Monday, October 09, 2017

Alpine climbing season ends for 2017

David Ford managed to carve out three days to come and join me and climb in the Chamonix area. In my view early October can be one of the best times to be here. It is much quieter, colder, which makes it safer because the mountains are less likely to fall apart and the autumn colours add a layer of beauty to the alpine scene. There is a price to pay in that a lot of the infrastructure is also closed interms of cables cars and mountain huts and therefore the choice of where to climb is more limited. Yet with local knowledge and a certain flexibility there are many places to go climbing which are magnificent. 4th October With a stellar forecast we set off for Switzerland and drove up to the Emosson Dam . We climbed the Aiguille Van. This is an excellent straight forward climb which has a variety of scrambling and finishes on a very prominent summit with views in a 360 degree vista.
5th October. The Cosmiques Arete. Of its type , it is one of the best routes in the alps , if not the world. Fast access via the Aiguille du Midi whips you up to 3842m in no time at all. Again the problem in the summer is that the route has become untenable for the reasons just mentioned. It is a product of its own successes and there are many hours of queuing which no matter how good a climb it is , the esthetics are destroyed.
We walked onto the cable car and we were the only climbers among the tourists. At the top we gearered up , and headed down the ridge we were alone. It was all going perfectly until we caught up what appeared to be an entire battalion of the French Alpine army. Just our luck to have chosen the same day as them to do this iconic climb.
I did however manage to persuade the officers in charge of each group [ fellow Mountain Guides ] that David and I could pass and overtake them . So despite the climb being busy we were not hindered and we could enjoy the perfect conditions and weather.
6th October. Well although I keep claiming the weather always is best in October , this particular day wasn't one of them. At least in the morning. Nevertheless the afternoon was good and we enjoyed some excellent rock climbing at the ever reliable Les Gaillands crag .

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Retun to the Dolomites

The plan David Brooksbank and I had agreed to was to climb the Weisshorn. This had been the previous years plan too. The problem is "Weiss" in German means white. The guide book states that an ascent is a considerable undertaking when the ridge is covered in snow. It follows that the best conditions are when the Weisshorn is not white [which is not often.] Just prior to David's arrival the Weisshorn was in good climbing condition- not white. But the week before his arrival the mountain resorted to its default setting. Partly because it was late in the season and partly because there had been so much snow , the guardian packed his bags and headed down to the valley. In fact not only was the Weisshorn covered in snow but it became very apparent that most of the big mountains in the western alps were out of condition, plus the weather forecast was only good for the next two days, then it was due to be horrible. We decided to make the most of the two days of good weather and started by rock climbing on the glaciated slabs above the Mer de Glace. A more spectacular place to go rock climbing is hard to find . Beautiful autumn sunshine and not a soul in sight. Friday 22nd September. The idea for the day was to climb the east ridge of the Aiguille Van high above the Emosson Dam. It was a beautiful day and ideal for giving the MG Midget a run out. We made it up to the parking without incident [highly unusual for a nearly 40 year old car built by British Leyland] The problem was that the approach to the climb was plastered in snow and the higher we got the more snow. It became obvious we should employ the "discretion is better part of valour" dictum and bail back to the car. So this proved even more so that we needed to go somewhere else. Somwhere far a way. We headed for Cortina d'Amprezzo in the heart of the Dolomites. We stayed at the Albergo La Locanda del Cantoniere. This is an excellent location with very good food and wine . Yet not all was good because it is run by a women, who on a good day views her clientele as something that gets in the way of her daily routine. At best she is barely civil. Sunday 24th September. We awoke to the sound of lashing rain, which was on the verge of sleet. So much for driving 700 km to find better weather. We decided to venture out anyway. We reckoned we could at least try and climb a simple Via Ferrata in the rain. [David had never climbed one before.] We headed to the Cinque Torre area . As we drove up the road the rain turned to snow. by the time we arrived at the foot of the Via ferrata Averau we were in full winter scene. Nevertheless we climbed the via ferrata and made it to the summit of Torre Averau. All in all we felt quite a sense of achievement.
Dinner that evening was excellent , but Signorina just couldn't help herself, and announced very rudely she was suddenly closing the hotel the next day and we were not welcome any longer. Monday 25th. What a difference a day makes. Beautiful weather. We climbed the uber classic Torre Di Falzarego. It was only near the top that we were joined by a local Guide and his client whose route joined ours. After the climb we had to find somewhere to stay . We found a very good functional Hotel at lake Misurina : The Hotel Lavaredo. Tuesday 26th We walked up to the Rifugio Fonda-Savio Hutte. The welcome from Maria couldn't have been more diametrically opposed to that of two nights ago. We then walked the 15 minutes to the foot of Torre Wundt. We climbed the route in complete solitude. Quite fantastic. We returned to the hut and enjoyed a pleasant evening where the host didn't shout at us either.
Wednesday 27th. The morning was bright and clear, yet it was cold. We were in no particular hurry and were quite keen for the temperature to climb. Further , on the north facing approach slopes there was plenty of icy snow. The path from the Hut to the bottom of the wonderfully named Torre El Gobbo took about 40 mins. The climb was completely clear of snow apart from the final few meters to the summit block.
There was no wind and therefore despite it being cold we were fine. The two Rappells from the summit arent for the feint hearted.
From the foot of the climb we walked back to the car. We drove to Cortina where we enjoyed a beer in the square while enjoying a warm beautiful autumn afternoon. We stayed in the excellent Montana Hotel , bang slap in the center of the town opposite the Church. [David was relieved to learn that they shut the bells down at night.] Thursday 28th. We headed up the Falzarego pass to the Cinque Torre. This had been our intended destination when we first arrived in the Dolomites. Then we had ended up floundering around in the rain and snow, but not today , it was jaw droppingly beautiful, quiet and the perfect setting for us to attempt our last climb of the trip. We climbed the class via Guido 1V.
In the afternoon we drove back to Chamonix and arrived at 7.30pm.