Rebuffat-Terray, V5 M 550m, Aiguille des Pelerins 3318m

After living with Tom Grant for over a year this was my first climb with him. He could find no-one else to climb this challenging mixed route so in the end he had to settle with me, even though I thought that the route might be slightly above my level, but with nothing else to do I would give it a go! What we climbed was mainly an ice and snow route because it was so filled in; normally there is more mixed ground and ice filled corners.

The black dot indicates roughly where we turned around.

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We arrived at first bin at the Aiguille du Midi cable car at 8:30 and we were well on our way, after a quick toilet stop, by 9am.

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The nice footpath quickly changed to breaking trail through huge boulder fields in the moraines in sometimes thigh high crusty snow. After an hour we had made it through this minefield and onto the lower slopes of the Aiguille des Pelerins and we were ready for crampons to start the climb.

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To get to the start of the serious climbing we had to start up the small mixed gully to reach some 55/60 degree neve slopes that took you up to the first pitch.

Once at the start of the first pitch I could get a grasp of the extremity of the climb and it didn’t look too difficult, I changed my opinion after the first pitch difficulties though!

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The first mixed pitch. 65/80 degrees of mixed ground.

I was still feeling ok after this first mixed pitch and then there was another 60m or so of open neve to climb before the next mixed pitch which was steeper than the first one.

We had a little trouble when Tom was trying to get over a 80/90 degree ice bulge which did not look very safe, and three Italian climbers were rappelling over him and kicking down a lot of ice and spindrift. He made it over after a short wait hanging from his tools and then it was my turn to second it.

The next pitch was the hardest climbing I have done on rock or mixed. I really had to trust my front points and tools as I tried to reach over the bulge and get a strong hold before putting all my weight on two axes, which are very blunt and in need of new picks!

After I managed to use brute strength and no technique to overcome the crux move I had to stop for a minute or two to regain my breath before joining Tom at the belay.

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Me just after the vertical wall and just after my five minute breather!!

The next pitch looked very manageable but I insisted to Tom that we head down, I was pleased to have made it as far as we had and I really didn’t want to miss last bin at 4:30 and have to walk from the plan down to Chamonix! We had climbed about 350m of the 550m route.

Tom was fine with this as I only agreed to climb with him if I decided when were done! So with this we started the 5 or 6 rappels we did to get back down to the start of the route.

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The next pitch above where we turned around, The route is in a much fatter condition than Tom remembers it the last time he climbed it about 3 years ago.

The rappels went smoothly and we made quick ground back down.

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Me on one of the last rappels, you get a feel for how steep this route was.

We had a much quicker walk back to the Plan as there was a more established path in by this time. We made last bin and I still had a smile on my face!

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Thanks to Tom for the climb and for wearing my GoPro and getting some cool shots!!

Tour Ronde North Face 3792m

Another day up the mountains, this time with Alex. We were excited for a couple of days up high with the aim of completing 3 routes, This turned into one because of a few different reasons, but the one we completed was amazing.

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Starting up another last bin at the Midi we were aiming for the Perroux hut for another bivi, after helping some English 50 something year old put on his harness and crampons we escorted him down the arete and off to the Cosmiques refuge where he would await his guide, If we were not there who knows what would have happened to him. Before we settled in and started cooking some food we took time to fix the door on the small old hut, this meant digging out some ice, clearing the door way and salvaging some nails, we made that baby wind proof and were chuffed with our refurbishment’s so started cooking some ravioli and noodles, it was the first time I had used the hammer on my axe, not sure if that is its intended purpose!

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We were in bed early for a 3am wake up and out by 4am after some coffee, orange juice and a couple of cereal bars. Rapping in to the dark is good fun and we were on the move roped up just after 4.

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After a 1hour 15min approach we started heading up the snow slopes with only one team of two ahead who were pitching the north face, We caught them up before the ice and passed them soon after. The conditions were perfect, re-frozen snow at the bottom then neve all the way to nice ice in the middle with good neve on the upper snow field.

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We opted to take the left couloir with a longer ice section, this took us higher up the upper snow field and was great fun with a small rock and ice crux at the top. The sun started to come up as we were half way through the ice offering amazing sunrise views down the Vallee Blanche with the sun coming up behind the Dent de Geant.

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We were along side the other team at this point as they decided to get out onto the upper snow field as soon as they could, leaving us to have the whole left hand ice couloir to ourselves.

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After the tricky moves we were out onto the upper snow slope and heading towards the summit.

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After 2 hours of climbing we were on the summit and we sat and enjoyed the views for about 45 minutes whilst Alex looked for his sunglasses unsuccessfully.

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After borrowing some goggles from a German Guide we headed back down the East ridge with not enough time or the correct glasses to climb the Entreves traverse which is what we wanted to do after the Ronde. We then headed back to the Helbronner and came back to the Midi, we bailed on our plan to stay at the Torino hut and climb the Dent du Geant the next day as the weather did not look good in the afternoon and I could not afford to be stuck in Italy the following night!

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The next day me and Alex went to retrieve our sleeping bags from the Perroux and came back up the Cosmiques arete, we did the round trip Midi to Midi in just over a hour and had great fun in the sun wearing t-shirts!

A great few days in the mountains and I am really pleased to have climbed the North Face of the Tour Ronde, something I have wanted to do for a couple of years and my main objective for this summer.

Thanks to Alex.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!