A Fine Link

Ski Mountaineering for me is about finding great link ups involving climbing, and skiing and traversing peaks. Last Sunday, after a cruzy day exploring Les Contamines with Irene, me and Josh Fawcett headed out to make some SKIMO (ski Mountaineering) and scored a pretty good day almost by mistake.  With a vague plan to hit the Traverse of the Noire and “possibly something else” and a even vaguer forecast suggesting some wind and precipitation at some point during the day we went into the day with an open mind.

We headed out from the Aiguille du Midi down the classic Vallee Blanche and over to the Italian side.  Hiking up the glacier to the start of the climb through the cold gusty wind with flakes of snow whipping past our noses we were slightly hesitant and came close to turning back a few times.. The weather was clear on the french side and we hoped the small localised weather spilling over from Italy wouldn’t follow us into the Traverse of the Noire. Thankfully by the time we reached the boot pack leading up to Pointe Yeild things were dying down so we carried on over the ridge to the top of the face.  I’d been here a few years ago with Tom, Ross and Michelle.. We got spooked out by wind slab and decided to head back. This time however there were about twenty tracks, ten going skiers left and ten going skiers right down the convex face. We opted for right hand option and skied down a little way to the steep choke which is normally pretty icey.

We side stepped down through this which was both tiring and intimidating due to the nature of the crumbling snow, but managed to score some pow turns on the lower face before busting hard skiers right through the glacier and over to the bottom of the Breche Puiseux. From here we decided we had enough time and psyche to go and ski the NW shoulder of them Aiguille Tacul aswell. The climb up the final gully was roasting hot but it was worth suffering the heat and softening snow as we found a few good turns on the way down this line. The best snow however was on the moraine bench hard skiers right going down to the Leschaux Glacier at the end.

A great little link up of about 1200m vertical ascent with some really good snow on the descents and with a variety of different terrain and views to keep us amused. All in all a good day out on the hill!

Click on the Pictures bellow to see them in gallery format.

 

So Long 2015, Hello 2016!

First off… Happy New Year and thank you for following this blog or even reading it from time to time.  It means a lot to me that anyone at all cares what I have to say and this gives me reason to keep going!

2015 was a bumpy year with a rough start.  With the loss of friends from skiing accidents and also my dearly beloved Grandfather who was a great inspiration to me, motivation for skiing and general mountain activities was low.  Ordinarily I’d expect to ski off a mountain or two and have at least a handful of long days in the mountains with friends. Looking back I realise that I hardly had any stand out days last winter due to work commitments, lack of snow and lack of psyche.

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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!

Mileage

I must admit that my absolute least favourite month in Chamonix is August.  Its super busy, super hot and the Glaciers are usually at there most open making getting around in the mountains dangerous and tedious.  Strange that its also the most prolific time for alpine climbing with ques on all the popular routes and big routes seeing rare ascents (like  Calum Muskett and Paul Jenkinson on Divine Providence, good effort lads!).  I however have been working…… working some more and occasionally getting out for the odd rock route in the Aiguille Rouge on my lunch break or a sport climbing session in the baking heat.  This is all soon to change and its been great to get out in the past week and rack up some millage…..

Soloing the Super classic Mani Pulite with the index chairlift below on a three hour lunch break.

I had a super fun day on my own climbing routes around the Col Du Midi on wednesday.  I  started in my typical third bin fail way and headed straight over to the traverse of Pointe Lachenal to kick things off. After this I headed up the Contamine/Grisole on the north face of the Triangle Du Tacul which was in really good condition and gave me the first chance in a very long time to use my nomic’s which made me very happy indeed. The normal route on the Tacul looked like one giant windslab so I opted for the Chere Couloir rapels to get back to the col.  The Chere had a few teams in it and Jeff Mercier and his partner were climbing the Perroux Gully (just to the left of the chere, see Jeff’s blog here) so I was being peppered by ice on the way down, as to be expected. I had originally wanted to solo the Chere but decided against it due to the ice that was coming down so headed over to other side of the col and started up the short section (not sure what its called) of ridge that finishes at the Cosmiques Refuge.  Unbeknownst to me you have to take your boots off and walk through the hut to get to the start of the Cosmiques Arete proper.  I got some funny looks from people sunning them selves at the hut terrace as I less than gracefully took my boots off and flopped over the railings.  I also got momentarily lost finding the way out of the hut which in hindsight is pretty funny, but in my defense I had never been in there before!  I hadn’t been up high for a while (maybe three weeks) and the altitude really hit me when I started to climb the initial slope up the Cosmiques Arete so I was suffering hard on this part of the day but I finished off my journey in a 6 hour round trip feeling like I had had a pretty good work out!

Good to have the Nomic’s back on the bag!

Starting up the Cosmiques Arete with the Traverse of Pointe Lachenal to the left of my head and the Tacul Triangle to the right.

Showing the first half of my link up on the Col Du Midi.

Thursday saw me and Ally head out to Gietroz, an amazing sport climbing venue just up the valley from Chamonix for a leisurely half day working on Reve de Senge a super classic 8a which I have wanted to get on for a while.  I was surprised how well I got on with it and I hope that I can finish it off before I head out to the Himalayas this autumn, fingers crossed.

Today I headed out with Mike Thomas for a fair well Aiguille Rouge climb-a-thon (the Flegere lift system closes after this weekend) that saw us climb a total of 1000m of excellent quality rock up to 6a including such classics as the south ridge on the Index and Manhatten on the Lower Bastion of the Grande Floria.

Mike Thomas climbing the penultimate pitch to the summit of the Grande Floria. The index lift station looking pretty small below!

On the last pitch of Fraise des Boatchs on the Grande Floria.

The Dru and the Nant Blanc face. More Ice needed for the Dru Couloir but the Nant Blanc looks good to go.

All in all a fun week had by all and psyche is very high for this coming period!!  With less than 6 weeks left before we depart for Nepal its high time it got cold so we can all get out and play on the north faces!

Current Conditions Chamonix side

After the big snowfall of last week the north faces are looking a bit fresher but more snow wouldn’t go a miss.  The Colton/Macintyre, Shroud and Croz/Slovienian all look pretty good right now so as soon as it gets cold would be worth a go.  The Desmaison/Gouseault could do with more cover lower down but you could nip in from the top of the Shroud crux. Not sure about harder routes on the Jorasses right now.

Not much ice in the Cham Aiguille north faces or the Tacul East Face Goulottes.  The top of the Droites looks good but I haven’t seen the bottom of the face so can’t comment on whether its possible to do the Ginat or Colton/Brokes etc right now (anybody been up there?). The Tacul Triangle is pretty good right now as is the North Face of the Tour Ronde.  Not enough ice on the Midi north face right now but too much to make the Frendo not viable.

All the south facing rock is clear enough and its fairly warm so the Envers Des Aiguilles would be OK still.  Not sure about the Italian side of the Massif right now.  Any reports of the Grande Pillar d’Angle north face would be welcome as I’d personally like to climb it this autumn!

Hope this helps. Feel free to message me about routes your interested in and i’ll try and help you out or point you in the right direction.