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!

Droites North Face Solo.

I must say I’m feeling pretty drained.  I’ve gained (either climbing or walking) close to 5000 vertical meters in 3 days.  Tuesday was one of my all time biggest days in the mountains in terms of the mental and physical stress.  I’ve had it in my mind to solo a route on the Droites North Face for a while now but never found myself in the right situation to actually do it, either because of fitness/psyche or due to conditions. I absolutely love the mountains of Chamonix, especially the Argentiere basin in the Autumn.  I have fond memories of climbing my first grande course, the Ginat and the Colton/Brooks the following year with one of my partners in crime, Ally Swinton.   When the good weather comes in there is nowhere on earth I would rather be, which is saying something!  These past few days have left me smiling ear to ear and have given me that feeling of satisfaction that I only get from climbing a big face.

The Argentiere Basin. October 2014

Choosing which route to climb on the Droites was a bit interesting.  I  didn’t particularly want to repeat the Ginat, although it is the obvious choice being the most straightforward.   My memories of the descent off the back of the Breche des Droites are pretty bad and it wasn’t somewhere that I wanted to be by myself.  I also really wanted to climb the East summit. After scoping the conditions from the Col des Montets through my binoculars I knew that the top of the face had lots of good ice, so I knew I had a few options of ways to go on the headwall.

I headed up the home run of the Grands Montets ski area on monday about 3pm still feeling the Chere Couloir in my legs from the day before. I arrived at the Argentiere hut at about 7pm to find three other teams, one of which was already asleep!  I asked what time they would all be getting up. One team was planning on getting up at 12 (!), one at 3 and one at 4.30.  This proved quite disrupting to my already nervous sleep which meant I didn’t get much until they had all left. I had set my alarm for 5 but actually didn’t get up until 7 and left the hut just after 8.  Making my way across the glacier I could see a team on the central Ice field of the Ginat and another team starting up the crux pitches of the Colton/Brooks.  I was 50/50 whether or not I was actually going to climb the thing as I felt quite tired and a bit sluggish. I wanted to do it relatively fast and wasn’t sure how quick a pace I could keep especially with a rope, mini rack, stove etc on my back.

When I got to the bergshrund I had a bit of water and food and automatically got on with getting my spring leashes attached and before I knew it was over and starting up the hero Ice towards the Messner ramp. Meters and meters of Ice began accumulating below my heals as I made my way up to the crux wall. By this point I had caught up with the team on the Ginat and It had confirmed that I should go to a different route as I didn’t feel it was safe or wise to be underneath/near/above other climbers. I took a rest on an ice screw and prepared for the crux steepening, about 60m of 85-90º ice.  It took a lot of positive affirmations to fend off the rising pump in my arms and it felt pretty out there with more than 600m of cool autumnal air beneath me.

From the top of this steepening I slowed it right down and rested when I needed as the balls of my feet were killing me and I could really feel the past few days in my legs.  Weaving through the final steep section and on to the upper snow field I soon had the summit in my sights. I always love the moment when the sun hits your face after a long slog up a north face, and it didn’t disappoint.   Sat on the summit I contemplated what I had just done and what I still had to do.  Mostly I just took in the breathtaking scenery…

The descent went relativity smoothly with 10 or so 30m abseils, some down climbing and some shin-deep-slushy-wadding down onto the lower Talefre glacier. I spoke to Ross Hewitt on the phone and he suggested I stay in the Couvercle hut for the night, but I was felling ok so I began the long march back to down to town.  I made it back to my bed at 11pm, some 9 hours after leaving the summit. My feet and legs where destroyed and I was too tired to make food so I just passed out for 12 hours and when I woke began consuming calories like a mad man and waddling about like I’d aged 60 years.

The route took me 4 hours and 20mins from bergshrund to summit and was 1070m according to my Suunto. It was an amazing experience and just the kind of adventure I was looking for. If I don’t manage to do another route this autumn I’ll be happy!

Here’s some photo’s from the day. (Click to see them in gallery format)

General Update

The scottish boys stood on a big pile of rubble at Bouchy, wondering why the loweroffs are so close....

So what have I been up too over the last few weeks….. hmmmmm. This and that you know, rock climbing, working, etc.  Me and ally walked up to the bottom of the Dru to get on the North Coulior only to find that the glacier to the base of the route wasn’t having any of it and had decided to put a large gnarly crevasse in our way. Still as always its a good place to bivy and we were treated to an amazing sunset but the access is a no go for this autumn.  Apart from that I’ve been rock climbing with my mate’s Ross Hewitt, Sandy Simpson, and Ally.  We enjoyed two days of granite sport climbing up at the Getroz and Bouchy…. heres some photo’s…..

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Colton-Brooks, Les Droites.

Les Droites with Colton-Brooks marked.

With such a strong high pressure sat over the Alps at the moment it would be rude not to make the most of it. Especially as my driving work has all but stopped. We decided to head up to the Argentiere basin to check it out. We had our sights set on the Colton-Brooks on the north face Of the Droites. We had no idea what the conditions were like on the bottom half of the face as its impossible to see from the valley but we decided it was worth a punt!!

Here’s how it went…..

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“Its going to be a long night dude!”

Sunset after the First day. 5 hours from any hut. Mont Blanc in the Background with Grande Pilier d'Angle on the left our Original finishing point.

…..That’s the words Ally said to me when we topped out on Pointe Walker at 5.45pm after climbing the Colton/ Macintyre (with Alexis Crux Variation).

Our plan was to traverse the Jorasses, after climbing the north face, to the Canzio Hut at the Col des Grandes Jorasses for the first day of our epic link. We wanted to traverse the Rochefort Arete to the Forche hut and finish up the Chechinel Nominee on the Grande Pilier d’Angle to Mont Blanc.

Little did we know just how long the first day was going to be……

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Digital Crack.


Me on the first pitch, Copywright Jon Griffith.

The other day me, Ally Swinton and Jon Griffith headed up to the Grand Gendarme on the Cosmiques arete to get a few photo’s. It was a super fun morning, make no mistake we weren’t there to climb it! It was pretty damn cold and pretty damn hard. We did however get some good photo’s.

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Fiasco On the Red Pillar

Once a Scally always a Scally. Ally on the First pitch.

With nuclear temperatures in Cham right now finding motivation to leave the comfort of the shade of the flat can be hard but me and Ally Swinton wanted to get stuck into some granite. We really wanted to get on Gulivers Travels on the Grand Capucin but we came to the conclusion that we would probably get fried to death in the process ,being as I am blonde and fair skinned and Ally is…..well…..Scottish. So we decided it was best to stay out of the sun as much as we could. We decided on heading over to the Red Pillar on the Aiguille de Blaitiere’s west face….

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