Autumn Conditions in Chamonix/Mont Blanc Massif

I’d like to give my take on this mixed seasons conditions for those of you interested.

Some of it is speculation, some of it experience and some just from talking to others and seeing others reports of routes. I’d welcome comments bellow if you have any input or want me to further shake the magic 8 ball.

Despite the hot and dry summer the mountains have recovered somewhat and there seems to be, in the right places, some good ice about.  Here is a brief run through of popular areas to give you some insight.

Tacul Triangle

Seemingly good conditions on most routes, lots of fun snow ice on the German gully, Profit Perroux, Chere and other mixed lines.  A good choice for a day hit to get some fun climbing in.

DSC00550

Shot 9th October, German Gully Tacul Triangle

Passerelle Couloir/ off the Midi Bridge

Theres been a few teams going of the bridge each day.  Reportedly Vent du Dragon is good but the Pérroux-Profit Gully is lean and in a bad way.  Other routes might be good but I’ve not heard.

Midi North Face

The Chere Couloir is a Plastic neve Romp as ever and the top seracs are fairly begnin looking, however the serac next to the Frendo spur is very threatening right now. The Mallory would be climbable but needs more cover to make it enjoyable.  I climbed the Eugster Diagonal (see previous post) yesterday and it was fine.  I started 150m to the right in the next gully system and traversed hard left after 60m. This avoided the thin and spindrifty start. The Direct looks a bit thin but should be passable.  I did hear of a team climbing it but that’s just hear say.  Charli Chasagne looks ok aswell.

DSC00712

Shot 11th October, Midi North face

Pellerin North Face

Not heard of any teams on this but the Carrington/Rouse would probably be pretty good.  Beyond is starting to form also.. Are you keen?

DSC00489

Shot 5th of october

Grandes Jorasses

Looks quite snowy from this photo but I bet some of the routes are climbable.  Not heard of any ascents but it will be quieter up there than last year for sure!! Any news? Send me some photo’s and I’ll post them here!

Argy Bassin

I’ve heard of some teams climbing the Droites, ColtonBrooks Etc. Probably most classic routes, Ginat etc are good if your keen for the romp up there. Trip report of the DEBRUYNE-MANU/GABBAROU 79 here showing some pictures of the basin. However my friend Pete told me that the Chardonnet descent definitely requires a sense of humour! I’m sure this is true for the Droites too!

Nant Blanc and Dru Couloir

Nant Blanc is looking OK but I’m sure the glacier is horrendous to get to the base of it. not sure about the Dru Couloir area but It is probably ok.

DSC00491

Shot 5th of October

BUY YOUR CLIMBING/SKIING/CAMERA EQUIPMENT HERE! 

Weekend Bliss And Suffering.

I’m really digging having an extra day off a week. This weekend was a good mix between sublime autumnal adventures and purgatory suffering, topped off with great weather and alright company. I guess.

Friday

Psyche was high and the weather was good.  The plan was to meet up with fellow Salomon athlete (ahem) Philipp Brugger for some easy mixed cragging on the Triangle du Tacul.  I haven’t swung tools in what feels like a year so I  was glad for an easy re-introduction into mixed climbing. We climbed most of the German gully then finished up the Cosmiques Arete.

Conclusions: Mixed climbing is in fact like riding a bike.  Even if you never do it, you still remember how its done. Got cold toes and fingers but I remembered how to suffer.  Drank 6 pints to try and forget the pain.

Saturday

Woke up with inevitable hangover as Midnight Express was shut and we couldn’t buy cheep burgers to absorb the beer.  Drove to Italy (where the weather is always nicer) with Ally, Ross and Tom (who seemed less hungover than me (perhaps not Tom)). Flailed about on some rock climbs that I shouldn’t have been flailing on.   Enjoyed the sunshine and amazing scenery of the Valgrisenche. Ate pizza, drove home.

Conclusions: Beer is bad, especially for my guts. 6b+ is hard. Italy is beautiful.

Sunday

When the alarm went off at 6.45 I thought it was a bad joke. Driving to the Midi my psyche was low but the can of red bull helped a lot. The plan was to climb the Eugster Direct on the North Face, again with Phillip.  Stumbled over the moraine to the bottom and got to the Bergshrund in good time.  Spin-drift hell was pouring down the gully and we decided it wasn’t  for us. We ummed and arrred about what to do and took a look at another entry to the face to the right (about 150m to the right). It went and we were soon (but not that soon) in the gully.  The crux pitches looked kinda dry and we didn’t want to sleep in the toilets (we have jobs don’t you know) so we bailed up the Diagonal instead.  I was feeling the burn in the top half but we made alright time. Cheese burgers at Macky D’s afterwards.. Cus we are true athletes.

Conclusions: 4h 30m  on the stair-master-3842 is tiring.  Weekends are great.  Water is overrated.

Here’s some proof!

BUY YOUR CLIMBING/SKIING KIT HERE!

Summer…..Done?

Irene Munguia Exiting the Tunnel from the Aiguille du Midi, Grandes Jorrases in the background.

Irene Munguia Exiting the Tunnel from the Aiguille du Midi, Grandes Jorrases in the background.

Its been a funny kind of summer.  My residing memory of it has been extreme heat from which the mountains have really taken a hammering.  Big crevasses, deep instability and a general grey feel means that this winter needs to be a good one otherwise the classic Ski descents like the Vallee Blanche might not come into condition until early spring.

For me though, I’ve not had much of a chance to get into the Mountains this summer for various reasons.  Mostly because I had a full time job, but also because I spent a few weeks back in the UK ticking off Multipitch E1+ routes.  In little over a week I’m going to be in North wales with 10 other eager beavers doing the first part of the British Mountain Guides course, the rock climbing induction.  The powers that be (the BMG Committee) decided to give me a chance and let me start this year despite picking up on my lack of British climbing experience.  They told me I had to climb 25 more Multi-pitch E1 or above routes in serious or mountainous crags before I could start the course in September.  When I heard the news I was worried.  I desperately wanted to start the course but I had commitments with work and I know how fickle the weather in the UK can be.  I completely agree with the committees decision and in hindsight it was awesome to get a load of amazing trad climbing done and now I feel a lot more comfortable going into the test. I managed to pack it all into two weeks, where I often climbed 3 or 4 per day but always did at least one route a day despite the mediocre weather.  E2 in drizzle isn’t my idea of fun but needs must and it was a relief to finish all the routes and get the all clear.

Apart from this I have been operating at full “Weekend Warrior” status and despite not doing anything major or massive I’ve racked up a fair amount of millage all over the place as well as rock climbing and running.  I’m feeling fit and ready for the Autumn, but one thing is for sure, it won’t be as good as last years conditions. Hopefully there will be some routes to scratch up and some big adventures to be had.

Routes I’ve done this summer include The Traverse of the Perrons, Aiguille Entreves traverse, Cosmiques Arete, Rochfort Arete, Papillons Arete and the South Face of the Moine. Great experience for guiding I think you’ll agree and a lot of fun too!

I also bought a new camera which I’m pretty excited about because I’ve been a bit uninspired by photography recently so its been great to get an upgrade!

Pictures tell the story the best so here’s some shots for you! The first three are Iphone Photos BTW!  Click one to see them in gallery format!

I guess the remaining question is will we get to climb on chamonix’s best crag this autumn….?

Dave Searle

Turbulence in the Vortex.

Sometimes, living in Chamonix, spending most of my time pursuing my passions, feels a little like being in a vortex. A constant cycle of checking weather, looking after equipment, managing rest and having, what often feels like, some of the best days of my life hanging out with some of my favorite people in the world.  The more you do it the faster it seems to go. Friends come in with you for a while before returning to there own vortex. Life seems pretty good until something snaps you out of it…

Its been a tough month with the loss of two friends (Brendan and Dave) and also the passing of my Grandpa Den. Almost two different types of deaths. My friends on one hand were doing what they loved. Striving to live life to the fullest. It feels like an injustice for them to leave so early in comparison to most. There loss sends shock waves around the world, shaking the lives of those who they have met.  I for one passed a few pensive moments of wondering what I was doing and why. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

On the other hand my dear old grandpa had lead a long and full life.  As I sat at the wake watching a slideshow of his life I was reminded of just how amazing he was. He’d been in the navy and then the mounted police in Africa, defending villagers from many perils and also going horse riding with our current Queen. After this he devoted his life to building schools in Malawi and other country’s around the world for which he later received an MBE. He was a fantastic football player, he once played against Bobby Moore and captained the Rhodesian football team many times.  He then moved onto teaching and later mountain leading. This is just a brief list of his exploits. He was a huge inspiration to me and my family and I have very fond memories of time spent walking on Dartmoor with him as a kid and listening to his endless stories of adventures.  I don’t feel like he was taken from us to early.  I feel he’s still here in someway.  I feel like he made the most of his life and also touched the lives of many along the way enhancing them with his teaching. He will be sorely missed of course, but the last few years he wasn’t his normal self, happy and full of life.  It almost feels like death was justice and the ceremony a fitting send off to a great man.

Before this news I passed one of the best weeks of my life.  I’ve spent a lot of time skiing in Chamonix and little time else where.  I traditionally don’t have holidays either…But why should I, my life is one big holiday, right? I’m not sure.. Holidays are supposed to be (correct me if I’m wrong!) stress free, relaxing (not having to worry about work etc) and fun! Yes I’ve been on a few expeditions but they are aren’t very relaxing and yes I get out most days into the mountains but its almost like work sometimes…almost.  I was invited on a trip by my friend Chippie (Stephen Windross) to ski in the Ecrins (Serre Chevalier, Montgenvre and La Grave) shooting for a Fall Line Magazine article. It felt like a proper holiday and despite the poor quality of the snow earlier in the week we had a lot of fun and got some good shots too.  Later in the week, whilst we were skiing in La Grave, we were  treated to a 80cm+ dump of snow that turned the bulletproof Sastrugi into skiing perfection.  I’ve wanted to go to La Grave for years and it was great to finally get the chance to ski there.  Somewhere I need to spend more time for sure.

A few weeks ago I flew back through the turbulence to Scotland to finish of my tick list for the British Guides Scheme.  After years of deliberation I’ve finally decided to put my application in.  Great conditions and company made for a really good, but tiring week, climbing some awesome routes.  My application is coming along and I really hope it gets accepted in May so I can move onto the next phase of my life. Here’s some shots from the week.

I’m back in Chamonix and starting a new job with Epictv.com and hopefully i’ll be back to the vortex soon.  With the conditions in the mountains this winter being pretty bad I’ll be bringing a lot of caution into the mountains, but I’m still looking forward to some big days out when things are stable.  Hopefully I’ll have some good stories to tell as the winter progresses. Keep it real. Keep it safe and keep on having your own adventures.

FOMO

“Fear/Feeling Of Missing Out”. The fear that if you miss an event you will miss out on something great.

Dave Searle

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

A phrase which has only, in the last few years it seems, come to fruition.  Most likely because of the massive surge in popularity of social media sites over the past decade.  If you ain’t bloggin, instagramin or updating your facebook status with all the rad stuff you’ve been up to how will people know you’ve had the best day ever skiing neck deep pow or climbing a perfect splitter in the sun? Without this huge and constant stream of media coming our way every minute of every day would we even have the sensation of FOMO? Would we live in the here and now more? Would we be happy with what we are doing and where we are?

I’ve had massive bouts of FOMO in the past when I’ve been stuck someplace I didn’t want to be, working a job that I didn’t want to do.  I would live vicariously through my friends and those I follow on social media, wishing away my time to something better.  I can’t complain though.  This past year alone has been pretty damn good with lots of fun skiing and climbing memories behind me. I’ve had a pretty good innings this far!

FOMO is and will always be intrinsically linked to weather and conditions in the place you’d rather be. No snow = No FOMO.  Since the end of my autumn of climbing I’ve been working, nearly every day, in somewhere that I wouldn’t necessarily choose to spend my time. I’m back in Cham now and yes there hasn’t been much snow…or ice but times are changing (its dumping). I’m still working for the next week and I suspect that what is typically my most FOMO intense period will in fact pass quite easily. Yeah there’s people getting after it and I would rather be skiing or climbing if I wasn’t working. The thing is, I have to work.  I’ve spent too long avoiding it and its caught up with me. I’ve just left one of my worst financial periods behind (all be it self inflicted) and I’ve promised myself that I won’t be back in that position ever again.

The key thing that has changed in my mentality over the past year is trying to live more in the here and now. Wishing I was somewhere else doing something else seems like a complete waste of my time when I really think about it.  Better to accept life for what it is and find happiness in the small adventures or moments spent with friends and family.  Good times come and go and without the bad (or even not quite as good times) I’d never really appreciate the best days to the fullest.  Soon it will all kick off for me and I’ll be out doing the things I love again and it’s the knowledge of that that keeps me happy and sane.  Feeling like your missing out? Book a trip to go climbing or skiing or whatever you really want to do.  Even if you don’t have the time or money just do it. It will happen if you really want it to. 🙂