Friday, August 31, 2012

Alpine Classics

Charles Sherwood and I headed over to Andermatt and the Salbit Hut with some ambitious plans. Like a lot of mountaineering plans it was thwarted by the weather at about 5.30am the next morning. So it was back to the Hut to sit out the rain. In the afternoon it did stop raining enough to try and get out for a couple of pitches on the crag behind the hut.
The route we chose was greasy and I slipped on a thin lay back and fell off badly grazing my shin. I Hobbled back to the hut and patched my leg up.
The next morning was perfect and we headed off for a second attempt on the south ridge of the Salbitschijien. [Possibly the best route of its grade in the alps.] Word has certainly got out in the UK climbing press because all the teams on the route were exclusively British.
It was then down the valley in search of a doctor to patch up my leg. The weather forecast was in the long term poor but the next two days were okay. We therefore decided to go straight up to the Gleckstein Hut for an attempt on the Wetterhorn.
The Wetterhorn is famous because it marks the start of the Golden age of Mountaineering when Sir Alfred Wills climbed it in 1854 and ended in 1865 when Whymper climbed the Matterhorn.Wills was the High Court Judge - hence the 'Sir' - who presided over the trial of Oscar Wilde for "gross indecency". Became third President of the AC in 1863-5. When he climbed the Wetterhorn in 1854, he was actually on his honeymoon. Must have been seriously popular with his wife!
Another of the party was the local guide, Christian Almer. He climbed the peak a last time aged 70 on his golden wedding anniversary. But he did at least have the decency to take his wife with him.
We left the hut at 4.30 am in the pitch dark and alone. We headed up the path to the foot of the glacier where it was still dark and it wasn't easy to know where to go next. We eventually figured out the route across the glacier and towards the Wills Ridge[Named after Alf] The Willsgrat is more matterhorn like then the Matterhorn and the whole ascent is much longer and tougher. It took us nine hours up and down the route and we were shattered when we eventually got back to the car at 6.00pm. Then the heavens opened and it has not stopped raining and snowing since.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Alpine Training

After a long time and children grown up Helen and Martin Whitehouse had decided to restart their mountaineering careers. They hired me to brush up on their skills and look at how equipment and techniques have evolved.
The weather was blisteringly hot and conditions in the mountains were poor because everything was melting and falling apart.
We started our 3 days together by kicking off on the Mer de Glace making sure Helen and Martin knew all there was to know about modern crampons axes and ice screw belays.
Day two: We headed up the Grands Montets where we spent the morning working on crevasse rescue. In the afternoon we climbed the spectacular Aiguille du Grands Montets Ridge.
Day three : We traversed the Aiguille du Crochue. We moved very quickly and so I decided to hand the rope over to Martin and Helen so that they could perfect "moving together" under their own steam. Finally in what has become a bit of a tradition Helen and I swam in Lac Blanc. Unfortunately Martin was too much of a whimp to join us.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cryotherapy Alpine Style

Ariel and Antony enjoyed a cloudless windless traverse of the Aiguille de Crochue - Antony had climbed it before but this was Ariel's first introduction to alpine ridges. It is difficult to say which he enjoyed most the climbing or the swimming in Lac Blanc on the way down.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Father & Son Climb Mt Blanc 4810 m

Jason Donavan and his son Lloyd joined me for a week of perfect weather and perfect conditions. We started our week with a visit to the Mer de Glace so that we could have some detailed preparation using ice axe and crampons . We talked a lot about what would happen in the week ahead as well as working on short roping techniques.
The next day we headed off up Les Grands Montets and climbed the Aiguille de Grands Montets before scrambling over the railings on to the viewing platform. In the afternoon we made our way over to the deliightful Argentiere Hut. We sat on the terrace drinking beer and soaking up the impressive situation. It was a very relaxed evening the hut was only half full despite it being Saturday night and the busiest week of the summer season.

We were away by 5.15am the next morning and climbed up to the Col du Tour Noir where we enjoyed stunning views east into Switzerland. From the col we returned back to the Hut and then headed down the Argentiere glacier and were down for 2.00 pm. Our acclimatisation completed plus , plenty of time for a good rest before the challenge of the next day which was going to be the climb to the Gouter Hut.

The climb was even longer than expected because unbeknown to me the 8.40 am train had been cancelled. So an extra 2 hours on what is already a long day. We arrived at the Gouter Hut at 3.00pm. Even so the conditions in the Gouter Couiloir were very good. There were no falling rocks and virtually a foot path across.

Breakfast was at 1.30am and we were away by 2.15am. We had perfect conditions and we summited at 7.15 am. After some photos it was straight back down. We were extremely quick back at the Gouter Hut in under 2 hours. Then the long descent - over 2700 meters.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Staff Training

The best out door shops have the best staff. Staff who know what kit does what how it works. This way they can recommend the correct equipment. With this in mind Adrian & Jad from Stamos Sports in Argentiere joined me for a day on the Mer de Glace
a dry glacier where they could learn everything there is to know about Ice axes, crampons, ice screws, rope management, steep ice climbing, rescue and route finding.

It was their chance to evaluate the latest gear and gave them a much better idea of what works easily and well and what does not!