 25% of the route. Both Tom and I thought while we could have descended and survived to tell the tale, it would not feel like a proper descent in this style and we would rather come back another day.
After this reasonably easy decision was made we headed over to the west couloir which we were going to ski if it was good or descend the normal way by rappel if not. We found it full of powder snow and our only worries from then on were not getting swept away but our sluff!
We skied down to the col Adams Riley, then down to the Le Tour glacier, traversed over to the col du Passon and skied down to Le Tour, all in perfect knee-deep snow. Although we didn’t get our big objective done it was a great day, especially for my first ski of the season!
On Friday myself and Tom Grant headed up from the Montenvers for the Dru North couloir, along with Ben and Ally who were off for another route on the same mountain. The walk in to the bivi was a little arduous due to some unconsolidated snow and heavy packs!
We got an early start and made good progress up the initial couloir and climbed the two pitches which are normally mixed up to the Nomine crack without knowing, as they were covered in good neve. In the dark we didn’t realise we were only meters from the start of the Nomine and continued straight up a long pitch of mixed. Above loomed a steep and scary looking chimney corner, and i presumed we had wondered into the direct, so we rapped off and headed left to mixed gully we could just make out far off left.
As we arrived to its base it got light and we soon realised our mistake and made the traverse back to the Nomine crack. We had wasted alot of time but decided to continue hoping to climb the rock section quickly. Its no push over and took longer than we had hoped so at 2pm at the top of the off- width pitch we decided we weren’t up for a descent in the dark and turned around. A good decision as it was nice to be in our own beds that night!
The route is in very good condition and with our new knowledge of the route hopefully we will nip back up for a quick ascent in the next couple of weeks. I forgot my camera but Tom got some nice photos.
A couple of weeks ago i was climbing granite with rock shoes and a chalk bag on the Cordier pillar but the weather has completely changed since then and this weekend it was nice to get back on the ice axes with some great mixed climbing on the Triangle du Tacul. Autumn is definitely here and some of the big north faces look like they are quickly coming into condition.
Unfortunately myself and Luca didn’t get top top out on the Grands Charmoz, it was a case of too much haste,less speed, rushing and not checking the topo meant we climbed several pitches off route not leaving us time to finish. I will definitely go back as the climbing is great, moderate but sustained on lovely rock(other than the first sandy pitch).
This weekend Tom and i hatched a plan for a bit of mixed on the Triangle and his friend Davide came over from Switzerland to join us. At the midi we bumped into another friend Dave who was going for a solo due to a partner bailing and he joined us too, so we ended up climbing as a four! this meant we didn’t cover a lot of ground but we had a laugh and the climbing was great, good training for bigger things and some much needed acclimatisation.
As skiing conditions were poor Tom Grant and i decided to see if a route we had wanted to climb for a while was in condition. We got the second bin to the top of Grands Montets with Late to say im sorry as our target.
Leaving our skis at the bottom of the couturier couloir we make quick progress moving together up the calf burning 50 degree romp and intial two easy mixed pitches untill we reached the crux. It looked pretty tricky and was initally given a grade of A2 5c, but we had heard from other partys the roof can be drytooled at M6 and then an iced corner a few meters left of the origional peged up crack climbed at M5 for a free ascent.
I headed off on lead and managed to free the roof after spending a bit of time fiddling gear in, as i pulled round the bulge i saw above that the corner had no ice in so i would have to climb the origional crack which had also been freed but at M7, a little hard for me with no bolts! I tried to free this but got a little scared and pumped and had to rest on gear a couple of times.
The following pitch was pretty thin and had some tricky mixed climbing to but Tom dispatched of it easily, which just left us with three beautiful thin ice gully pitches to the top. Once we topped out we decied to rap off and not go to the summit which is bad style but a good call as an avalanche had come down the Couturier as we were climbing so as the light had gone by the time we reached the bottom finding our skis took a while!
I havnt blogged in a while because my computer has been broken, but the last few months in chamonix have been good ones. Myself and Luca Pandolfi skied the Rabbit Ears which is a cool little line i hadnt skied before, check out Lucas report- http://www.lucapandolfi.com/2012/03/rabbit-ears-10-03-2012/
After that we had a long period of sunny warm weather but no snow so i took the oportunity to do some climbing, some sunny perfect granite on Mort de Rire on the aiguille du genipi with Luca and a mixed climb on the aiguille Verte north face called Late to say im sorry with Tom Grant. This was a great route with some of the best climbing in the mountains i have done, we got a lot of cool pictures so i will put them up in another post.
Pic of the Rabbit Ears
Now we are getting loads of snow and have been making quick hits on the rond, cosmiques ect. Hopefully the mountains will be coming into steep sking condition because of it and we can ski some big lines when the sun comes back!
Jon has just put together Black Diamonds alpine catalogue, there is loads of great photography and one of the pics is of me(6th one). Check it out.
Luca Pandolfi and I also made the 4th descent of the South face of the Aiguille du Moine today which was first skied by Jean Marc Boivin in 1987!
Heres Lucas report- http://www.lucapandolfi.com/2012/03/moine-southeast-face-29-02-2012/s
Ross Hewitt was also with us to ski the line but unfortunatly had back problems, heres his take on things-
After our success on the Grandes Jorasses Tom and I decided to head over to Zermat to try the matterhorn. We drove over on sunday morning knowing we had a bit of a walk as the lift was closed.
The face looled pretty dry but reports from others said the conditions were good so we decided to go for it. There is a fixed rope in place to get up onto the glacier to start the route which we yarded up in the dark. We hadnt checked it out the day before but aparently it is also possible to climb an ice fall further right.
Once up onto the glacier you traverse right untill the start of the route where the burgshrund is easily passed at the moment. The next few hours are a calf burning romp up the initial ramp but once you get to the end of this the interesting climbing starts.
The route trends rightward across the face following mixed gullies and walls and dry rock traverses between them. There is even a water fall pitch at 4000m. After this and another traverse the dificulties end and you follow easy angled mixed ground all the way to the top, and its worth the effort what a view!
All in all a great climb that went smoothly, we managed to decend to the Slovay hut in the light for a good nights sleep and some food and felt re energised for our walk down to Zermat where we had a nice healthy mc donalds to finish our trip!
Tom got some cool pics of me on the route which are below.
Two weeks ago Tom and i headed up to the Grandes Jorasses for the croz spur, we had been told it was in good conditions other than the top which was dry. We walked up to the Leschaux hut on Wednesday afternoon, we chose not to carry bivi gear and our initial plan was to go from the hut up the route and get back to Chamonix in a day.
It took us much longer than planned to reach the bottom of the route due to a few errors getting through the glacier and having to retrace our steps. We met with two of our friends, Jon and Will who had bivied near the bottom of their route and were having similar difficulties to us. We wished each other good luck and set off our own ways, them to the legendary ‘No Siesta’ and us further right to the Croz.
The burgshrund was a little tricky and was then followed by some black ice, i was leading the first block and thinking to myself about bailing if the ice didnt get better. However soon enough we were in the ice runnels which were in great condition and we made good progress moving together swaping leads every few hundred meters. The climbing was excellent and varied, pure ice, mixed ground and rock climbing with bare hands and crampons.
We had made good time and reached two pitches from the end in about 7 hours after crossing the burshrund. Here we met up with another party who had chosen a heavier approach and were on their second day on the route. The top of the route was in dry conditions and we slowed down from there, discussing with the others the best options to finish and then climbing sociably to the top. 9 hours on the route in total which wasnt to bad but our prolonged approach ment we would be going to the Boccalatte hut and not down to the valley.
Once down to a safe spot we stopped to eat and drink while it got dark. I was pretty tired by then only haven eaten a few cereal bars all day a drunk 1 liter of water. The other two climbers decided to spend the night there but we continued on to the hut in the dark with no other choice due to our fast and light approach.
A great experiance and my favorite alpine route to date, it was also my first time on the Grandes Jorrasses and I definatly want to go back, so many great looking routes on the face!
Also check out Jon’s Video he made of him and Will on the same route a couple of years ago, it really gives a good sense of the route.