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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Shot 5th of October

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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!

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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

Long live the summer!

Although I’ve not blogged in a while, I’ve still been ticking over here in cham and I’ve really enjoying getting out on the rock and getting up high for the odd alpine mission.  It’s been pretty hectic with work and a quick trip back to the UK to MOT my van, but I’ve managed to get out and about quite a bit in the last few weeks.  Although I haven’t done anything major, this past while has given me time to reflect and time to think forward to the future.

About this time last year (or earlier actually) I was having a tough time deciding whether or not to put an application into the British Mountain Guides scheme. I decided against it in the end mostly because I didn’t feel ready, either financially or with motivation. It’s strange to read words that I wrote only a year ago and thinking how much has changed for me in that time.

A few weeks ago I submitted my application to the guides scheme and I’m currently waiting to hear if I can start or not.  A couple of good friends are also applying this year which was one of the bigger factors in getting me psyched to apply too. I now know that I’m completely ready and fully psyched to start and I really hope they give me a chance!  Fingers crossed!

The other big news for me is that I’ve recently been taken on by Salomon as a climbing and skiing ambassador. I couldn’t be happier about being given this opportunity and I just hope I can live up to what they expect and that the relationship can grow in the future.  I genuinely love the kit they make and i’m super happy with everything I have at the moment.  Thanks to those who helped me with this, you know who you are.

Looking forward to this summer my main goals aren’t necessarily specific routes or mountains.  I mostly want to train hard, and try, at least to really push my fitness further and see what kind of gains I can make with a more focused approach.  I’ve been running and rock climbing along side doing strength and core training session as a start this spring and I’m already starting to see the benefits. I also sure that I will get out and try some bigger objectives aswell and hopefully this summer is fruitful and long and I have the chance to experience some more of the mind blowing climbing Chamonix and the alps has to offer.  I’d also love to take a trip to the Himalaya again soon and hopefully I can find a way to fund it!

I leave you for now with a few shots of some climbing fun from the past week! Thanks to Ben O’connor Croft for the bouldering shots and Dave Thexton for the alpine shots!

When It Comes…

If your a fan of reading Chamonix based blogs it’s likely that you’ve not been reading mine very much recently! But why would you? I’ve not written anything for a while and there are surely some better options for you out there right now.  First off I’d like to apologise to anyone who genuinely cares what I’ve been up to (Mum and Dad?!) and say that I’ll try harder to put some content up on here for you. What follows is a wingey paragraph of why I’ve not done much and why I haven’t blogged. Feel free to skip to the one after.

Its been a tough winter to get out skiing and climbing. The weather has been all over the place, the snow has been weird and I’ve dealt with some tough emotions due to the loss of friends and changing circumstances.   After a reasonable successful period in January and February, March has been a slightly frustrating month. I’ve started a new job For EpicTv.com which despite being an awesome job (ski reviewing!) its taken a lot of energy out of me. When I have had days off it’s either been poor weather or I’ve been feeling clapped out! BLAH BLAH BLAH…What a winger, geez.

I started with epictv back in Feb and was originally taken on as there web master for climbing and skiing content. After a few weeks they asked me to do a screen test for being the ski reviewer for their online shop.  Somehow I got it and a few days later I was out on the hill skiing, shooting and reviewing skis for them.  This gig should last for at least a few more weeks and its been awesome to have the chance to test so many different pairs of skis and get paid to do it! Sometimes skiing chairlifts can get a bit dull (I cant really help the fact I’m used to more excitement than that) but on the whole its been great fun and certainly the best work I’ve ever had!

When the stars align and I get a day off with good weather, snow and energy I feel pretty lucky that I have some super stoked friends and one of the best ski lifts in the world to harness my lust for big mountain skiing. Sometimes I think I’ll never forget the feeling of blasting fall line on some big skis in steep powder but it felt like a almost new sensation yesterday. Grinning ear to ear as I pushed down on the tips of my skis with my toes to give myself another face-full of cold snow.

Nothing new went down and it was really just another Midi powder day but it felt so so good to be out skiing for myself and with a pesky layer of cloud sat around 3000m it felt pretty adventurous navigating 20 or so lost freeriders back to the mid station after the first lap ;-).

More of the same soon please!! 🙂

Chèré Couloir, Aiguille du Midi. Speed Solo.

As I sit here stuffing my face with last nights Lasagna, I feel pleasantly happy with this mornings activities.

When you mention the Chèré Couloir to an Alpinist here they’ll instantly think of the popular classic on the Tacul Triangle. Robert, however, was a busy man during the 70’s and put up more than one route don’t you know ;-). The Chèré Couloir on the Midi north face is threatened by Serac fall for the first 800m (its only 930m) so it doesn’t often get climbed.  It stares me in the face from my balcony here in Cham, taunting me with its perfect looking ice.  I’ve been wanting to do it for a while and I wanted to do it as fast as I could. Today was the perfect day. The ice looked amazing, I was feeling fit and well rested and after scoping out the Serac from a few different angles over the past week I decided it would probably,hopefully be OK. Continue reading

Vent du Dragon And Meeting Up With An Old Friend

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.”

“Well yeah.”

“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.

Topo For Vent du Dragon here…