Sunday, September 30, 2012

Working around variable weather

Nick Graham returned to climb with me after a two year break. We started our week together by climbing the Voie Caline. The slightly harder but shorter version of the now very well known route the Via Corda.

This was an ideal warm up and the day after we climbed the Cosmique Arete one of Chamonix's most famous and well travelled climbs. Late September was an ideal time to tackle this route because it wasn't mobbed by loads of other climbers.

On our third day we traveled through the Mt Blanc Tunnnel and then took the Helbronner cable car and climbed the Aiguilles Marbree. The approach was tricky because the summers hot weather had opened up some huge crevasses with some very thin snow bridges. I was very cautious but the 50 school children who passed us [on an outing from Paris] did not seem phased a tall.

The next day it rained and drizzled all day so we spent the day revising techniques for big multiple rappels and systems for crevasse self rescue. All stuff which is important but often does not get covered properly.

Our plan was to finish the week by climbing Mt Blanc du Tacul which would have been Nick's first 4000 meter peak. However when we arrived at the summit of the Aiguille du Midi two things made it obvious that this was not going to happen. Firstly there was no track in up the mountain and two there were very strong winds indicating that there was a significant avalanche risk. We therefore contented ourselves by climbing Point Lachanel where we were entertained by ENSA who were camped on the summit while testing belay strengths by chucking barrels of concrete down the slope and seeing if the rope snapped or the ice screws ripped out.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Week started with summer and ended with Autumn

Peter little travelled out from Keswick for a second week of climbing with me. We decided to go on one of our traditional explorations and came up with a gem of a route in the Aravis mountain range. We climbed the arete d'Marion. This route is situated high above the col du Aravis. It is considered to be one of the finest ridges in this particular mountain range. We were not disappointed a wonderful route for a first day.

We liked the Aravis so much that we decided to go back again the next day. This time towards the Plateau des Glieres. However we hit a problem- It took us so long to get there and we had big difficulties actually finding the crag that we ran out of time.

Wednesday it rained stair rods. Above 2000 meters it snowed 35 cm. We did nothing.

Thursday The weather was much improved but everything was either soaking wet or covered in snow. We had a brain wave and went on the very vertiginous via Ferratta at Thones.
This is the most challanging via ferratta I have done with the grade of Extremely Difficult. It follows an overhang that eventually leaves you swinging from your arms hundreds of meters above the village.

Friday was beautiful. Well everything looked beautiful because it was covered in snow. We choose to go rock climbing above the area formerly known [before global warming] as the Mer de Glace. This involves taking the Montenvers train and then walking down to Les Mottets. From there you rappel down the cliffs to the foot of the routes. Once you are in position it is hard to imagine a more spectacular back drop to go climbing in.