L’Aiguillette D’Argentiere

Having a morning off before work is always good, especially when the sun is out. Me and Stef headed up to the Aiguillette around 10:30am. Parking at the Tre-le-champ car park there is a 45/60 min approach to the crag. It was surprisingly quite even though there as a few people doing a zip line from the top ladders.

We opted to do the classic route on the monolith as Stef had not done it before, 4c. Then after that we did the first pitch of ‘La Fee des Druides’ a 3 pitch route, 5c.

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I had climbed a few routes here last summer so had a good idea of what to expect. The Classic route up and over the smaller monolith has a very exposed step over to the larger one, so even though it is a 4c, it is quite unnerving!

Stef came up second then we rappelled down towards the Le Tour side as its slightly overhanging and made for an easier descent. We took a single 70m rope and 10 quickdraws.

The view from the top.

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After this route we did the first pitch of the Druides, this rock is realy nice and not polished at all. There are some nice grippy small holds and some committing moves for a 5c. The first pitch is over 35m as we found out and when I was nearing the half rope length I had to come back down with a mallion in a bolt! You have to commit to the 3 pitches to avoid loosing gear, but we didn’t have enough rope for the rappels.

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The rock is all great apart from the overused classic routes but this crag is in an amazing location offering some tremendous views and fantastic photo opportunities. Here are a couple from last year!

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Trying to get on some rock

Another 3 days off work trying to get something done in the mountains. After bailing on John last week due to a very stiff ankle after Mont Blanc traverse we headed up the Midi at 7am with the intention of climbing the classic Rebuffat route on the south face of the Midi, about 5c/6a.

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The weather forecast said 60% sunshine, this turned into hail and cloud! As we got to the start of the route the rock was quite dry and we decided to give it a go regardless. John headed up first and as he was half way up it started to hail.

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I decided to give it a go seconding as we had come all this way, and it was my first time climbing this type of rock, in a crack with hail falling on wet rock! It was a challenge to say the least. We completed the first pitch despite me wanting to stop a few meters below the bolts and just rap from there, But John made me come to the bolts even with my frozen hands! Still with a smile on my face!

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The top of the first pitch is not double bolted and we had to rap through a single bolt with some tat which was unnerving as John said try not to bounce around as its not that good!

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John stayed at the top station for acclimatisation and I headed back down to town.

Yesterday I headed down the very popular Gaillands crag in Chamonix with my housemate Stef, I had not climbed in the Frendo area and we went to give it a go. The route I chose looked nice and cruisy but it was a 5+ and it was quite desperate and I struggled on up with the final very exposed move being quite tricky. The rope then became stuck on the way back down resulting in me having to walk all the way up to free it before Stef had a go seconding.

We then did a nice small flake on the left hand side of the main crag. Its 5c and is fun and quick. It wasn’t that busy there considering it was a lovely hot day.

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Hopefully next week I will get something a little bigger and more challenging done, more rock I think!

Until next week…

Mont Blanc Traverse 4810m

After doing nothing last week apart from drinking and partying I had to do something to redeem myself, I thought that Mont Blanc could be a tough challenge for a monday morning!

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The route is around 20km long with 1400/1600m ascent and 4000m descent.

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The last time I was up high was two weeks ago when I did the Entreves traverse and this was only 3500m, so with no acclimatising I headed up the Midi first bin with Emily who only discovered that I was going to do it the night before at about 9pm, she is off on expedition soon and needs the high altitude training, and with over 7 hours above 4000m this was perfect.

I wanted to do it solo originally so that I could go as light as possible, Emily had the same idea, and as we did it together we had no ropes or crevasse gear just a harness, sling and ice screw. The only thing we did bring that most others wouldn’t is trainers. After suffering last year on the descent from the Gouter refuge I knew that I would love to put on some new socks and comfy trail running shoes for the scramble and the miles and miles of trails back to Les Houches.

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Leaving the midi station at 7 we were quick down the arete and straight onto the Tacul, the crevasse in the middle of the face is now a bit of a overhang climb for a couple of moves, once over this obstacle we were at the shoulder before 9am, 2 hours in and looking good.

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Once over the shoulder it is on to Mont Maudit, this is a little more technical than the Tacul as there is a section of about 30/50m 45′ snow slope to climb. We started the steep climb as many teams were on their way back down so it was a bit of a mess with ropes and people everywhere. The climbing itself was not too bad, you had to rely on your front points at times as it was icy.

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We were over the shoulder of Mont Maudit just after 11 and we were both feeling good. I didn’t fancy down climbing the slope we had just come up so pushing on and completing the traverse was the only option!

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After the Mudit we could see the summit and this is when the wind really started to pick up and it was howling. The temperature on the Tacul and Maudit was pleasant, and then on the summit slopes we were freezing, hands and face were burning with the cold winds.

We slowly plodded up the summit slopes and got to the summit at 1pm, 6 hours after setting off from the midi. We were both pleased with this time as we had not been up high for a couple of weeks and the wind did slow us down slightly.

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A quick stop on the summit, I took a Finnish Flag up for my Girlfriend Katariina as she didn’t manage to make it up Mont Blanc this summer, then we started the descent. Not a lot of good photos from the top as it was so windy I didn’t want to take my gloves off for very long!

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We descended the ordinary Gouter route towards the Vallot hut, where we stopped for some food and water and shelter form the wind.

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After this short stop we made a quick descent to the old Gouter refuge where we changed into our trainers and shorts, this was so nice to do as it made the rest of the climb back to Les Houches comfortable and more enjoyable than if we had done it in big boots.

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The start of the Gouter scramble.

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Looking back up towards the Gouter face, Still a long way down from here!

Great views of the Chamonix valley on the way down.

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The walk down to Les Houches took 7:45 from the summit and its 3800m descent, we were ringing all our friends for a lift back from Les Houches, we didn’t have much luck at first, Thanks Ally Hurst, but then Emilys friend Bella came to our rescue and picked us up from near the town centre and took us both home, the real hero of the day!!

I am writing this with a very sore and stiff ankle and the tightest quads I have ever had, a good sign that Yesterdays traverse was a beasting! Glad to have been back on top of Mont Blanc and this time in daylight, It was Emilys first time up there so smiles all round. I think I am over it now, maybe once more up there in the spring, but with Skis!!

Aiguille d’Entreves, SW Ridge PD

Teaming up with a new climbing partner Fabio Mastroianni we headed across the panoramic to traverse the Entreves ridge on the Italian side of the Massive. I met Fabio driving him to and from the airport and then having bumped into him on the Tacul last week we thought it was best to go and do a nice easy route together before taking on anything serious. This route was perfect for Fabio as he was returning back to his homeland with some Italian drinks to finish!

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The traverse goes from right to left along the top of the ridge.

The route starts a mere 40-minute walk from the cable car station, this did mean it was very busy, sort of an Italian Cosmiques! The whole traverse is done in big boots but without crampons, as it is 100% rock. The route is graded PD and has a couple of tricky rock moves in the middle just below the first summit. With a couple of down climbs thrown in it is a good beginner alpine rock traverse and even though it was very crowded we both had a great day finished off with a beer and a grappa!

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Starting up the ridge.

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Just before the first down climb, Probably the most difficult section of the route.

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The first and hardest down climb.

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The ridge leading to the summit, you can see the crowds of people ahead!

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Stopping for some lunch after the summit, only a 20 min traverse from here to finish.

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Just relaxing in the sun!

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The view from the Torino enjoying a beer and Grappa!

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Going back across the Vallee Blanche towards the Midi at the end of a nice day in Italy!

July 31st and still Skiing!

After a hard days raining on Monday and seeing that the rain snow limit was down to 2700m Me and Tom Grant headed up the midi with the hopes of some good summer powder! Not getting up there too early we were half way down the arête just after 8am with our skis on our feet. The arête was great fun with a few inches of fresh powder and as it was still pretty cold up high it was staying in good shape.

P1050420After having a look about we decided that the North Face of the Tacul was out because there would be a high risk of wind slab, we saw a few groups attempt to break trail up it turning back just after the crevasse after a small slide almost took them back into it. We decided to have some fun on the small ridgeline below the Cosmiques refuge near the Perroux hut. Lapping this a few times we got some good powder turns in and some great photos! It was worth it for the novelty of end of July Powder!

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Fingers crossed for some snow up high in August to be one month away from skiing a solid 12 months here in Chamonix.