Thursday, 18 July 2013

A week for plan B's and remembering how to play the Midi-summer-queue game.

So sometimes climbing ideas don’t quite pan out as you expect them. Even when you choose an appropriate objective, have good weather, the right partner and kit, sometimes it just doesn’t quite work out. This is why it’s always worth having a few extra plan B’s and C’s in mind! Fortunately there are many classic routes to choose from in the Mont Blanc range.

Ally Frison Roche. Not bad for a back up!
Chamonix is a popular place in the summer, that's a given; yet I find this popularity a bit unpredictable. One day we had to queue for our route on Pointe Lachenal, the following week, with a similar forecast, there were only 4 of us on the entire face! Ally and I suffered from a busy route queue on Monday when we went up to do Ex Libris, a trad route right under the Brevent cables. The party ahead was waiting until the first belay became free before leaving the ground. This was going to take a while… Good job there is a classic multi pitch sport route just around the corner!

By the time we negotiated the scree back down to Frison Roche, its queue had disappeared. This route deserves its reputation and the pitches get better the higher you go. It is pretty well bolted, not really run out by any stretch of the imagination…. But we had carried up a pretty huge trad rack up so we were going to use it! I just threw in a couple of bits on the crux corner pitch whereas Ally went full out and ‘Greenpointed’ the last pitch! Not too sure what the Finnish climbers behind us made of this but it was fun and Ally laced it with gear.

Apparently this is greenpointing... Shiney number 4 camalot gets christened!
Tuesday was going to be a rock climbing on the Lachenal day, but I had forgotten about the Midi summer queue… Which by 9am was already well out of the building. Be warned fellow lazy alpinists! It’s probably worth getting up early for first bin after all. Plan B was a shorter route off the Midi but soon we turned to Plan C; back up Brevent to do Ex Libris - totally queue-less today though! Although this time we didn’t have the size 4 camalot, which did mean a lot of gear hopping. All good and well whilst you have decent cam placements but if it fails when you fall, there’s a massive whipper on the horizon. I attempted to lead the two 6a+ pitches and gave up on both of them… Slightly annoyingly I was half a move from the end of the difficulties on the 3rd pitch, oh well next time I may have more patience for figuring the moves out.

Felt like we had been below this corner before somehow... Ally found a hands free rest this time!
We completed the climb via the two pitches marked in the topo. You can run them together with 60m ropes but I would highly recommend finishing up Frison Roche instead. The ‘mediocre’ rock described on Ex Libris is actually very loose and grubby. The climbing is easier but unpleasant, nowhere near as good as the top out on Frisson Roche. Although by belaying on the fence, you do provide a good show for the sightseers on the Brevent viewing platform.

I had hoped to camp up high Tuesday night in order to retain my acclimatization (back in the UK for a week) and test out some gear for Kyrgyzstan, but unfortunately that fell through too. So I woke up at 5.30am with the intention of wandering up Mont Blanc du Tacul from first bin. The previous nights storm was still lingering a bit though so I soon gave up on that!

Missed the crowds for once.
Next winters setup, psyched!
Eventually it cleared, so I went for the traverse of Pointe Lachenal, which was actually a much better way of testing out my new Baturas. Getting to the ice cave at 8.35am I realized that I didn’t actually have much time before my flight in the afternoon. Four and a half hours before my transfer in fact! The route is really nice, definitely a soft touch for an AD, but I always really enjoy the scrambling to the final point. Condition wise, the snow slopes are all good with only a few small patches of harder ice and the rock is fairly clear of snow. Weirdly, I think there may even be less snow on the mixed steps than there was at the end of last summer! The final chimney isn't as loose as it looks, but then I wasn't pulling on holds too hard, just in case.
Definitely somehow missed the abseil the last time I did the traverse.

A matching pair of axes (in colour at least!) I think I actually prefer a Nomic on snowslopes.
I think fear of getting stuck in a queue to get back down the lift spurred me on a bit and I managed cave to cave in 2 hours 45. Not as speedy as all the lads I’m sure, but pretty good for me! I have been known to take an hour and a half to get from the Col du Midi back to the lift station. Quite a surreal day really, going from a glacier at 3500m to sea level at Liverpool airport in under 6 hours! 
Unnecessary squeeze underneath the jammed block! Extra fun this way though.
Summit! Quick chat to my Irish friends on top and then a fast turnaround to make my flight home!
Looks like a big serac had fallen off the Tacul on Tuesday, some of the chunks were as tall as me! In hindsight I probably shouldn't have run across this way.... It's a very active serac this year!!

1 comment:

  1. The pic of Tacul that you texted early p.m., saying 'This is where I was this morning' was a little disconcerting when you were supposed to be at Geneva catching a plane for Liverpool. But actually, you really had got down from the glacier at 3500m to the airport already. The only hold up proved to be the flight's delay by over an hour....