Originally posted on Joel Evans : When I was invited on the Navlikin Expedition I first asked myself, “Where the hell is Kyrgyzstan?”, I had heard of Kazakstan, so assumed it was near there; Somewhere past the middle east near China. After…
When mountain guide and general good guy Stu McAleese called me up looking for a partner I was more than happy to go out for a climb. I first meet Stu when I was 18 years old. I was set fast on a career as an outdoor instructor and I managed to convinced my parents to pay for my first big outdoor qualification, the Mountain Leader Award. Soon I was packed off to Plas Y Brenin where Stu was working as an instructor whilst he was working towards finishing his guides exams. We had an action packed week in the hills of North Wales where I learnt a lot about navigation, group management and general safety in the hills. At the end of the week and during the evaluation Stu and Phil Dowthwaite (the other instructor/guide working at the time) obviously saw something different in me to the other brasher boot wearing candidates and all but put me off my chosen career with just a few words! They suggested a different, ultimately more appropriate for me, path to a life in the mountains.
“It seems like you just want to go climbing more Dave.”
“Just do that for a few years, come back to it when you’re ready”
I thought I was ready but in hindsight is a teenager ever going to be ready to take a group of people into the mountains as the leader? Perhaps they were right. Perhaps I should just go climbing. It’s funny how words from someone you look up too can change your outlook on life.
It seems strange but also really cool to be shoulder to shoulder on a belay with the same guy from all those years ago racking up for our first route together. And what a cool route too! Easily and quickly accessed from the Midi bridge, Vent Du Dragon, although only 4 pitches, provides a fun fast day’s worth of mixed climbing in a pretty awesome setting. Thanks to Stu McAleese for a fun day and some wise words back in the day to set me off on a path that I’ve followed for the last few years.
Arriving back from Kyrgyzstan on Thursday evening I was feeling weary from the traveling and slightly frustrated from the lack of climbing in the last month. Lots of snow made it difficult to access most of the objectives from our base camp and I cursed my choice of boots on numerous occasions finding the temperatures more akin to winter than summer alpine (full expedition report coming soon). I needed to do something and I wanted to do something big. My long time friend a climbing partner Gav Pike asked if I wanted to drive through to Zermatt on Friday to attempt the Schmidt route over the weekend.
Grande Pilier d’Angle with the breva spur infront. The view from the Forche bivouac!
Finally some stable weather and a route in the mountains! What a fun little route too. I can’t believe this little gem has evaded my sights before now. This inconspicuous gully on the north face of the Tour Ronde (but not the actually Tour Ronde North Face if you get me) is only properly visible from the approach to the Fourche hut and would normally be considered a winter/spring route. Being as this summer hasn’t been very summery up until now, there has been a lot of good ice forming on the north faces up high. Continue reading →
Despite living in Chamonix and having a lot of spare time over the past few months I’ve got very little to show for it in terms of big days in the mountains, which makes me sad and frustrated. The weather this Summer has been abysmal with lots of wind, rain and snow up high. On the bright side this poor weather has been building some awesome conditions on the high north faces which bodes very well for this Autumns mixed climbing season.
The north faces of the Verte and Droites already looking good for this Autumn.
Shameless Selfie soloing the Chere Couloir one afternoon on one of my only foray’s into the mountains this summer.
This summer has been a good opportunity for me to get into the swing of a good training regime. With the help of Steve House’s new book Training For The New Alpinism (full review on here coming soon!) I’m already starting to feel stronger and more focused on what I need to do to improve my fitness. The hardest part for me was realising that what I thought was a half descent way of training was actually making me weaker for what I wanted to do. Its great to finally have an extremely well thought out and well written manual on training for Alpine climbing.
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting back on how I felt before, during and after previous climbing efforts. It’s made me realise that I could have been a lot better prepared for some of the objectives I was planning. Especially looking back at my 2012 expedition to climb the north face of Talung (7349m) in Nepal, I can now see just how far away I was from being ready to climb an objective like that. I may have just been able to drag my scrawny butt up it but it would have been preferable to have been feeling on the top of my game for that one. I was recovering from a knee injury, I wasn’t strong or even particularly fit but I still felt confident. Had I trained harder or with more structure then I might have been feeling even more confident and had even more chances of success. I still remember the feeling of the rucksack straps digging in to my shoulders on the acclimatization climb to 6300m and my lungs being compressed under the fairly average pack weight. Not good.
With my focus shifting away from the alps and the fantastic, although often crowded, climbing that it has to offer, I feel I want (or need?) more stimulation from the mountains which I’m just not getting from what is on offer out here. I have by no means done everything I want to do in the alps…far from it, but I crave the adventure that can only be found from going to the greater ranges and for this I need to be stronger and fitter above all.
For now I’m super psyched on training and looking forward to getting out for some bigger days when the weather allows. I’m also going away to Kyrgyzstan for a peak bagging trip for September which I’m very excited about. With an awesome team of fun loving friends and nothing too technically challenging this should be the perfect opportunity to wet the appetite for bigger trips to the Himalaya and hopefully get a few good peaks under my belt outside of the alps. It should also be a great warm up for this Octobers mixed climbing season! More info on this trip soon but check out the team blog here to start with to see what everyone has been up too. Some really well written posts up already by the team.
After whats has proved to be a pretty poor summer season for weather so far it was bloody lovely to head up to the Envers Des Aiguille hut for some fun in the sun.
The Awesome Envers Refuge.
The Envers is one of those really special places with awesome climbing, stunning views, a friendly (and importantly not to big) refuge. The idyllic surroundings are enhanced by water tinkling over smooth slabs, alpine flowers and dramatic granite pillars. It is one of my “Happy Places” and I’ve always felt at home there, which is why I make a point of going up there at least once a summer when I’m here (read about my last trip up there in 2012)
Myself and Ross headed up from first train with a big rack and an open mind ready to sample some of the brilliant quality climbing the area has to offer. We discussed tactics on what kind of routes we wanted to do and settled on two “shorter” routes (although still a few hundred meters!) to make the most out of the time we had. We walked straight to 1er pointe des nantillions which is home to some magnificent routes around the 6a/6a+ mark. We ended up climbing the Uber classic Beinvenue au Georges V which Ross remembered he actually climbed before when we were on pitch 4. We’ll let him off though as it was probably about 20 year ago when he was in his mid 20’s :-). The climbing is fun and never to hard although the slabs are the hardest part so be prepared for that if you go up to do it! The belays are comfortable and the in-situ protection and belays are good. Here’s some Shots of the climbing (click one to see in gallery for full effect!):
looking down at the 2nd pitch
The second pitch had a cool finale.
Ross on the 4th pitch
Ross with the Dent Du Geant in the back
The Jorasses in the back
A team on Les Fleurs dwarfed by the scale.
Ross enjoying the shaded climbing
Looking over at the 2nd pointe.
Looking over towards the North face of the Requin.
After a pretty good nights sleep in the hut we woke up with out sights set on the Pyramid on the Pyramid Pillar. Given ED, 6a+ obligatory we knew we’d be able to get up the thing but we had the added challenge and option of harder climbing. The second pitch gets 7a and despite my best intentions to free it I pretty soon found myself “french freeing” (pulling on bolts) past the crux section. I wasn’t that psyched to be taking whippers before 8am…. that’s not very civilized! The climbing was awesome and the rock was immaculate with some of the best granite climbing I have done in a long while. Defiantly one to look at if your heading up that way. Here’s some shots from that day:
here comes the sun!
On the sweaty bootpack up to the bottom of the pillar
Ross finishing off the 2nd pitch.
Ross starting up the 3rd pitch
Looking down on the 4th
Looking up at the 4th.
6b+ or 6a with 1 point of aid.
getting the jams in.
Actually off route on Pedro Polar
the feet were feeling it at this point!
A team to on Pedro Polar.
Looking over at the verte
The Grandes Jorassses in the background
Ross on the Abseils.
Hopefully this good weather stick around for a while so we can get some more alpine action in! Ciao for now!