Thursday, August 22, 2013

Father & Daughter Big Day Out

We had a perfect forecast , a good freeze and little wind. Andrea and I left the scrum of the Aiguille du Midi and trotted down the ridge and to a great welcome at the Cosmiques hut where some of Andrea's friends had summer jobs working there.
Breakfast at 1.00am [Andrea claimed to have had zero sleep] We were away by 1.45am
We plodded a long in a line of hopefuls and then started up the steepening slopes of Mt Blanc du Tacul - Everything was going fine until we came to a huge wall of ice with a moat like crevasse at its foot. There were about 20 "climbers" in front of us all making very poor attempts to climb the wall.
I became really concerned that we were loosing too much time. After about 20 minutes I decided to make my self unpopular,gambling that no one would start shouting at a 14 year kid so I circumvented the queue and sprinted up the wall then pulled Andrea up hand over hand.
Next we had to negotiate the ice blocks of last weeks serac collapse and then we were over the shoulder of Mt Blanc du Tacul and heading for the crux of the climb , the shoulder of Mt Maudit. We caught up several parties who were struggling with some of the crevasses. We slalomed around them and then we were at the crux of the climb a steep 100 meter ,65 degree head wall. Again we decided to move together , not pitching the climb and once again we passed several parties.
Astonishingly we had over taken everyone. We stopped for a rest.
As we traversed around Mt Maudit dawn broke
Next it was onto the final summit slopes of Mt Blanc, it was here that Andrea started to struggle with the altitude [which was not surprising because her acclimatisation had consisted of sitting at the top of Grands Montets for a couple of hours.]
Finally we hit the summit at just before 8.00am
It was then down the way we came. Andrea ran down the slope , keen to get to some thicker air as soon as possible.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cabane Velan is the best Hut ever

Here is a photo of the Gd St Bernard Monastery taken form the summit of Mt Velan at 9.20 am

From the other direction we could see the mighty Grand Combin

This was the perfect start to the week. The whole Donovan family, Nicola, Jason, Lewis and Lloyd all walked up to the hut together where we had an exceptional BBQ cooked by the Guardian. Despite it being the busiest week of the summer in Chamonix, over in the Valais it was quiet and there was only one other family and a Verbier Guide.

The plan was for Lloyd and I to climb while the rest of the family were going to descend and visit the Gd St Bernard Monastery.
Delicious and Breakfast are not normally phases that go together in Mountain Huts but this was the exception. We were away by 4.45am with just the other Guide and his client. We choose to climb Mt Velan via the Arete Gouille, we had perfect conditions and a wonderful solitude. The aesthetics of the trip were as good as they can possibly get.

The rest of the Donovan family left Lloyd with me and they headed off to Zermatt. Having climbed Mt Blanc together last year I decided that Lloyd needed to get to grips with some "real" mountaineering and so I devised a four day plan to show him what Chamonix had to offer , while avoiding the crowds. The best place to achieve this is the Aiguille Rouge and so we headed up to climb Asia on the Grande Floria high above La Flegere.

The next day we decided to attack the snow and ice with an ascent of the North Face of the petit Aiguille Verte which was in perfect condition steep snow that was like climbing polystyrene it was so grippy. This gave Lloyd a taste of what is involved in climbing the big famous route North face of the Alps.

Then it was back to the Aiguille Rouge for a traverse of one of its most famous rock climbs the Clocher Clochotons with its world famous tyrolean traverse.

It was then followed by some complicated rappels

Finally on the Saturday we chose the delightful climb Aiguille de la Charlanon: Éperon SSE de droite which was a wonderful place for Lloyd to recap on all he had learnt during the week where he was able to set up the rappels and deal with the rope work.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rain Stopped Play

Take a good look at the big rock and you will see me standing under it. Then look at the same rock a month later. The glacier has melted at such a huge rate that the rock the size of a house has toppled over. This was a sobering thought for Casey and Chuck Brown who had come to join me for a weeks mountaineering. We started with a very hot day on the Mer de glace and then the next day we headed up to the top of Les Grands Montets for some further climbing

But then on the Wednesday it just stormed and stormed. The forecast was awful too so we mad the descision to reconvene some time in October.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Training up the next generation

I spent the last couple of weeks climbing with all ages of people , but all who wanted to understand a little more about what the Alps has to offer in the summer. I spent a few days with Katie and Mark Locke and their 2 boys Max and Charlie.