Monday, August 28, 2023

Crazy Temperatures

Gd St Bernard Monastery

The trip report.

There is a new rock climbing guide book to the Grand St Bernard Col area with a selection of marvellous new routes of all grades.  "Entremont Escalade." It is highly recommended.

 John Young and I drove around to the col, leaving high season Chamonix behind.  

The first climb we did was on Le Petit Cervin.  Two minutes from the car park.  A really good first climb.  

Le Petit Cervin

We then stayed the night at the Hotel Italia. A traditional establishment which has been run by the same family since it was opened in the 1930's. 

Hotel Italia shrouded in fog.

After dinner there was a fire work display just over the border at the Hospice.  Despite the mist swooping over the col, the firework-dischargers insisted in contiuning as arranged, despite no one being able to see any fireworks.  It was all rather underwhelming.

The next day we set about climbing the East Ridge of the Pain Sucre by the aptly named route Le Zucchero [ Italian for Sugar]. This is a 15 pitch route which reaches its finale by climbing a razor edge to the summit of the fore- mentioned mountain. 

John on final pitch of Zucchero

 After climbing the route we walked off the back of the mountain and back to the car  We spent a second night at the Col du St Bernard.  This time staying in Switzerland at the Auberge du Gd St Bernard.

On our third day we walked from the col for about an hour and climbed another modern classic: The Grande Chenalette.  A route on perfect rock which is in wild surroundings and again finishes with a sharp arête.

Final pitch of Grande Chenalette.

It was then back to Chamonix for a night, before heading through the Mt Blanc tunnel and around to the quiet Valpeline valley.  It was a bit puzzling why there were so many diggers/roadworks/ traffic lights on the route.  It was not until the hut guardian told us the valley had been cut off for several days after a flash flood and corresponding devastating land slide. Amazingly no one was injured.  

We arrived at the Refugio Crete Seche.  It had everything a good hut should have and was hosted by the utterly delightful Sophie.

Our plan was to go from the refugio upto the little known, but spectacular, bivouc Pasqualetti which is situated on a very difficult to reach ridge.

Unfourtunately for John and I, it not only proved difficult but ultimately impossible.  During the week the tempertaure and climbed and climbed, meaning that transfering from the glacier to the ridge resembled a suicide mission because rocks kept cascading down the face.  We retreated werily back to the Refugio Crete Seche.

Terrible conditions on the glacier

The next day we returned to Chamonix - but not before finding the road out of the Valpeline valley was closed again - but only for an hour while the clean up from the landslide continued.

road closed

After a couple of days rest, we reconvened for some futher adventures.  Although the weather forecast was  perfect, in many ways it was not perfect - it was just too hot.  It meant routes that are effected by potential melting permafrost need to be avoided, plus glacier approachs are unfeesable if there is no overnight freeze- which there wasn't.

In these conditions the rock climbs in the Aiguille Rouge are perfect.  We climbed the immaculate route Kabul on the Petit Floria.  One of the best climbs in the area which doesn't see much traffic.  This will have a lot to do with the heinious approach up endless steep rubble.  You really have to earn your right to climb it.

Petit Floria

Next day we started with a spot of cragging on our our local crag behind our house.  We then drove around to the Col des Annes high above Grand Bornand.  Our plan was to climb the famous route  Voie du Trou on Pointe Percée.  The car thermometer read 33c. We got out of the car and were met with a wall of heat.  This was at 1721 meters.  

Setting off in blistering heat

I was keen to see what the new hut was like - since the last time I had been here, the old one had been demolished and a new modern one had been built.  Frankly we struggled walking to the hut in the heat.  

What should have been a relief when we got there, was instead a nightmare wall of flies.   Maybe it was the unpresentended high temperatures that had caused the infestation, but it would rank as one of the worst if not worst hut experinces I have ever had.

Night mare fly infested hut.

So the next morning it was with extreme relief to get out and start walking up the mountain.  Yet even at 6.30am you didnt need anything more than a T-Shirt.

The route Le Voie du Trou is superb.  It is about 9 pitches until you reach the Trou.  The trou [or hole] gives the mountain its name Pointe Percée.  

John on the stunning Voie du Trou

Once you arrive on the ridge, you are not only treated to views of Sallanches and Mt Blanc in the distance, but you get to climb the spectacular Le Rasoir.  

The Hole

Through the Trou

Although we had had the route to ourselves just after Le Rasoir pitch various climbs congregate.  It was here we met the people we are shared our fly infetsed dinner the night before : Non other than officers of the Foreign Legion.

Le doigt in the background.

Not really wishing to be in a queue with them, we elected to find another route to the really fine summit.

John & I on the summit

It was then back down the normal route which is a waymarked scramble, but not without consequence for the unwary.  We dashed into the hut to collect our extra stuff which was superferlous for the climb, then repacked and left as fast as possible.  The walk down was hard work- the heat now over powering.

tricky walking on the "limestone pavements "

Very hot final stretch back to Col des Annes

For our final day together we wanted something that was less demanding.  We headed for the nearest route from the top of the Index chair lift - Mani Puliti.  All was going well until finally the weather changed an hour or two ahead of schedule and just at the last pitch we got drenched.  Climbing the last pitch was akin to climbing a waterfall.  At least it was warm rain... plus finally a change in the weather which was most welcome.