Kuffner Arête, Mont Maudit 4465m

Kuffner Arête. (700m D, 4465m)

The Kuffner is a true classic of the Mont Blanc range and has been in my sights for a while now. This time it looked like everything was falling in to place and we would have some clear days in this wet alpine summer.

 

I have climbed with Nick and Tim before but they had never met. After introductions at the midi we all headed across the Panoramic towards Italy to start the 2 hour approach to the Fourche bivi. The location of the bivi has to be one of the best in the range. Perched high on a ridge overlooking the enormous south face of Mont Blanc and the Brenva glacier. We arrived at the bivi just after midday and settled in with card games and three middle aged Germans who were there for the Brenva Spur. Looking like we were going to have the hut to ourselves we got comfortable. Before long more and more people started arriving and by 7/8pm there was 16 people in this 12 person bivi. There was bodies and gear everywhere with people on the bench and table. I had a terrible night’s sleep only managing a couple of hours. The first people started to get up about 2am and then you could not escape the sound of crampons clinking and quiet chatting for the next two hours before we got out of our blankets and were heading out ourselves.

The Kuffner follows the obvious ridge up towards Mont Maudit and is generally a 50/60 degree snow slope with a few mixed and rock moves thrown in for good measure. Starting in the dark it was easy to route find as there was a good track and a dozen head torches ahead of us. It`s always a shock to the system when you wake up and straight away you are on an exposed ridge, it takes some time to rub the sleep out of my eyes.

We were making good progress, reaching the Pointe Androsasse around sunrise. It was at this point that I started to feel unwell. I haven`t really suffered with altitude before but this time it wasn`t going down well. I didn`t feel confident in my abilities and felt sick despite eating and drinking regularly. I didn`t want to slow the group down so with regular short breaks for more food and water we moved together until we reached the top of the ridge after 5 hours of climbing. As the morning unfolded at no point did I feel like my condition was improving. Not wanting to be a burden on the guys I pushed for the summit of Maudit hoping that I might feel better with a long rest and more food. This did not happen. Tim and Nick had not been up Mont Blanc before and they didn`t feel half as bad as me so they were keen to summit. About 50m below the summit of Maudit I threw in the towel, I was beat. I offered to descent on my own. I unclipped from the rope and started the 150m down climb down the north face of Maudit heading towards the Col where I roped up and descended with the Brenva guys from the Fourche, who took good care of me with tea and chocolate. I still felt bad the whole way down reaching the midi just before 2pm after topping out of the Kuffner 5 hours earlier. It was very hot, I had no water and I was tired. What a day. Hearing from Tim after I had gotten down, they had managed to reach the summit within a few hours of leaving me, and despite a cloudy summit shot they were heading back down via the three monts route. They were also tired but were happy that they had both finally made it up to the roof of Europe.

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Aiguille du Tour 3542m

Wet again. This summer we have seen our fair share of bad weather. I try to make the most of every sunny day but this week we only had one good day and that was spent up Aiguille du Tour. Sam and I had spent all of Wednesday in the Perroux bivi waiting for a break in the clouds to climb a mixed route on the Tacul. After a few hours playing cards and having a little kip it never came, we went back to town to watch some Jazz aiming to get on something the next day as the weather was set to improve. He went rock climbing and I had a nice 8am wake up and a bus ride up Le Tour. I`ve had the idea of alpine running since watching Killians Summits of my life. Not being a keen runner or fit enough to tackle something big I set my eyes on Aig. du Tour. If you get the Le Tour chairlift up you only have 1350m of vertical to gain the summit. This ground consists of smooth alpine trails that lead to just above the Albert 1er refuge then there is over 700m of snow plod and a small rock scramble to reach the top.

Running with big boots, crampons and trousers in my bag it added a bit of weight but changing at the snow line meant I had an empty pack for the second leg. The snow was firm even at 10am and I tried to cover ground quickly stopping on occaison to catch my breath. I made the summit by midday after 3 hours. This wasn`t the fastest time I am sure but it was a good starting point. After a quick bite to eat I set off on the descent leaving my crampons in my bag so I could move quickly. Changing back to trainers again at the hut I ran back to the chair in 1 hour 20minutes from the summit, giving a total time of 4h 20m with 1350m+ ascent and roughly 14KM distance.

I would like to thank Latitude60s for providing me with some high quality Merino apparel. I have used their baselayers, boxers and beanie on several climbs in the past few weeks. Ranging from a 2 day climb on the Fredo Spur where temperatures went from high 20`s in the day to around 0 in the night. Long runs like Aiguille du tour and the VKM and also just day to day activities. I have had trouble in the past finding a base layer that works well and doesnt smell after the day is out.  The 100% New Zealand Merino feels great and works really well at keeping you cool when you need it and getting rid of any moisture. Not washing the garments for several days also gave me the opportunity to see if they start to smell and I was surprised by the outcome. Normally wearing a helly hansen synthetic layer I would stink beyond belief after a big day up the hill and I found that the merino only had a hint after 5/6 days of warm weather activities. These garments will be great on expedition in Krygyzstan, where there is no washing machine! Latitude60s products are 100% New Zealand Merino wool and 100% New Zealand made.

Check out their great products at Latitude60s.com