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. Continue reading

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!

Couturier to Whymper. The Great Connection.

Team Summit shot (L-R Mikko, Ross, Me)

Team Summit shot (L-R Mikko Heimonen, Ross Hewitt and Me)

This day has been a dream of mine and Ross for some time. We had talked about it for  three seasons and had yet to find the perfect day when all the stars were aligned. Sometimes its best just to throw caution to the wind and get out there and chase your dream, even though we knew conditions wouldn’t be ideal.

The plan was to stay in the Grandes Montets top station to make an early start to climb the Couturier Couloir to the summit of the Aiguille Verte. From here we would descend down the ridge to the top of the Whymper Couloir where we would start our descent on ski’s.

The climb up was less than ideal with several sections of black ice, some funky serac climbing and some deep crevasses to cross high up on the Grands Montets Ridge.  It was however mostly just steep snow climbing it still took its toll on the body and mind.  I took my lightweight ski touring axes with me, which weren’t perhaps the best tools for the job but I still managed to bash my way through the bullet hard ice sections. It was gusting pretty hard on the summit and we knew we had little chance of finding good spring corn in the Whymper. The wind was blowing straight onto the couloir and counteracting the suns affect of softening the snow.  We meet Seth Morrison and his partner at the top of Couloir. They had climbed up and reported that it was super hard snow. After watching them ski we knew it would be manageable but not pleasant but there was no talk of abseiling.

We jumped turned and scraped our way down the couloir.  Not in the best style admittedly but what little soft snow there was had already been scrapped and what was left was either very firm or slightly crusty. Not ideal ski conditions but we still managed to make it all the way down the face without getting the rope out.  This was my first time skiing on the Verte and my first 5.3 in hard snow. It was also Ross and Mikko’s first time on the summit which was a great moment to share. It was also my first time skiing with Mikko Heimonen, who is probably one of the most understated extreme skiers operating in Chamonix at the moment.

Thanks for a great day guys…even though you might count it as type 2 fun it will be one of those days that is etched into my memory forever.

Mikko’s pictures here 

Touring Time in the Aiguille Rouge by Ross Hewitt

Broke my pole basket, snapped my tech binding leaver off and forgot my SD Card….Total fail from my part but hey it was a fun day all in all..

Ross Hewitt

It was pretty exciting waking up yesterday to a fresh coating of 40 cm of powder when snow has been so scarce this season. But that feeling was quickly replaced by anxiety knowing the lifts would open late and by that time everyone will be out of bed and queuing. We took the magic tunnel through to Italy, drank coffee and skied a quick 4 laps of the Entreve lowers which included a sensational spine feature where the sluff ran fast in the gullies bounding either side. Then it was back to Chamonix for opening time and freeride on amongst the pillows, rocks, roots and tree stumps of Plan de l’Aiguille. Too fast and too hectic to take photos. I was bushed by the end of the day and retired to my nest by 9 o’clock.

Today the plan was to go back for more but the lift company surprised…

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Tour Ronde South Face

I woke with a start and checked my phone which told me it was 0742. I was supposed to be at the entrance to the Mont Blanc tunnel at 0745.  I thought I’d lost out on a good day and I was angry with myself for sleeping past my alarm.  I jumped out of bed and started to get ready even though I knew it was too late to get a ride through the tunnel I was still keen to get out and have a good day in the mountains.  I calculated in my head wondering if I took the Aiguille du Midi lift up if I would be able to meet up with my friends on the other side of the Vallee Blanche before they dropped into the south face of the Tour Ronde.  Luckily my house mate Ally Hurst was going to the midi to traverse to the Italian side to ski with Ally Fulton and Andy Dines.  I joined up with them and we headed up to the Mothership. On the way over I manged to convince them that the Tour Ronde south face would be the place to go and manged to (hopefully not too selfishly!) steer the group to my preferred objective. Everyone was psyched with the day despite the dangerous and generally awful exit of the glacier that they would have avoided had they stuck to their main objective.  It was still an awesome ski by all accounts and a simple well rounded day out…. Start in France, traverse to the Italian side via the Vallee Blanche, climb the Normal route on the Tour Ronde and ski 3000 odd meters to the valley floor. Simples….

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.

Croz Spur with Slovenian start.

Croz Spur on the Grandes Jorasses with route Shown (slovenian start)

Croz Spur with Slovenian Start. Showing the Line of ascent.

I recently got back from climbing the Croz Spur with the Slovenian start with my friend Ben O’Connor Croft. I have wanted to climb this route on the Grandes Jorasses for sometime now. It was great to finally get it ticked. The climbing was varied and for the most part good, with the exception of the penultimate pitch which was quite tricky with steep, broken rock and poor protection. Normally this pitch has more ice in it but this year it is quite dry so it’s been putting up a bit of a fight! We were one of three teams on the route that day and I’ve been informed we were the only team to make it over the top with the other two teams being helicoptered from just below this ‘crux’ pitch. This however wasn’t the only helicopter action that the Jorasses saw that day….

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