Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best Day off the Season [So Far!]

More snow has already fallen so far this season than in the whole of the last ski season which is good. What is even better is that there is more forecast.

Today we headed off the back of Le Brevent towards Mont Joux. We had the pleasure to be lead by the legendary Guide Yves Dietry. Famous amongst other things for developing steep skiing in the Chamonix Valley. Notable descents being the first ski descent of the North Face of the Aguille du Midi in 1977.
Click on the link to see the full tour.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sallanches book signing

Marc Le Guide teamed up with Quechua tomorrow. There will be a book signing in their Sallanches shop between 3.00pm and 5 pm .

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November is the new May

I have done a lot of different things in the mountains recently. Last week Catherine Lewis and I spent the day on the Mer de Glace getting some preparation in ready for climbing next summer.

I had a brilliant days rock climbing high above Cluses with Christophe [the translator of Marc Le Guide] We climbed at les Vuardes on route La Costa 6a+.
On Sunday we went out with 2/3rds of the Dangerous Sisters skiing in Cervina [Flo was race training in Tignes]
The skiing was very good.

Next Geoff Barrett came out prior to his trip to Aconcagua next week! Geoff and I spent two days getting to grips with the fundamentals of alpine travel. We had two days on the Mer de Glace all to ourselves.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Marc Le Guide

Finally the French edition of Mark the Mountain Guide is out. This time in soft back.

At present copies can be ordered from me [signed & dedicated] € 8.00 +p&p.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What month is the best time to climb in the Alps? Answer now.

The impressive thing about the weather this Autumn is that we have had one or two days of bad weather, heavy rain , snow and then the high pressure has kicked in and the days have been utterly perfect- cold clear and windless even at 3600 meters.
I have just spent four days with Reuben Berg making the most of the exceptional weather and conditions.
We spent the first day cragging in the Chamonix Valley.
Our second we headed to Montreux in the trusty 33 year old MG Midget. We took the train to the Rochers de Naye alighting at the Gare de Jamman. This is just under the Dent de Jamman - our objective for the day.
We tromped through deep snow to the foot of our rock climb. Fortunately our route was steep and faced south so it was blasted by the sun and clear of snow.
On our third day we headed up the Aguille du Midi [which was wonderfully quiet]and climbed the Cosmique arete. The conditions and the esthetics just do not get better than this.
Today the Le Brevent lift reopened for the school half term and so we rode it to the summit. We were greeted by warming sun and snow under foot yet the rock was warm and clear of snow. I was left with the feeling : If there is a better setting in which to rock climb I would love to know what it looks like.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

An extrordianry indian summer

Weather has been amazing and managed to steal a couple of days rock climbing with Francis Bridgman. The first above Argentiere on the Chesery crags.
Our second day was in the Val Ferret dodging the cows coming down from their summer pasture.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Mt Blanc 4810 meters twice in a week

Conditions and the weather have been so good last week that I ended up climbing Mt Blanc twice. The first time with Mark Daniels on Tuesday, then yesterday with Alison Smith.

Mark caught the train from Geneva where he lives I met him at the railway station and we then we rode the Aguille du Midi cable car and strolled over to the Cosmiques Hut where Mark enjoyed an unconventional acclimatisation process: A giant Omelete and a few beers followed by an afternoon snooze.

The next morning we set of at 6.00am [You can start leisurely at this time of year because the sun doesn't effect the snow conditions]
We reached the top at 11.30am and sat on top for half an hour because there wasn't a breath of wind. The only people we saw all ascent were 5 Parapenters heading to to the top of Mt Blanc in order to fly off.

Next Alison arrived [also from Geneva] on Friday and we again spent the night in the Cosmiques Hut. This was not the first time Alison and I had climbed Mt Blanc together: The last time was 21years ago! Conditions were still pretty much perfect although there was considerably more wind which didn't cause us any problems but meant that the by now many Parapenters couldn't fly from the summit.

This week were the best conditions I have ever known for Mt Blanc. What was really good was that it was so quiet. Why the place is mobbed in July and August when conditions are often uncertain I do not know.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

An Undiscovered Gem

This stunning photo was taken by Peter Little of what turned out to be an outstanding climb: The arête des Bouquetins pic Jallouvre above col de la Colombiere. Mind you the snow in the photo all fell the previous day and scuppered our attempt to rock climb in the Val Ferret Italy.
Fortunately We only had one day of bad weather and the rest of the week was anticyclonic and we choose to spend 4 days rock-climbing above La Flegere.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

From a Land Down Under

Michal & Mihaela came all the way from Australia on their European tour [unfortunately without the VW Combi] and stopped off for a weeks climbing in Chamonix.

They were pretty much new to it all, so we followed a tried and tested routine by starting on the Mer de Glace followed, the next day by a Traverse of the Aguille du Crochue [and a swim in lac Blanc]

On the Wednesday we headed into the valley Blanche, took the bubbles over to Italy and then tracked back through some monster crevasses and over to the Cosmiques Hut where we spent a very pleasant evening and enjoyed a few flagons of red wine.
On Thursday we set off up Mt Blanc du Tacul but decided to turn round because Mihaela wasn't feeling 100%

We finished the week with an ascent of the Cosmiques Arete - all which took place in perfect weather

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stunning Autumn weather for alpine rock climbing

Peter Folkman came out for five days alpine rock climbing. The forecast was indifferent but unusually it was revised in our favour and the weather just got better and better.
We started with a warm up climb at Brevent then the next day moved over to La Flegere and climbed Nez Rouge just behind the Index.
On our third day we decided to revisit the famous arête de Cosmiques as this had been Peter's first alpine climb with me some 15 years earlier. This was the spring board which allowed him to climb many alpine peaks including the Eiger, the Matterhorn and many others eventually leading to full membership of the Alpine Club.
With the acclimatisation of the previous day we were then able to Traverse the Entreves - a magnificent rock ridge which looks down on Courmayuer.
On our final day we opted for an easier option and returned to la Flegere and finished by climbing the elegant Eperon Sublime? Named after the famous route in the Verdon Gorge.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Dolomites

Charles Sherwood and I had a very good week. We started with a complete traverse of the Violet Towers in the Val di Fassa.
We then moved over to the Mamrmalada where we climbed the very long Tommasson route on the south face- first climbed by Beatrice Tommason in 1901. We sumitted to find a conveniently placed mountain hut complete with guardian who cooked us bacon & eggs for dinner.
We continued further east and based ourselves in Cortina for a couple of nights where we climbed some easier routes on the Cinque Torri before moving into position for our attempt on the North Face of the Cima Grande - one of the most sought after north faces in the world. We wanted to climb the Comici Route
Despite an overnight thunderstorm which left the top of the climb sopping wet we reached the top and just about made it down before dark. A big day.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Glacier Boys

Arther Boulton was joined by two of his pals Fergus and Rory for an "Ecole de Glace" high up on the top of Les Grands Montets. What made the day even more exciting was finding an unexploded bomb every school boys dream!

Sophie Gets to grips with the Glacier

The Youngest Dangerous sister put her Dads 40 year old Mountaineering boots on and attacked the Glacier.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Madness Midges Munros

I spent a week visiting some of my old haunts with Francis Bridgeman and Chris Dovell. We started on Skye and climbed pinnacle ridge on Sgurr nan Gillean and only met four people all day.

The next day reverted to type and rained all day so we spent it in the Carbost Inn and Dovell drank 8 pints of Guiness but was still up bright an early the next morning for the ascent of Britains hardest mountain the Inaccessible Pinnacle.

Our last day on Skye the weather was so so- So we Climbed Bla Bheinn via the "voie normal". We then headed back to the main land taking the ferry to Mallaig.

Glencoe was our next goal namely the Anoch Each Ridge. This was something Francis had wanted to do for at least 15 years. Finally he got a clear rainless day and we had a truely wonderful traverse which arrived at the Clachaig Inn for a celebratory beer [ I had a cup of tea]

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First steps

Jane and David were not so sure if they wanted to become alpine climbers but were determined to really find out if they could do it
I came up with a three day plan .
Like so often I choose for us to start on the Mer de Glacé which is the best place around to learn how to use crampons properly.
Our second day we went up the Grands Montets and climbed the ridge back up to the summit of the Grands Montets and finally over the railings and onto the viewing terrace.
Then on our third day we did what Jane and David wanted to do most: to traverse the Valley Blanche from the top of the Aiguille du Midi to Italy.
Three wonderful days which proved to them that they can climb in the alps and become "alpine mountaineers."

Saturday, August 06, 2011

A good foundation of skills is the key to becoming a safe mountaineer

So this was the idea behind last week. 5 friends : Their organiser Katie Cranlegh Swash, Fern Adams, Chris White, Richard Lewis and Chris Doman decided to come to Chamonix and get to grips with the basic skills that would hopefully underpin anything they choose to attempt in the future.

We started above La Flegere with some snow climbing skills coupled with some lessons in case the snow climbing didn't work as planned - Ice axe arrest. We finished the day with an ascent of the Aiguille de Glieres.

The next day we went to the Mer de Glace where we learnt the key skills of proper crampon technique and finished up with some steep ice climbing by climbing out of a crevasse.

On our 3rd day we put what we learnt into practise by traversing the Valley Blanche and negociated some daunting crevasses and spectacular snow bidges.

On Our fourth day we were hit by bad weather and had to retreat to the valley where we spent the day looking at rope techniques for crevasse rescue and alpine abseil techniques.

On our final day the weather came good again and we headed up the Grands Montets for a real live practice at crevasse rescue. We finished the day by climbing the Aguille des Grands Momtets and finished up its spectacular rocky ridge.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Donkey Has Eaten My Underpants

Well the news was not good as the Hut Guardian broke the news at Dinner. Needless to say he couldn't keep a straight face. [The underpants had been washed and hung out to dry but not out of reach of said donkey.]
Peter Little and I had discovered a gem of a Mountain Hut the Crete Seche which has some spectacular very long rock climbs on very good grannit. We climbed the classic Brontolo-Bakalov which leads to the summit of Punta Charrey.

For the second half of the week we switched our attention to snow and big secluded 4000er's. We choose to target the Dirruhorn. We drove over to St Nicolas near Zermatt and walked to up the beautiful Bordier Hutte in about 4 hours.

Breakfast the next morning was at the grim time of 2.30am. Peter and I headed off up the moraine eventually reaching the glacier in about an hour. We then headed up the left side of the glacier avoiding some very big holes. After about three hours we arrived at the couloir which leads up to the Dirrujoch. This was steep and unfortuanetly the sun was now beaming down on us and loosening rocks which started coming down the couloir. We tried climbing the rocks at the side , but this was very slow. Being slow is not a luxury you can afford while alpine climbing and mindful that the glacier would be a soggy nightmare if we were too late, we reluctantly decided to retreat. A shame not to make the summit but still a wonderful wild place and we vowed to return.

Mt Blanc? Not this time

I met up with Gareth Peaple and we decided to try and defy the forecast by heading up to the Tete Rousse Hut. The next day we moved up to the Gouter Hut because the weather forecast improved slightly. Other groups arrived too hoping the weather forecast would be okay. Although you can see the wind blowing the clouds in the photo
Breakfast at 2.00 am and everyone set off and we plodded up in indifferent weather. We made it to the summit of the Dome de Gouter 4200 meters but once there I decided it was hopeless cause. We decided to turn round . As we did everyone else turned round too.
Gareth was pretty positive about the experience and vowed to be back!

Marc Le Guide

Met up with Marc Le Guide translator Christophe Jaquet and climbed the spectacular Poeme a Lou high up on the Brevent. It was made even better by beating the rain.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Calm before the storm

I'm not talking about the weather but the calm before the French school holidays when the whole world descends on Chamonix.
Francis Bridgeman started our week together on the normally packed Index high above Les Praz. We had the place to ourselves coupled with wonderful weather.
The next day we visited the Mer de Glace for some preparatory work with the Ice axe and crampons.
After that we drove through the Mt Blanc tunnel and climbed the wonderfully secluded Aiguille du Toule.
We then traversed the aiguille du Crochue again it was wonderfully quiet.
On our final day we had a bit of a contrast in terms of seclusion. We climbed the Petite Aiguille Verte , which was in fantastic condition , but was ridiculously busy, with lots of potential work for the Mountain Rescue.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

So whats all this alpine climbing about?

This was the question Bob Dyson decided to answer by joining me for the last 4 very hot days he was completely new to it. This is what he concluded:

Dear Mark
I really do not know where to start as you laid on so many new alpine experiences for me to savour.

From stepping out of the car on Friday morning and being roped up and on the rock face within minutes to the decent to the Mer de Glace for crampon and ice axe techniques; the unforgettable climb of Aiguille des Crochues and the white paradise we crossed from Aiguille du Midi on Monday.

It was all sensational.

I asked to be taken to places I hadn't been and you obliged in spade fulls ensuring throughout that I was exhilarated but safe. You are the consummate professional and I cannot thank you enough Mark.

The added bonus was of course your company and my meeting your wife Jane, daughters and dog.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Let's go to the Sea Side

I started the alpine climbing season all reved by the wonderful stable weather we had enjoyed but just as I was about to start the weather pattern changed which meant that our plans changed very regularly.
Luckily Reuben Berg has climbed enough out here to know that there is nothing you can do about the weather. The key is to be flexible so when I suggested we head down to climb on the Sea Cliffs at Capo Noli he had no hesitation but to say "lets go!"
Three and a half hours later we were in Finale Liguria the only problem was it was still raining! Eventually it did clear and our rockclimbing started.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Another week of plan B's

Well the perfect weather did finally come to an end. The first plan was to climb the Aiguille Verte but conditions had changed and it was no longer freezing sufficiently hard at night. So Charles Sherwood and I decided to see if we would have better luck further east so we headed for the Rimpfischhorn between Zermatt and Sass Fee. We made the short traverse to the Hut in some pretty mean weather.

The next morning we awoke at 4.00am to thick cloud so went back to bed. At 8 o'clock the weather had cleared and it looked good- so we set off. Yet 3 hours later at the Allalinpass we were engulfed in thick mist,plus it was blowing hard and snowing. So our consolation was to ski fresh tracks back to the Hut.

The forecast was not looking good for climbing big mountains so we changed to something we could do - We went rock climbing and climbed the very long Eperon du Dard at La Dyure close to Champex

It was looking as we would be able to get high the next day because there was a window in the weather. We duely turned up at the Aiguille du Midi cable car with the intention of doing the Midi - Plan traverse.

Now everything was going to plan until we tried to buy a ticket. "Its not open yet because there is ice on the cable" They said.

Well you would imagine that ice might appear on the cable of one of the highest cable cars in the world and after 50 years they might have figured out how to clear it quickly. But the problem was that due to economies the Compagnie du Mt Blanc had laid off the staff who might clear the ice off the cable. So their solution was to just let it melt off. We quickly figured out we would not have enough time to climb our route so we gave up and were left swearing at the incompetence of the people who run the 3rd biggest tourist attraction in the world. [Pyramids and Niagara Falls]

Our final day we decided to try and makeup for the previous days debacle by climbing the East face of the Aiguille de Praz Torrent which is a very good mountain rock climb protected by traditional gear and pitons. This proved to be a very good climb and I would recommend it to anyone who wants solitude and is up for a long steep approach.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Haute Route Chamonix to Zermatt

I have just completed the High Level Route in near perfect conditions where for the first four days we didn't see a cloud, the snow was very stable and the crevasses were well filled in.

I was joined by 4 good fit skiers who however had no previous ski touring experience.
Rob Faure Walker,Becca Ratcliffe, Charlie Clarke and Alex Mcmullen. We had a day together doing some initial training on Les Grands Montets.

The next day we had a leisurely start and headed up to the Argentiere Hut for our first night and gain some valuable acclimatisation and rest before what was to be a very big day.

We awoke at 4.15 am and had a pre dawn start with some pretty testing icy skiing in the dark. Our plan was to pass via the col du Passon as this is now locally considered a better option than the traditional col du Chardonnet due to the stone fall and terrible bottle neck problems which are encountered. This proved to be a good move because we did not see a sole all day and then enjoyed a memorable descent of the val d'arpette followed by 10 mins walk to our awaiting taxi which whipped us over to Le Chable so we could get the cable car to the Mt Fort Hut.

Unfortunately Becca starting suffering from very bad "shin splints" and was in considerable pain and seriously considered bailing.

We looked at the options and decided to fill her up with pain killers and go for it.
Another stunning traverse and we arrived at the Prafleuri Hut where we plonked Becca in a deck chair and proceeded to ice her shins while we sat around in the sun drinking beer.

The traverse to the Dix Hut was a mixture of some good snow , some passages across mud and grass and we even explored some old ruins that had been uncovered by the draining of the lake.

From the Dix hut we traversed the Pigne d'Arolla [3790 meters] in very easy conditions despite quite a cool wind. We arrived at the Vignettes Hut early at around 11.00am and set our self up for the afternoon by eating an emormous dustbin lid sized rosti.

I set the alarm for 4.15am I got up heard the wind then looked out of the window and then went back to bed. We were going no where the weather was horrible. We all then had a council of war and looked at the options. We decided to sit it out taking the gamble that the weather would be better on the Sunday. Several games of Monopoly later [Of which I was the moral victor] and we were up at 4.30am. We were greeted with good weather and we were on our way by 5.30am.

The extra days rest served us well because Becca's shins were much better and we were now all super acclimatised and we flew. We hit the final col du Valepline at 10.00am.
All that remained was to ski down towards Zermatt where it is hard to imagine a better back drop than skiing under the north face of the Matterhorn on pretty good spring snow.
The snow eventually ran out so we had to walk - but who cares we had made it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lets do anything in the mountains other than ski

Just spent 6 great days with Francis Bridgeman and his extended family and friends. The skiing was limited to Grands Montets and it was mobbed. So I decided that the best thing to do was to show everybody how to do a crevasse rescue.
We did this on the top of Grands Montets.
The next day we went to Verbier in an attempt to find some different snow. It was crap. The visibility was nil the snow was firstly ice then slush interspersed with mud and a scattering of rocks.
Not unsurprisingly I suggested to Francis that we went rockclimbing. This proved to be a very good choice - we climbed the Via Cordia and the next day we climbed the Voie Caline.
Yesterday we went back to Les grands montets , not to ski but to learn how to use ice axe and crampons. The Grands Montets was mobbed and it wasn't possible to get to the top so we started with our ice axes on the piste. This seemed a much better option than using skis.
We then finished off the week with a mass ascent off the via Feratta above the plateau d'assey.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Last of the good snow

Reuben and Fiona joined me for 4 days skiing. We didn't see a cloud and it was hot. We spent a day at Grands Montets, then in Courmayeur followed by Verbier and we finished by skiing laps on the top of Grands Montets.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Apres Ski Acupunture

Just finished a very varied week of ski touring and off piste skiing that did not always go exactly to plan.At one stage we even aquired an extra group member when an unwanted Russian decided to join the group for a descent of the Argentiere glacier. Nevertheless we did get to ski some spectacular descents.
Our group was made up of a group of friends who from Ireland and we were never short of exllent banter. Paul, Carrol Barry Pat Steve.

We skied at Le Tour on the 1st day finding our feet. The next day we skinned up the Argentiere glacier but had to turn around due to poor visibility. The next day we skied at Les Grands Montets. Then following the theme of the season we headed to where the snow has been exceptionally good and went to La Thuile where he hit very good snow conditions and spen the day putting fresh tracks in 30 cm of light fluffy snow. Mind you it soon warmed up an the afternoon was as bad as the morning was good.

I was keen to show everyone the wonderful Crochue/ Berard ski tour above La Flegere the next day. Although the scenery was as spectacular as ever plus the snow looked perfect- it was covered by a very thin ice crust which made the skiing challanging at best and a kind of nightmare at worst.

So I made the decision to return to where I knew the snow would be good, the huts would be good the food would be good and we would get world class ski descents: This season it is Alagna/Gressoney.

We spent the night in the quite wonderful Vigevano Rifugio and I experienced unique Apres Ski Acupuncture treatment for ski pole elbow. This was good - but what was better was the fact it was snowing hard and it was windless and the forecast was blue skis te next day - setting up a perfect scenario.

Sure enough it was good. We skied amongst others the iconic La Balma. Not unsurprisingly and rather satisfyingly the boys told me it was there best ever days skiing. It was then back for some more apres ski acupunture provided by the the doctor and raconteur Carroll Odolan.

On final day we headed for the Colle della Salza and on the descent found the best snow of the week tucked under the north facing cliffs.

Ps My Ski Pole Elbow has been fixed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More Cappuccino

Bill Mills and Greg Knott joined me for what seems to be an annual adventure. We had no fixed plan other than to spend sometime in the high mountains. The conditions were so good in Italy that I suggested that was the place to go. Fine until we arrived at the Mt Blanc Tunnel and hit an unholy que.
Plan B was quickly hatched and we headed to Flegere where we moved over to Le Brevent and climbed up to the Col Cornu. From there we headed over to the Aiguille de Gliere before skiing back down to Flegere on good spring snow.
The next day we managed to get through the tunnel and headed for Champoluc. we dumped the Land Rover and headed through the lift system over to Gressoney. The weather wasn't great with snow flurries and our attempts to ski off piste were thwarted so we just cruised over to Alagna.
The next day was very good. We climbed Vincent Pyramid 4200meters. It was cold , it was clear we saw no one and it was fantastic.
We spent another night in the wonderful Rifugio Vigevano and were looked after by the equally magnificent Juiliana.
The next morning we left the Rifugio - skied down to the Orestes Hutte [where we stopped for a cappuccino] before skinning up to the Colle della Salza. From here we had a very long and spectacular ski down to Staffal.
We the rode the lifts so we could ski down to Champoluc - but not before we stopped at Auberge Frantze for some fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms.
Then we stopped on the way home to pick up 5 kilos of Nutella.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Super Tuscan & Cappacino ski Tour

This was a great week with some excellent skiing and some truly memorable huts and equally stunning red wine. Peter Whelan and his good friend Nigel Costain joined me for 5 days.
We started with a good warm up tour by going over the Col Cornu from Brevent and linking up by skiing down the Comb des Glireres in very good snow.
The next day we headed for La Thuile where the snow was exceptionally good as was the lunch at La maison de la Niege.
On Wednesday our trip really got going when we drove to Champalouc and headed through the vast lift system taking some off piste routes and finally arriving at the rifugio Gigliminia where we had our 1st super Tuscan followed by a tour of Alberto's wine cellar.
On Thursday we climbed on skins to the Mantova Hut before skiing down the very long run down the Eagle gulley to Gressony where we had a cappuccino and a panni, before taking the lift back up to the rifugio for another "big red"
On our final day we skied down to Alagna where we had to stop for the inevitable cappuccino before working our way across the valleys back to Champalouc. But not before we came across ( by accident) an incredible mountain auberge.