|The North faces of the Courtes, Droites and Aiguille Verte. Inspiring stuff!|
|Starting the ski down on our bluebird climbing day! (J. Williams)|
|Jolie's amazing video of Saul, Harry and I dancing on the bar in Munster at midnight. Good training for something?!?|
|Polly's psyched at least! (J. Williams)|
|Glacial ice is never the best way to start your day...|
|Me faffing about as per usual... and saying farewell to the skis! For a while I thought this was the last time we would see them... (J. Williams)|
|Someone had dug this in as a belay before the schrund.... nailing on all the extra bits of wood shows true belay building dedication!!|
|Is this really a good idea?!?.....|
|....Yes it is! Me five minutes later LITERALLY dancing up the first pitch... (J. Williams)|
|Starting up the steep gearless but perfect névé slopes. (J. Williams)|
|Pretty special place to be... (J. Williams)|
|Perfect, bluebird, non windy/spindrifty weather woooot!|
|Jonnie getting stuck into the crux and about to attempt a sneaky overtake|
|We are just that efficient that we climb in time.... (J, Williams)|
The consensus is, it's pretty bad. The bolt holding the plastic front bail onto his Black Diamond Serac crampons has totally sheared off. Now these aren't old decrepid crampons, they are more or less brand new! You can see how sharp they are in the photo. It would seem that the bolt lines up with the dynafit insert perfectly and this has worn away the bolt... in just four hours! We conclude that there isn't a whole lot of bodging that we can do. As the plastic toe is needed to create tension to attach the crampon, we need to get creative. Luckily I had the powerstrap from my skis in my pocket, with that and some jiggery pokery we manage to at least attach the crampon onto his boot again.
|Bodge o clock!! (J. Williams)|
Over the next two hours we manage to cover a few more ropelengths of easy terrain. Polly leads ahead trying vainly to find gear so there's at least one piece between us all to hold us onto the mountain. Jonnie is at the back making constant adjustments and checks to crampon, trying to get it to stay on for a bit longer all the time. Meanwhile I'm in the middle of the rope having a total meltdown. I know that if Jonnie's crampon blows suddenly causing him to fall whilst Polly is struggling to find gear, all three of us are going to fall the entire length of the face. Chances are that a single bit of gear would rip under the weight of three people anyway. There's absolutely nothing I can do about it or to stop the fall should it happen. Stressful!!
|Questing about trying to find gear/belays AGH! (J. Williams)|
Pulled myself together though and put my sketchy-scottish-winter-climbing head on, I started digging around in the névé... With the very little gear I had on my harness I made us a mediocre belay from a good camalot and a terrible sling. Good enough though to bring Jonnie up and for Polly to climb back down to me.
With darkness approaching very quickly and the sudden realisation that we had climbed into signal, we debated whether to phone for a helicopter rescue. Whilst we could have kept slowly crawling up to the summit (risking the gearless névé and high potential that if Jonnie slipped unexpectedly we'd all die) we had no idea what condition the North East slope was in. Could Jonnie kick his ski boot in hard enough to down-climb it safely? We did briefly consider 'Joe Simpsoning' him - lowering him 120m past the knot on the ropes and then Polly and I could down climb to him. But this had epic written all over it. At this point in the belay meeting the crampon bodge failed AGAIN, Jonnie's brand new sharp edges just kept sawing through the cable-ties! So the vote was unanimous - helicopter ride!
|There's truly nothing like the noise of a distant helicopter engine when you're scared and near the top of a North Face!|
Jonnie and I were deposited on the roof of the Argentiere hut with our winchman whilst the chopper went back for Polly and the other PGHM rescuer. From here we had an amazing view of all the other headtorches in the basin, most of whom I later found out I knew ha! EMBARASSING! Back down in the PGHM station in Le Bois, Jonnie got an admonishment from one of the captains in French (translated by yours truly...) for taking inappropriate equipment into the mountains. Every one seems to think that Serac crampons are aluminium, they actually made out of stainless steel but the 'Strap' version are apparently incompatable with dynafit touring boots! Otherwise we had a good old chinwag with the guys who rescued us, we were feeling somewhat sheepish about the whole thing but all the guys who actually attended our rescue seemed in good spirits. They declared that it was in fact 'a beautiful rescue'. We were even offered a lift back home, amazing service there! Sat in MBC later we were all slightly shellshocked but pretty happy that we had been extracted from a pretty scary situation without serious injury or even losing any gear! For me it was definitely a good lesson in why not to be complacent in the mountains.
|CHOPPER IS COMING! You can almost feel my relief...|