Thursday, July 31, 2014

Terrible Teens

I was joined by very demanding teenagers last week. The problem with them is that they have too much energy and this energy needs to be channeled constructively. In addition they want adventures but not too much boring stuff [like walking miles and miles.] To add to the mix the weather was being very un cooperative.

Hereward Mills, his father Bill and Bill's Godson Jamie joined me for four days of adventures. They were particularly keen to spend a night in a mountain hut . With the weather forecast the way it was it seemed to me the best chance of over- nighting was to set of immediately and so this is what we did by heading up to the Couvercle hut which is tucked away at the end of the Mer de Glace underneath the mighty Verte. Getting to the hut is quite an undertaking and involves climbing some intimidating ladders bolted to the rock face.

We arrived at the hut in thick mist just before for dinner. The scene was quite moody and there wasn't much colour to be had in the landscape .
The next morning was clear and we enjoyed some fantastic views of the north face of the Grand Jorrasse

The hut is also in a very beautiful position too

We were lucky to be able to see so much because the forecast was again poor so we decided to head down before we got a drenching
Fortunately the weather held and we managed to get some quality tuition in the use of ice axe and crampons on the Mer de Glace
We made it down to Chamonix just before it pissed it down.

The next day was miserable at first it wasnt actually raining so we decided to try and climb a Via Ferratta down in Passey. Just as we got to the foot of it the heavens opened and we had to retreat. Eventually in the afternoon we went to Les Gaillands and not for the first time this summer I was the only Guide there. However fortune favours the brave and the sun came out and we had some really good rock climbing in the afternoon.
On our final day we headed for the Via-Cordia - the rock climb to be done when everything in the high mountains cant be done

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bad Bad Weather Week

Lloyd Donovan is probably the keenest of the keen when it comes to alpine climbing and he arrived to climb with me for six days. Prior to our meeting we had exchanged emails about what the possibilities might be. Plans had been laid. Then we got the weather forecast- utter crap.

The first day was to be okay , so not perhaps following best practice [because it is so high] we headed for the Cosmiques Arete on the Aguille du Midi. I need not have worried because Lloyd flew up the climb only being stopped by a lot of numpties ahead of us. We then had the chance to visit the glass box

It was semi okay the next day but the forecast was to deteriorate so we decided to climb the Voie Caline - a long simple climb above les Bois. Well it is simple in the dry, but when it started to rain it takes on a different complexion - terrifying.

True to form the next day it snowed down to 2000 meters, so we went for a big walk up the Emosson Dam and climbed the Bel Ouseaux
It was more like a Scottish winter scene than a summer Alpine scene.

The remainder of the week was spent dodging around the frequent showers and we did lots of rock climbing and worked on loads of training in "escaping from the system" - Things which ever climber need to know but never get round to actually practicing.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Lost Wedding Ring and the Helicopter.

Climbing and Mountaineering trips are all very fine , but the really memorable excursions are when it doesn't go exactly according to plan and there are glitches which produce stories "You can dine out on" Once again teaming up with Alan, Mark [Robo] Miguel Clarke & Art produced a memorable trip.

I was also joined by two other Mountain Guides James Thacker and Jonny Baird. This is what happened:

We met in Gressoney , stayed in the excellent Ellex Hotel , eat in the local Pizzeria and significantly had a little too much to drink.

On the Sunday it was raining and pretty miserable. We took the lift to Puntra Indren from where we walked up to the Mantova Hut , all in thick mist and driving snow.

On the Monday we awoke to hurricane strength winds which stopped us from going anywhere. We sat around drinking cappuccinos and then suddenly for no apparent reason the wind died and we were off.
We "stretched" our legs and ticked the 4000meter mark and some of the team even carried on to the Col de Lys 4200m from where the views to Zermatt and the Matterhorn are unique. We then turned heel and headed for the Gneftii hut where we were greeted by the magnificent Stephany , Guiliana and the rest of the Hut team. The food, the welcome was spectacular. Then showers were provided. free WiFi - what more could you want? You can run your whole life from here.

Tuesday morning the weather was better . We headed off and climbed Ludroigshohe 4341meters.

Wednesday was like Christmas
After some debate we decided to sit it out because the forecast for Thursday was stellar and in addition an extra days acclimatisation would be in valuable if we were going to realize our goal of spending the night in the Margherita Hut.

Thursday - the gamble had worked - Blue Skies, no wind , plus a well rested and acclimatised team powered up to the summit of the Signalkuppe punta Gnifetti 4554meters where there is a conveniently placed mountain hut- The Margherita. Once we were through the door we again met Stephany & Guiliana who were now the guardians of the Margherita Hut . They immediately set about making a magnificent lunch of home made hand grated rosti a platter of dried ham and a selection of local cheese.
During all this Alan discovered he had left his wedding ring down at the Gnifetti Hut. His mind was immediately put at rest with a quick call to say they hand found it.
Ten minutes later Stephany made a flamboyant entry, stood at the end of the dinning table and with a ta- daaa- like a magician produced the wedding ring! We were all suitably amazed and then she told us that the helicopter had just flown it up.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Mid Summers Day Skiing Tradition

With a bit of imagination, luck and planning it is possible to get some amazing skiing on the longest day of the year.
For the last few years Reuben Berg and I have done just that . This mid summers day might have been the best so far. We drove round to Gressoney , rode the lift to Punta Indren put the skis on and skinned up to the Mantova Hut. some times when we have taken skis out in the summer we have had some strange looks, but not this time. The majority of parties were on skis and it was impossible to distinguish the scene from mid ski touring season. Conditions were perfect.
The next day we climbed Vincent Pyramid.
The weather was far from perfect and we had some cold strong winds to contend with. But from the summit in less than 20 minutes we were in the Gnefftti Hut drinking Cappuccinos.
The forecast for the next day was poor. We went to bed thinking that it would not be possible to do much the next day. Our goal had been to climb up to the Margherita Hut and spend the night. This is the highest building in Western Europe at a lung busting 4554meters.

However at day break the weather was not too bad so we thought we should go and have a "look" knowing that if the weather deteriorated we could retreat very quickly on skis. We were bolstered by the site of a helicopter delivering beer to the Margherita Hut reasoning that if the heli could fly then we should be able to make it . We did make it but the weather was decidedly sketchy as we finally made it and yes the beer was there:
The other delight was to meet the fantastic Giuliana, one of the Guardians of the Hut. A couple of years ago she climbed all the 4000 meter peaks in one summer.
The Hut was not busy that evening. 6 guests. Next morning getting out of the hut was a challenge- strong wind and zero visibility. We teamed up with a Swiss Guide and his client and navigated through a classic white out. Eventually we got below the cloud at the col Lys. From there we could really enjoy our selves with a fantastic powder descent followed by spring snow all the way to the Punta Indren cable car