Midi-Plan Traverse, 3673m

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Traversing the Chamonix Aiguilles is a very big and committing route, to go as far as the Aiguille du Plan however is a classic and relatively easy half day climb. The Midi-Plan traverse is a classic AD route that requires a good head for exposure and some rock skills. You spend the day along a knife edge ridge with a 1500m north face drop on one side and the Vallee Blanche the other. Traversing some delicate slopes with little or no protection, a couple of abseils and some grade IV rock moves in crampons thrown in for good measure. Annie joined me for this perfect day up high. The weekend before saw bad weather hitting Chamonix and there was a lot of new snow up high. With good weather on the tuesday I knew there would be a track in and with cold overnight temps this would re-freeze and make our day more enjoyable. Leaving the ice tunnel about 7:40am we were making quick progress along the ridge, over taking a few guided groups. Meeting one team at the two abseils we soon passed these on our push to the summit of the Plan where we arrived just two hours after setting off. The Aiguille du Plan is a proper summit. Standing on a block the size of a dinner table overlooking Chamonix you get a true sense of exposure and a great 360 degree view of the Mont Blanc Massif.

On the return journey to the Midi you have to re-climb what was abseiled on the approach. Some awkward grade IV rock with a small section of snow inbetween. It was really good fun and easy to protect. Downclimbing the exposed snow slopes was a little tricky even with firm snow, maybe its easy for others. I hate downclimbing! After this you are back on the ridge by Col du Plan and have a couple of hours slog back to the Midi. I was suffering from a twisted ankle from the weekends football and Annie had only been back in Cham for a few days and had not been up high. We were slow! Taking just under 4 hours from the Plan back to the Midi, twice as long as the first half. The snow stayed firm in the roaring midday sun even though the temps must have been in the teens up high. This route definitely lives up to its reputaton as a must do climb and I can highly recommend it.

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!