Monday, October 01, 2018

September Solitude.

My favourite time to be climbing in the Alps is late Septemeber early October. Everyone has cleared off, it is cooler therefore less knackering , it is safer because the rocks are glued in place and the weather can be so clear and the views show off the autumn tinges at their very best. Fortunately for me, Reuben agreed with me about the benefits of Autumn climbing. We had a long standing arrangement to climb together at the end of September. We had no fixed agenda other than to do some interesting climbs and experience some real solitude. We started with the La via ferrata des Evettes high above La Flegere. It is an ideal "shake down" day and is good place to bank some early acclimatisation.
It was also a chance for Reuben to spend sometime with his grown-up daughter who he doesn't get to see that often. Emma was able to join us for our first two days together. On our second day we rode the Montenvers Railway up to what was was "formerly" the Mer de Glace and climbed on the impressive slabs
On our third day together we drove through the Mt Blanc tunnel , rode the Skyway lift to Pointe Helbronner which over looks the Vallee Blanche and climbed the Aiguille du Marbree.
It was cold clear and it all felt wonderfully remote. On our fourth day we climbed above Argentiere on Les Chésérys cliffs. We climbed the immaculate, route the L'EMHM [The ecole militaire du Haute Montagne] no guesses for who originally put the route up. The penultimate pitch is very very good.
Our fifth day was probably the standout day. We left the Chamonix valley and drove around to the Col des Aravis. On a beautiful morning we headed up the tough steep unrelenting comb which leads to the start of the Arete Marion. This is a ridge which is in a wonderful position with views back to Mt Blanc and the surrounding area . We were watched from a far by two massive Eagles. They came so near that I was suspicious that they weren't actually real , but instead giant remote control toys.
The penultimate pitch is the one for the memory banks:
As we were climbing up we saw, below us, another team of two climbers. We joked that this was not what was meant to happen this week , the whole idea was to climb in complete solitude and we had failed . After the climb, as we walked down from the summit of the climb we could still see the climbers making what appeared to be unusually very slow progress they appeared to be just standing there. Yet the next thing I heard this almighty whooosh and two figures came flying down the comb , before deploying their parachutes. "Squirrel Suiters."
They made it down quicker than we did. On our final day we headed over to Switzerland. We drove up and through Verbier and then on and up the Savoleyres pistes system [ Land Rover Defender useful] and parked at the top. We then walked over to the Pierre Avoi, the giant pillar that can be seen from Martigny . We climbed the L'Arete. A route which is all about being in amazing situations . The only complaint was that it was too hot!

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