Rebuffat Gully, Tour Ronde.

Grande Pilier d'Angle

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.

Myself and Emily Roo headed up to the Fourche with a view to climb something on the Italian side of Mont Blanc.  I spotted that the Rebuffat Gully was in and made a mental note of it as a back up plan. On the climb up to the Fourche the weather deteriorated and the snow started to fall.  We spent a cold night in the hut with a German pair and a crazy Spanish pair both heading for the Kuffner Arete the next day.  During that evening we decided that doing a long route on Mont Blanc wasn’t the best of ideas with new snow sat on already soft snow so we changed plans to the backup with the hope of doing something the next day if we weren’t too tired.

In the morning our foot steps had filled in from our approach and a lot of the rock was plastered in rime thus reinforcing out decision.  We headed over to the Rebuffat in the stunning morning light and started to climb.  There was some spin drift but only in short waves and the ice was as good as you can wish for.  This route benefits from mostly bolted belays which also makes you feel a lot happier, especially as there isn’t much protection to be found in its current condition (plus we had a very light rack). Every pitch has interest and it has some really fun sections of bulging ice over big chock stones. Never too difficult (grade 4?) the climbing put a smile on my face and it had great ambiance too.  Highly recommended!    After topping out and zipping down the abseils we decided that we didn’t have the psyche or legs for something longer and we didn’t have a big enough rack to do something harder.  I nipped back to the hut to collect the stove and sleeping bag and came down to meet Emily to begin the long grind out to the midi.  I thought for sure we would be spending a night in the toilets as it was getting late but we manged to get the absolute last lift down that evening with literally seconds to spare! Good result and a good couple of days in the mountains! Here’s some shots (click to bring up in gallery format)!

 

It can only get better…

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.

Verte North face

The north faces of the Verte and Droites already looking good for this Autumn.

Shameless Selfie soloing the Chere Couloir one afternoon.

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.

Mileage in the Envers.

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 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!):

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:

Hopefully this good weather stick around for a while so we can get some more alpine action in! Ciao for now!

Start your own blog!

It may seems like everyone has a blog theses days but why not? I personally find it a great creative outlet for my thoughts on adventures I’ve had.  It’s also a great place to keep my photos and stories safe. Dare I say its a lot of fun to write the posts too, even if it does take a bit of time!

If you’ve ever thought about starting a blog and need some expertise to get you started I can help! From just £50 I can help you set up your own blog and tailor it to your needs/requirements.  Please feel free to contact me via the form below to discuss your needs and start blogging! Or feel free to share this post with a friend who you think should be blogging!

Back in the Shire.

After a long winter of skiing powder and difficult skimo conditions its been awesome to kick back and enjoy some sunny days in the shire… Devonshire that is.  It was time to do some work and MOT my little van so I made the decision to scrap the last few weeks of the spring season to go back to the UK do some work in Devon for my Mum.  Shes recently bought a church (!) and needed some help with painting some of the rooms so I’ve been busy with my brush and roller freshening it up.

With the good weather and long evenings its provided a good opportunity to keep up the rock climbing with multiple trips down to Anstey’s cove and a few days bouldering on Dartmoor. I’m starting to feel the benefits of getting out even just from the handful of times that I’ve had the chance, which is good!

Anstey’s Cove is a pretty special place with a huge range of climbs of all different types. DWS, Bouldering, scary Trad, easy Trad, and sport climbing of nearly all grades, what more could you ask for for a crag! Oh yer a nice beach? Yep got that too! I’ve been focusing on a classic 7c+ called Avenged which has eluded me in the past and alas continues to. More of a warm up route for most of the people hanging out down there these days it still feels quite tough for me. Its good to have something to aim for and hopefully I can get it sent before I head back to Chamonix next week.

I’m really looking forward to this summer in Cham especially the rock climbing. I really missed climbing last summer whilst I was in London so I’m ready to make the most of it when I get back. I’m also very excited about taking a trip to Kyrgyzstan with a good crew of folk this summer.  Hopefully it will restart my greater range climbing with a more manageable trip. More details to come…

For now I leave you with some photos of the past few weeks.

Spring. Like Autumn But… Better.

I do love the off seasons in Cham.. With the snow pack disappearing and the days growing longer it is the perfect time to split your days into two or more activities.  Skiing in the morning and climbing in the afternoon seems to be the best way to do it!  With only the most hardcore of mountain enthusiasts left in Chamonix the lifts are quiet and the snow still surprisingly good.

Dave Searle

Me Skiing on the North Face of the Gros Rognon. Courtesy of Davide de Masi.

With a lack of work and money and not having a passport to go home to work (until now!) I’ve been enjoying the simple routine of getting up and going out to ski or climb or both. Not managed to ski any particularly special lines apart from skiing the Col du Plan on the North Face of the Midi With Joel Evans and Bird a week or so ago. Joel’s Write up here.  Not much to be said about it really.  I’ve been wanting to ski the Midi North Face for a while and I finally seized the opportunity and it turned out great. Some icy side slipping at the top awesome powder in the middle and 3 rappels out the bottom.

I’m getting pretty psyched for the summer now so I’ve been out getting as much millage on the rock possible to try and jump start the old arms after a long lay off.  Haven’t really climbed rock for…. well a long time so its been a shock to the system but persevere I must! My new passport arrived today so I’m getting ready to head back to the UK for a months intensive work which should buy me a few more months of play time this summer!

Ski’s away for the winter! Bring on the summer!!

To Guide Or Not To Guide.

I get asked a lot by different folk if I’m a mountain guide or if I want to be one in the future.  It’s something that I’ve thought about a lot in the past few years and with the application deadline around the corner I’m thinking about it again!  I’m sure I will be thinking about it again in the future too. I wanted to put some of my thoughts, feeling and influencing factors down to try and rationalise my choice of not starting the scheme yet and to offer an explanation to others too, if they care, which I’m sure most won’t.  Perhaps no one cares but hey it’s my blog…my diary… and one day I might look back (as a guide or not) and want to read this. I’d welcome any thoughts or feedback from guides or anyone else in the comments section at the bottom btw.

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