Monday, 22 August 2011

Rest day

Monday morning, Rich's 21st Bday and our rest day. Weather forecasts were starting to show signs of heat thunderstorms accumulating late afternoon, which means quick/early start days are needed in order to go into the mountains. But first we had a night out to organise.

We went to a authentic french cuisine restaurant where i ended up having Duck Gizzard, liver and breast for a starter (not bad but the liver was really strong!!) and a selection of beef cuts that comes raw and we had a hot plate to cook them on. Really nice food, but by the end 2 bottles of champagne had gone and a few pints which was the perfect start for the after dinner activities.

I'll let the following picture do the rest of the talking!

Not well!
Any way after managing to get enough energy to pack my bags on the Tuesday we dragged ourselves across to the Torino hut via the Helbronner cable car. Called the Mont-Blanc Panoramic Experience, it is definitely a very worth while trip across over the Valley Blanche and into Italy.

Helbronner Cable Cars
We then arrived at the station at around 4 o'clock, the same time that the heavens decided to open, the Torino hut is around a 10min walk from the station, but in the rain we did it in 4! Exhausted, wet and still hungover we settled in got some food (which is actually really nice) and went to sleep for our 4:30 breakfast call.

Dan taking an early night

Sunday, 21 August 2011

4th Day in Paradise

The great value Chamonix Telephrique multipass lets us go up any lift we want for a set number of days, and today we chose to go up to the Aiguille du Midi again. The Telephrique experience soon gets tedious as the lifts are allways really busy and crammed full of tourists. However it beats the 6 hour walk in to the station.

Pyramide Du Tacul

Our chosen route for the day was one of the rocky peaks on the East of the Mont Blanc massif. The Pyramide Du Tacul is a 3450m peak of amazing granite, out route, the East Ridge Croux-Ottoz, is the most popular way up and is a 280m D sup.

Crux Overlaps

The route is about a 1.5Hr walk from the midi station and crosses some dodgy seracs nears the base of the route, from here moving together for the first 2 pitches gets you on the climbing proper. The climbing is amazing, really varied, from steep cracks & delicate slabs to overlaps it has it all. 6 Pitches later we are at the summit, an actual Triangle of rock, tempted to try and stand on it but decided to get down before we miss the last Telephrique.

Summit Pyramide

Abbing down on one rope to avoid any drama's with the knot jamming and having the second 60m rope to continue descended if it did took around 1.5 hrs. The walk out was pretty long old slog, and after coming across a party of three who's front man had just fallen into a crevasse made us extra cautious of the wet and weak snow bridges.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

3rd Day in Paradise

Lots of warm weather around at the moment, freezing level at around 4400m during the day! Too hot for any ice routes or snow ridges or really anything involving snow. So we decided to give the Eperon Des Cosmiques on the South West of the aiguille Du Midi.

Big Wall!!
The route proposed was a relatively easy and enjoyable route involving V climbing and a nice roof to get through. Dan led the first pitch putting us in a position where we could see 3 different ways forwards, 2 of which were bolted. I automatically assumed our route went up a bolted crack line straight above us (we later learned that it traversed a huge flake line). I've established that i cant climb cracks before but today had no choice as all the climbing here is centered around stunning clean granite crack lines. Anyway, after a pretty good struggle to get up the crack we were 50m up and left of where we should of been, away from the original route.

VI Crack Line
Dan then led on to climb an awesome corner/crack which halfway up traverse the right hand wall forming the corner out into an insane position with amazing exposure leading up to the belay. Next was where we were pretty close to turning round. As we were off route we were basically in virgin (to us) territory so were unsure of how hard things could get, I loved this aspect of the climb but also played on my mind as we prepared to climb the next pitch.

Hanging on the belay we looked up the wall to find that the huge offwidth crack to our right was useless, too big for anygear and mega hard to climb. So we opted for the thin line of flakes with a few spaced pegs for pro. Dan aided the first few meter's and got to the second peg before turning back as he wasnt sure if he could get to the next one safely. The decision was on me to decide if we ab off or carry on. With Dans good effort placing gear to protecting the start i decided to go for it.

I found that it took alot to pluck up the courage to lead this pitch as the altitude and exposure and all the other elements in climbing big walls in the alps were playing on my mind a bit, just wasnt familiar with the situation to be comfortable. Anyway i managed to lead the pitch up to a roof and further easier crack line. By this point i had only 2 quickdraws for another 20m of VS climbing, so decided to set up a belay and let TopCat Dan lead on for the penultimate pitch.

4th Pitch
2 pitches later we topped out and started the exciting ab down past the 15,000V power cables that power the stations and telephriques. A really cool route that we think has been linked like that before but cant find the route name!? After returning to our bags i learnt a valuable lesson, take water on a route like this, and allways wear glasses! My head was bouncing!!!!

Early finish and time to prepare for the next days adventure.

Friday, 19 August 2011

2nd day in Paradise

Friday's plan was to go up the Aiguille du Midi Telefrique and do the classic ridge traverse of the Plan Du Midi. After the 1st hour into it the recent warm weather had reduced the normally beautiful snow ridges to bare ice and the parties in from were protecting the route which was taking ages. So we decided to turn around for plan B.

Aiguille Du Midi Descent Ridge

The Cosmique Arete is probably the most famous route in the area and provided us with our back up option for the day. Really enjoyed this fun little route, and gave me another chance to acclimatise to the 3800m height. Nice little crack/headwall move halfway through aswell, and climbing up the ladder to the station was fun aswell, funny looking at all the tourist faces!


Thursday, 18 August 2011

1st Day in Paradise

After arriving at camp quite late wed night we decided to have an easy day climbing a small 3500m peak called Petit Verte. We used this as my acclimatisation peak and an introduction to moving together over easy ground. After a short ride in the telefrique we arrived at the top station in perfect conditions. The first half of the route is just a snow plod up to the rocky NE Arete, from here its easy scrambling, very exposed, to the summit crest.

Summito! From Left. Dan, Me & Rich
First impressions of the area is that the granite here is amazing, but pretty loose. The exposure is mental and that the weather is 100x better than the uk climate!!!!

3500m gave me a slight headache on the way down, but i put this to not nearly drinking enough for what we were doing, dry air etc. After some posing on a nearby pinnacle we headed down for scram and an early night.


Wednesday, 17 August 2011


So, trad climbing has seemed to take a bit of a back burner at the moment (Covesea in mid July was the last outdoor day). Since last time home the weather has been really rubbish, wettest summer i can remember :( BUT one of the reasons i like climbing so much is the places it takes you and the variety of climbing styles that means its possible to get some climbing done all year round.

Post coming soon will be a rough schedule on when, what, quantity, expeds etc to plan the climbing year to ensure i get all sorts done and organised early in the year. Also a training programme to ensure maintenance of finger and arm strength, this is coming after a quick blast on my wall has seen alot of forearm stamina and finger strength gone!!! Wont take long to get back but would prefer to advoid this in the future.

Anyway this year i had arranged my first trip to Chamonix to sample the many delights of the Mont-Blanc area. YEEEAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!

So home on the 15th Aug and on the plane from Edinburgh to Geneva late on 17th Aug. After flying through an amazing thunder storm i got picked up by Dan Carroll, the Burghead ice climbing/exped wizard come all round nice guy AKA Top Cat. Arrived in darkness so psyched its unbelievable!!