Monday, 9 August 2010

Chamonix Aiguilles

This was my first 'alpine season', that said the season didn't amount to much 'alpine' climbing. The first week was spent warming up and getting fit walking up to the chamonix Aiguilles.
The First day was spent finding a place to doss, not the campsite at Argentiere - instead we decided to 'have a bit of fun' and look for a woodland bivi site, rumoured to exist. We found it, thanks to Franco's somewhat limited knowledge of the area and we spent the day finding supplies to make our 'Favella'. The skeleton of the structure was still in place, with some repair work, obviously being obliterated by the winter months? Anyhow, this was home for the first fortnight.

The second day in Chamonix, we racked up and walked up to the Aig. de L'M. Arriving in the afternoon we had a sleep on the bivi ledge below the cliff and then, with no forecast of showers, we go on my first route in the Alps, The Menegaux Route - TD/VI+. This was a good intro, we ended up climbing at like 3pm til 5ish i think - totally opposite to normal but it was ok, the descent (sans boots) was interesting down the deep snow couloir on the left of the L'M.

Returning to the Valley, to rest and eat our next 'hit' was the Pillar Rouge on the Blatiere. This great crag, gave us a good few days climbing over the next 10-14days or so. The Majorette Thatcher TD/VII/Font 6b crux! was a tricky little number with a cruxy pull through a roof then glorious jamming above. We had to rap a pitch early, as the sun came around in the afternoon, not a bad effort walking up from the valley that morning!

Me on the first pitch of Majorette Thatcher, on the Pillar Rouge.
Les Diamants Du President, TD, climbs a large chimney/diedre system to the left of the Majorette and we elected to 'run' up this climb. The climbing was good lower down, with a brilliant twin crack jamming crux pitch. Above, the climbing was diedre based with some amazing, but totally sketchy (for me being fat) offwidth/chimney climbing some of which was totally run out as we didnt have big gear.
We then had a 3 day rest in the Valley, refuelling and then hit the next Aiguille along, the Peigne.
The Peigne has a beautiful slab, facing Chamonix and this is full of classy, slab pitches.
We woke early and walked up to get on 'Le Ticket, Le Carre, Le Rond et la lune' TD+/VII+. Unfortunately, the weather was damp in the morning and we loited around at the base of the Peigne making Cairns.

Me and Franco with one of Franco's Cairns.

We finally did get on 'Le Ticket' and cruised it, racing a standard, fast, french guide. Nice chap.
Franco ran down to the Valley that night to get food for an extended stay and returning in late, we had a bit of a sleep in. Still stoked to climb, we ran up to the Blatiere again and jumped on the 'Crook-Penning' TD/VI+. We intended to run up it, quickly for practice. We did, good climbing.

Franco leading 'Plus Lourd Que L'Air' ED/F7a+
Our final action on the Aiguilles, was to climb 'Verdon Memories' ED/VIII-. This is a harder version of 'Le Ticket' with a F6c crux slab pitch. The climbing is brilliant with micro holds and perfect friction on the rock. We were on the route super early, making our rubber shoes feel hard in the cold but we climbed the route without issue and elected to 'run' up the 'Voie Normal' - AD all the way up the Peigne. However we ended up on the West Arete? as we were simuling territory overtaking parties, the climbing felt V+/VI but it was probably slightly harder line than usual as we were going around parties.
We ended up at what we think was the Lepiney Crack. Nice finale to the Peigne!

Me seconding 'Verdon Memories'

Slabby brilliance on Verdon Memories, Aig. du Peigne.
We intended to climb the Super hard, super classic 'Dimanche Noir' ED3/VIII/7a slab. Unfortunately, my knee made an appearance on the walk down from the Peigne so i sacked it off back to the valley, as i was not prepared to hurt my knee as i'd be unable to get myself down to Cham, if it did 'go'.
The Chamonix Aiguilles for me were fantastic. I've never done multipitch over 3 or 4 pitches really, especially not 35-50metre pitches sustained at a grade! The routes we climbed, on paper, were towards my limit as well which i was delighted about.
Certainly amazing climbing, on amazing rock in stunning surroundings!

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I think this was our last forray up to the Aiguilles during the 'hot weather' and we ended up spending a couple of days in the shack. It was dry enough, but the area was littered with holes when we arrived. These were undoubtedly mouse holes and our suspicions were realised when they became ballsy enough to walk on us at night and such like. We caught sight of a few and tried to make our belongings mouseproof but eventually, after a night in the shack alone, when Franco went up to Les Dru with Chris, I couldn't do it anymore. I was worried sleeping in the woods on my own anyway and that hightened awareness meant i heard every squeak, every mouse running over my sleeping bag and i eventually snapped, catching two and swiftly killing them. I don't know why i did it as it wasn't their fault, but it made me feel better and i was totally 'in-tune' with my aggressive, hunter side - which allowed me to catch bloody mice with a plastic bag, a stick and rocks. Ah well, enough was enough we searched for a home more suited...

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