Friday, 9 August 2013

Six years of Alpine Dreaming - Forbes Arete on the Aiguille du Chardonnet

My first night ever in Chamonix was a night of classic Alpine thunderstorms. On the transfer in, we saw nothing of the stunning mountains, just an occasional glimpse of the snouts of the glaciers. The weather was so bad that Mr Bernard allowed us to bivvy in his garage rather than have to put up our tents. When we were turfed out at 6am the next day, the first mountain that we saw was the Chardonnet, looking exceptionally wintery! It was truly awe-inspiring, I really wanted to reach it's summit one day! But the sight of it also made me wonder if we had bitten off more than we could chew...

Time moves on and I guess I've gotten used to Alpine walk ins! The wander up to the Albert Premier was no where near as bad as I remembered it being on our Conville Course in 2007, the hut seems nicer too! Getting up at 2am was quite traumatic though, I guess that never gets easier!

Josh and Hannah ahead.
The snow and ice is in really nice condition just now and we romped up it, having two ice axes definitely helped though. For some reason I thought that the snow was the meat of the route and was feeling pretty smug that we had gained the ridge at 6.30am and the summit was so close. Easy day out! Or not.... The ridge is actually quite engaging climbing with a lot of ups and downs interspersed with dubious snow traverses. Generally if you follow the polish your in the right place!

Good snow conditions before the sun hits the slopes
Trine on the summit, AT LAST!
The descent surprised me as it wasn't anywhere near as epic as I thought it was going to be! Although luckily Hannah and Josh found the abseils and we could just follow them, I don't know how quickly we would have found them ourselves. The snow slopes beyond were a bit sketchy, having been in the sun for a while they were rapidly resembling a slush puppy. All the large crevasses and rimayes seem fairly avoidable just now at least.

My main problem on the descent was that I was wearing a pair of G20s, which kept balling up extremely badly! I would know the snow off on the first step, take a second, faceplant on the third. After a couple of hundred metres Trine wisely suggested that I take them off completely. Life got significantly easier, although jumping crevasses crampon-less was a bit scary. At least now I know not to take them to the Tien Shan with me!

Safely down! I gave up wearing crampons about half-way down the central snowslope....

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