Friday, July 13, 2018

Mt Blanc 4810m : Twice in Three days.

Last week I climbed Mt Blanc on the Monday and then again on the Thursday. Conditions and the weather were absolutely perfect. What was not quite so perfect is the state of the booking system for the Huts on Mt Blanc. It is now impossible to get a reservation in the Gouter Hut and so we were left with climbing from the Tete Rousse Hut which means you have a 1700 meter height gain to reach Mt Blanc's summit. But it is what it is. We were a group of five. Pascal Gillioz a Guide from Verbier with his two clients Dan and Marius and me with my client Steve. Breakfast was at 1.30am. We were on our way at 2.20am. We crossed the Gouter Couloir after about 45 minutes with no issues and then plodded up the rocky ridge to the old Gouter Hut. I felt quite nostalgic to pass by it. I calculated that I had spent over 200 nights in it over the last 25 years. Next we continued to the Dome de Gouter as the sun rose over Mt Maudit. Quite magical:
Just below the Gouter we stopped to put some extra clothes on because it was now cold and windy. At the Vallot hut Steve was having doubts about his ability to make it. A bit of a pep talk and I announced that I had never failed to climb Mt Blanc with anyone , once we were above the Vallot emergency refuge. 4300m. I was not going to have my record threatened. In just under two hours from the Vallot we arrived on the summit of Mt Blanc. Monday 8.00am. It is often said Guides are in the "dream fulfillment industry" and so it was.
I had a rest on Tuesday and then it was time to deal with Florence.
For any unsuspecting Guide- a terrifying prospect. We had previously enjoyed some training climbs together, then she decided that she was going to further train by running up and down the steps at the top of the Grands Montets cable car at 3200m. She reported that she had done this six times! Then she had the idea of entering the Vertical Kilometer race. "The K1" in Les Arc. I asked her how she got on? "I won it." she said. So we were on . All we needed was a hut reservation. No chance in the Gouter. it was full and there was a waiting list of 30. Same in the Tete Rousse. We needed to look at the traverse route. Florence was at school with the daughter of the guardian of the Cosmiques hut. She sweet talked us a couple of beds. Our neighbour works for the Aiguille du Midi. Florence got us VIP passes to walk straight onto the cable car.
An hour from leaving Chamonix we were ensconced in our private bedroom at the Cosmiques Hut 3016m.
Florence is a vegetarian. Fortunately I am not.
Breakfast was at 1.00am. Always a grim time.
We were on our way by 1.40am. Miss Motivated chomping at the bit dragging me across the glacier to the Col du Midi. It was not long before we had to climb a ladder which only just spanned the crevasse.
Next it was over the shoulder of Mont Blanc du Tacul and the downward traverse to then back up to the shoulder of Mt Maudit. Climbing up and over the key passage around Mt Maudit was okay but it was icy. We stopped to layer up. It was very cold and windy. Nor was it straight forward with another steep slope to be negotiated
Then with the difficulties behind us at 7.00am we arrived on the summit.
We spent about 10 minutes on the summit. Then it was back down the same way. It was good to see where we had come, although there seemed to be a lot blood spread over the ice...
Florence was keen not to hang about and therefore we were back down in Chamonix for lunch. Not for the first time, Florence had a Party to attend in the evening!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Perfect weather and conditions for the start of summer 2018 climbing season

Steven Kellock flew in from Montreal. After on night in Chamonix , the next night was in the refugio Mantova 3500m high above Gressoney Italy. In other words straight into the alpine climbing experience. We were keen to maximize the great weather forecast especially becaue the last time Stephen and I climbed together [2016] the weather had been, at best , mixed and we had not really been able to get into the really high mountains. This was one of the reasons I had chosen to take Stephen to the Monte Rosa region: The largest part of western Europe which is over 4000 meters. After some preparatory hikes around the glacier [where we hit the 4000 meter mark] we headed to the Refugio Gniffeti 3600m just as the beer supply arrived by helicopter.
We spent a couple of nights here climbing Pyramid Vincent 4212 ,the Balenhorn 4167m, and the Ludwigshohe 4343m.
Despite it being a fantastic trip , unfortunately Stephen picked up a nasty blister on the heel of his foot. The blister severly restricted what we could do. So instead of climbing routes with long approaches we opted for routes with shot approaches but spectaucular situations. Chamonix is one of the best places in the world to do this. We climbed the Clocher -Clochotons high above Le Brevent
It was so good that we returned the next day for some more rock climbing in an amazingly remote location.
We mixed it up a bit and Stepehen experinced his first Via Ferratta the Via des Evettes at La Flegere. The final bridge must have a back drop as fine as any in the world.