Cosmiques Arête

After yesterdays big day I woke up pretty late so only had the afternoon for some climbing. It was still great weather up high so I teamed up with Owen to finally get round to climbing the Cosmiques Arete. This is a very popular route and is so easily accessible from the Aiguille du Midi lift.

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This route is a round trip from the Aiguille du midi, down the east ridge and back up the west ridge back to the top station. The guide book says allow 45mins for the approach and 2-3 hours climbing. we did the whole thing in 3 hours, which wasn’t that bad as we did meet a couple of teams, stopped for a sandwich and placed a lot of gear pitching a few of the sections.

The climb starts next to the Cosmiques refuge on the obvious rock and snow ridge leading back up to the Aiguille du Midi. The route was very well travelled so the path was easy to find.

IMG_0051Owen starting up the first snow and rock slopes from the Cosmiques refuge.

There was plenty of places to place gear on this initial slope, it is not essential but the snow was getting very soft by this time, 1:30pm, and we felt safer with some gear in.

IMG_0052There are some very exposed ridges and some great views on offer.

IMG_0055After the first small summit there is a small 20/30m rappel, there is a bolted belay so the rap is fine and quick to set up. It is awkward as there are a few steps on the rappel that you have to climb over with the rope still in your hand.

IMG_0330Following the obvious route you come back around onto the south face then start to climb again back up to the west ridge, this section is also exposed but once again you are rewarded with some great views back down the Chamonix valley and with Mont Blanc behind.

IMG_0057 The second rappel is a little trickier, you have to sit in a difficult position to set it up then squeeze yourself through this narrow hole to get down, a prussik is advisable, as you need two hands sometimes!


Owen climbing up the first of the rock crux’s, there are some big foot holes, there are two bolts just above Owen and we set up a belay from here to pitch the next couple of moves.


After a short very exposed traverse you reach the final chimney that leads you to the viewing platform of the Aiguille du Midi. This was the highlight of the climb, nice mixed climbing with plenty of places for gear. It is a challenge climbing with crampons on and is harder than rock boots, you have to rely on your points and trust they will hold!


Looking back down the exit chimney at Owen, he was very hot at this point after deciding to put his down jacket on for some reason!

After climbing back up the ladder to the viewing platform you are done and can walk straight back to the lift que. A classic route that was great fun, will definitely be doing it again.

Contamine-Grisolle, Tacul Ski descent

Contamine-Grisolle. II AD. 350m

Initially I wanted to go up and climb this route on the Monday with the intention of skiing powder on the North Face of the Tacul. However when checking the webcams on Monday morning at 6:30am you could see nothing but cloud so we decided to bail on that idea looking at Tuesdays forecast we thought it would be a much better option.

Rising early on Tuesday there was some cloud visable from the valley floor but upon viewing the webcams and seeing no cloud up high I was straight on the phone to Emily and arranged to meet at the Aiguille du Midi at 7:30.

We were at the top by 8:30 after a slight delay and down the arête with our skis on by 8:45.


Skiing from half way down the arête we already had some nice powder turns with just over 6” of fresh snow. Skis on our feet made the approach to the base of the triangle very quick and we had our skis on our back and crampons on by 9am.

The start of the Contamine-Grisolle is on the far left of the Triangle behind the lowest rock spur.

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To start there is a 150m 50’ slope to climb before you hit the first rock step and mixed gully.

Emily climbing the lower snow slopes before the first rock step.


The first mixed gully was easy to protect and we moved together up it fairly quickly, we were slower than other groups but they didn’t have 188cm planks of wood on their rucksack, which made negotiating some of the narrow trickier sections of mixed quite a delicate operation.

A couple of hours in and the wind had picked up and it was really cold, struggling to keep my hands warm I was in and out of hot-aches and cursing a lot!


There was a lot of mixed ground in the middle of the climb then a few snow slopes that had changed into bullet hard ice in places, which made moving very precarious and slow going. We tried to place protection as much as we could but there were some places where it was not possible so extra care had to be taken.

The exit mixed gully was knackered, a combination of little or no ice and what was there would break easily or was slushy, this coupled with little protection made the last pitch take a while and we were both pretty tired by this point.


Finally on to the ridgeline and a small mixed climb to the summit slopes.

The wind on these exposed top slopes was blistering and we tried to make a quick pace to get some relief but the altitude and our tiredness made the last 200m very hard. As we had both summated the Tacul in previous weeks we decided to just head down without topping out as by this point it was not looking like we were going to make last bin.

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Above the clouds on the summit slopes to Mont-Blanc du Tacul, with Mont Maudit on the left and the Dome de Gouter ahead.

We walked down the the lower ridge of the Tacul before putting our skis on as the snow was heavily wind affected and didn’t make for good skiing.Watching skiers come down the north face of the Tacul on our ascent we could see some great snow and some nice big powder turns, this is what kept us going throughout the climb. The ski down was amazing, and not just for the end of June! Nice powder and so much fresh to be had as only about 3-5 skiers had been down.

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We made a quick descent of the Tacul and tried to carry as much speed as we could off the bottom so we had less walking to do back up the arête. It was hard going because of the long hard day we had but we just made it to last bin, a couple minutes late but we were on it!

Thanks to Emily for another fantastic day Climbing and Skiing, and another Epic!

Eugster Diagonal Couloir, Aiguille du Midi North Face

Back up the mountain again and this time taking on a big one. My initial plan was to do the Midi-Plan traverse with my housemate then we heard there was a lot of snow on it and you have to be early and quick, then plans changed to the Tour Ronde north face with Tom Grant and a friend of his. After discovering that the Panoramic to Helbronner does not run until 9:30 and that would be too late as the isotherm was around 3800m and it would not have refrozen. I then had a text from Ally saying he and his housemate were going to go up the Eugster from first bin. From mid station to the top is over 1500m hight gain and the climb itself is just over 1000m.

I wasn’t keen to start with because it is a seriously committing climb as there is no where to go unless you down climb from where ever you are. That said, it is a ski line in the spring so I knew it wouldn’t be difficult climbing, if you had good conditions.

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We got first bin to the Plan D’Aiguille and then headed off on our approach, the guidebook says it takes 1.5 hours and it was spot on, we did have to negotiate some moraines but we were at the start of the route just after 9:30. First bin didn’t leave until 7:45 delayed from it summertime of 7:10. I teamed up with Emily so we could move in two groups of two as Allys friend Francis had also come along for the climb. Those boys had already started up the couloir as they got there a little before us.

We were questioning whether to climb or not because the snow had not refrozen at the bottom and we thought it might be a long slushy climb as a result. Ally and Francis made quick work of the first section so Emily and I thought we should get on with it also. Straight away we ran into a section of ice about 5-10m high and it had running water beneath it and was very hollow and thin. A quick belay over this and then we started storming up the couloir which had nice footsteps in.


A few hundred meters of climbing and we hit another ice band, this one was too dangerous to climb so we headed around it via a small rock band, it was nice to put some protection in so you can have a relaxed rest. Moving up the couloir again after in the nice footsteps we came to the start of the Diagonal. This is usually a rock climbing section of the route in the summer but as there is still so much snow there was only about 10-20m of mixed climbing before we were on the snow slopes of the Diagonal and back onto a traverse to the left bank of the diagonal.


Further up the Diagonal we cam into another rock and ice section, this was hard to protect and it was around midday so it was starting to get very warm with lots of water running down it.


Moving slowly over this problem we were on the final push out of the diagonal and on to the North Face snow slopes with the Aiguille du Midi station in sight. Seeing the lift only made things harder as you can see your goal and we were feeling pretty tired by this point. We slowly plodded up the north face snow slopes stopping every know and then to catch our breath.



Just below the top station there are a couple of big crevasses to work around to reach the arete. We chose the path that traverses between the two. This took us nearly one hour as the snow was very soft and we didn’t want to make a mistake so near to the top of the climb.


Ally snapped a few photos from the viewing platform as he arrived over two hours before us. Here we are just crossing the first crevasse. We carried on the traverse and over the second snow bridge and then up the final few steps to the arete, I was physically and mentally destroyed.



Arriving just after 3pm it had taken us 5.5 hours for the climb and a total of 7 hours for the ascent. I was pleased with this time as I didn’t know if I had the fitness to get up the thing in the first place. It was so nice to sit on the viewing platform in the hot sun and eat my pastries that I carried the whole way up. Getting back to town a hour later and the heat was unbearable, 33’c on some thermometers, No wonder the snow was soft. I think I will be avoiding the Midi North Face for a while but I might go back to take on the Frendo spur sometime in the next couple of months.

Thanks to Emily for the climb and Ally for the photos.

2013 Ski season in a short film

Changing to Skiing in january 2013 I started to go down things that i wouldn’t have dreamed to on a snowboard. My confidence grew as I was riding with more experienced people.

On the film is footage of me on the Gros Rognon, Grand Envers, Cosmiques Couloir and Glacier Rond. All of which are accessed via the Aiguille du Midi cable car at 3842m.



Mont Blanc du Tacul Summit 4,248m

After turning back from the summit of Mont Blanc du Tacul on saturday I was determined to go back and bag it. Finishing work early on Wednesday I headed up the Aiguille du Midi to bivi at the Col so I could get an early start. I was thinking that if I was feeling good I would have a crack at Mont Blanc!

After skiing down the arete I soon found a nice bivi spot that someone had left and settled in for the night with a wake up time of 3:45am.


The Bivi gave me plenty of time to look at the face again and scope out the best possible ski line down so I could get most of the untouched snow. My decision to bivi was rewarded with a stunning sunset, with all the higher peaks turning their usual pinkish red.


It rained earlier in the week and this put down a fair bit of snow up high and a friend had skied the Gervasutti Couloir on the Tuesday and said it was nice powder up on the north faces of the Tacul and Maudit.

Leaving the bivi just after 4am there were already dozens of head torches working their way up the Tacul, mostly on skis but there were some parties who were heading for Mont Blanc on foot. I made quick progress in the dark and soon reached the Bergschrund.


Starting off in the dark is great. You have more of the day and you don’t get too hot starting out. It does mean you have to take more care in your route as you may not see things that you would in daylight.

Just over a third of the way up the face I was having trouble with my skins sticking and my skis staying on the skinny track, after using a lot of extra energy trying to pull myself up I decided to just put crampons on, skis on the back and carry on up the walking path which was firm and well travelled.


The sun started to rise about 5:30am when I was just over half way up the face, this was nice as I could see better and the warmth gave me a little extra spurt of energy to push on to the top. I hadn’t settled to the altitude as well as I would have hoped to and was starting to get a headache so made the decision that I would just go to the summit of the Tacul and then head back down.

There is a small mixed climb to get to the summit, about 50m, and as I was on my own with no rope I did bring two axes which made it easier as there were some tricky moves with long run outs below, two axes also made down climbing after a lot easier and safer.


A small part of the summit climb, photo is taken with GoPro which takes away some of the steepness.

On the summit for 6:30am I found I was quicker than saturdays attempt and the sun was well and truly up by now and I sat on the summit for 20 minutes soaking up the sun and taking in the views.


I was pleased to have climbed the Tacul after failing due to weather on saturday. Next comes what all the effort was for…The Skiing!

Putting my skis on just below the rocky summit the snow was hard pack and quite wind affected for the summit ridge, this soon changed as I dropped into the North Face, It was two day old powder with a very thin breakable crust on and there was loads of fresh! As I was on my own I didn’t get a photo of any skiing and as I went light I didn’t take a helmet so no p.o.v pictures. All I managed was a little photo of some fresh turns I made on the lower half of the face.


It was a little less deep here than up higher but it was really nice snow, I didn’t want to attack it with full speed as the parts that I had decided to ski were above the larger parts of the Bergschrund and some large seracs, but that was where the best snow was to be found!

I was back down to the bivi about 7:45 and after packing up my gear headed up the arete to the Aiguille du Midi to go back to town. There were hoards of people coming down the arete and thankfully they all gave way to me, partly because they could see I had little energy to notice them let alone move aside! On to the 8:45 bin and back to town for just after 9am! Is it too early for a well done beer?

I am glad I set off early as I am writing this at 12pm and its over 25’c in Chamonix, It would be roasting if I had set out from first bin!

Mont Blanc du Tacul – 4,248m

Another first bin at the Aiguille du Midi except this time I am with Emily because last night I convinced her to come up Mont Blanc du Tacul with me.

After climbing with Ally yesterday you could see the amount of people that were still going up with skis, so as I had today off work and the weather looked good until the early afternoon I though I should give it a go as I have not been up there before and I still don’t want to put my skis away!

Arriving at the Midi at 7:30 there was no one there but then by 7:45 there was easily a few bins worth of climbers and skiers waiting to go up, well worth getting there 15 minutes earlier and eat breakfast at the front of the line!


The Aiguille du Midi at 7:35!

At the top by 8:30 and a quick ski to the start of the climb just to the right of the Triangle. There is a over 600m of vertical from the Col to the summit, and then you have to climb back up the Midi arete when you have skied back down.

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This climb has to be done early and quite quickly because the snow warms up quickly in the sun and also there is a lot of exposure above you on the first half of the climb, very big seracs looming above.


Have to make it a quick drink of water!

The going was quite good to start off with then Emily started to feel the altitude a little when we were over 3900m, this only slowed us down a little.


Emily charging up with the Sallanches valley way in the background.

Just as we were over the 4000m mark the clouds started to move in, I could see the summit at this point and it looked very close. The wind had also picked up and it became very cold. Emily had said that if I wanted to go to bag the summit that she would have waited where we had got to which was around 4100/4150m judging by where the summit was. I didn’t fancy it, by this point you could only see it every now and then and it was not looking like it would improve.


The summit just before the clouds came in, we went a little closer than this.

We then decided just to head back down before we couldn’t see a thing, we still had over 500m of decent with big seracs and crevasses to negotiate.

The snow on the way back down was pretty good considering it hadn’t warmed much and was still quite firm. There was no crust and you could even kick up some snow with more aggressive turns.

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There were lots of patches of untouched snow that was much nicer than the chopped up walking and skin track parts.


Overall the guide book says its 30/40′ slopes on the descent, it was not very steep overall but with a lots of clear danger you still had to take care where you were going!

I think we made a good decision by turning around, as we noticed that many of the other skiers that had set out from the first few lifts had aso turned back just before the summit and speaking to others in the lift after, only people staying at the Cosmiques refuge and lycra clad ski-mo types made it to the top before the clouds came in. Arriving back at the Midi at 1:45 it was a white out, we just made it up the arete in the last bit of sunshine.

It looked a lot different at 9am!


Another quality day up the Midi and its definitely  something I will have to go and finish off, Maybe next week!

Serac Gully- Tacul Triangle (Attempt)

Setting off at 8am with Ally Hurst again, this time it was sunshine all day! First bin up the Midi we were hoping to climb the Serac Gully on the Mont Blanc du Tacul, after Ally saw it looked in good condition a couple days before.

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There is now a good sized track down the arete so we made to the start of the climb by 9:30. We then noticed that there were no obvious belays so Ally had to set one up before starting the first pitch, things were looking good.


Ally on the first pitch.

This route is much smaller than the Chere which I climbed with Ally two weeks ago and was a real test of my climbing skills. It was a very narrow gully with thin ice and not much protection, Ally managed to place a few wires, cams and screws in whatever he could find as a lot of the ice was breaking off with one hit of the axe. This resulted in quite a timely climb despite us not actually gaining much height, and me getting pelted with falling ice for most of the climb!

After I came up the first pitch we noticed that the second, crux pitch was looking a little bare higher up, and with a hard move to start I didn’t feel comfortable having a go.

Ally tried to go up, to see how it was and made it up most of the pitch before he decided that it would take too long and it was getting very tricky. He made it up to some cord that was already there with a crab on so we decided to rap back down using that. In the picture below you can see how far he made it!


One 60m rap back down to the snow and we had a nice bit of lunch before heading back up the Midi, as usual I was a bit behind Ally but he did summit Mt Blanc last week so is more acclimatised, my excuse! I finally made it back up for the 2:15 bin, home for a rest and Ally off to work.


Want to come and have another go but need a full day to work it out!

Thanks to Ally Hurst for another good climb off the Midi.

Testing next years touring set-up

Me and Graham headed up above the Emosson Dam close to the Swiss boarder at 7am on Thursday with the plan of touring the  Pointe de L’Ifala after seeing that Charlie Boscoe, Chamonix Conditions, had skied it a few days before. Heading up early so that we could start our descent before 10/11 so that we had the best snow. We immediately  ran into problems when the security guard would not let us walk the road to the start of the route. We then had to try and find another route over a small shoulder hoping we could get back to the road further around, this did not work out to plan.



I really wanted to get out on my new skis so that I could have a good idea of how they skied before next winter. I managed to get a pair of the 2009 K2 Coomba in 188 for a bargain and already having a pair of Plum Guide bindings I thought this would make a good set up. Plum had sent me the brand new 2013/14 Plum Guide as my pins had come out of my older ones, this was for free which was a nice surprise! They look very similar to me apart from half the toe piece being a nice matte black now! No blurb has been released about any other changes.


From the Dam car park you cross the Dam and head up the obvious valley in front of you. As we didn’t make it to the start I cant really comment on the route it self but we managed to make a few turn on the face directly opposite the dam.



I though the skies were really good and even though they are 14mm wider than my previous touring skis the K2 Wayback they skied very similar. Maybe its because I had a few tips from Graham!


The snow was hard work on any traverse with it being quite soft but by the time we skied down it was some nice spring corn, and generally good fun!

We were back at the car by 9:30 after being pretty disappointed that we didn’t do what we set out to but it was fun to be skiing in June!

Thanks to Graham Pinkerton for the company and the ride.