Donnerstag, 6. November 2014

Les Droites - Colton Brooks, Tacul - Gabarrou Albinoni, Petit Dru - North Couloir

27.10 - 02.11.2014

It doesn't often happen that you get a perfect weather week in Chamonix and along with it perfect conditions. I asked a few friends if they wanted to join but nobody seemed to have time so I contacted some spanish friends that live in Chamonix. I suggested a few climbs and they seemed to be very interested so I decided to head to Chamonix on monday, october 27th.

Les Droites - Colton Brooks


I met my spanish friend Ibon at 2pm at his caravan from where we drove to Argentiere. As the cablecar is closed in this season, we had to do a quite long approach to get to the hut that took us about four - four and a half hours.

Against our expectations there were already two climbers in the winter room of the Argentiere hut...actally no wonder: the face seemed to be in perfect conditions. They planned to climb the Ginat.  Afterwards three more climbers arrived, two of them were going to climb a route on the Grand Rocheuse - Too late to say I'm sorry, the other one (Dave Searle) was going to solo the Messner. We got up at 4.00 and started at about 5.10. We followed the tracks of our predecessors and passed the bergschrund at about 6.15. We soloed the first part to the point where the Messner ramp leads to the left. There we tied in and climbed one steep pitch straight up.

The next few hundert meters are less steep so we decided to pack away the rope.

 The crux pitches of the route were filled with ice and so we quite easily climbed them in one long pitch climbing simultaneousely. In two very long T-block-pitches we climbed the rightwards trending ramp to the final easy snowfield and easy mixed terrain. After about 7 hours we topped out.

It was about 1pm and there was just one little problem... I knew that I had forgotten my sunglasses. Therefore it took us a bit longer to do the rappels as I tried to keep my eyes closed as long as possible. The good thing was that it worked, I didn't get snowblind at all, The bad thing: it took us almoust five hours to rappel down.

Then, in the dark we fortunately found the right way to get to the Couvercle and from there we continued to the Montenvers train where Ibon had previousely deposited two sleeping bags and pads and something to eat. We got there at 11pm.
The next day we took the first train to Chamonix :-).

Mont Blanc du Tacul - Gabarrou Albinoni



After getting to Chamonix again I started to think about what I could do the next days. Noone had time or was motivated to do something so I planned to do a solo climb. I was a bit undecided if I should climb the Swiss route on les Courtes or the Supercouloir on the Tacul. As I wasn't very motivated to do the long approach to the Argentiere hut again I decided to have a look at the Supercouloir. Ibon and Israel climbed it the week before and told me that the conditions had been very good.
I took the last cablecar to the Aiguille du Midi at 16.30. Ibon had told me that they had bivouaced near the toilets at the cablecar top station. So I went there and waited till it got dark and the workers had gone back to the valley. I had a lot of time to think about a lot of things and once again I asked myself what leads me back on the mountains again and again and why I can't just stay in town and enjoy life in another way. I thought about how mountain experiences can enrich life and make us grow and on the other side how they can detain us from enjoing other parts of life. Soloing in some way for me is learning to deal with my fears and on the other side enjoing the freedom. It is acting responsably doing something irresponsible...
I went to sleep at about 9pm and then got up at 4.30. There weren't any other people on the glacier except for two lights that I had seen before I started. I went down the glacier to the point where you have to walk up to get to the start of the Supercouloir. I got there at about 7 o'clock. It was already getting bright and I already could see that the direct start did't look exactly as my friends had described it. In the second pitch there was one dry section and generally the ice looked very white and sunburned. Nonetheless I decided to have a look at it and so I passed the begshrund and got up the ramp that leads to the first pitch. I just climbed up the first few meters and immediately understood that the conditions must have changed quite a lot in the last good-weather-week.  I decided that it was to risky to climb it solo in that conditions and so I decided to go back and climb something else. I didn't want to search for long so I directly went towards the start of the Gabarrou-Albinoni route.
The Gabarrou-Albinoni is a nice 600m couloir that leads to the east ridge of the Tacul. From there you can easily get to the summit.
It was about 8 o'clock when I passed the begshrund. i quickly overtook one first rope party and climbed straight up the easy couloir. After about 300m I kept climbing to the left and overtook a second party just after the first steeper section. There were no other parties ahead of me so I could enjoy the good ice. About 3 steeper pitches later I got to the point where most of the climbers turn back abseiling along the route. I continued first on snow, then on easy mixed terrain and after 2 hours I stood on the snowy east ridge of the Tacul and 25 minutes later I was on the summit.

It wasn't exactly the ascend I originally planned but anyway it had been very nice and I was happy to get back to Chamonix in time to have lunch with Ibon.

Petit Dru  - North couloir


There was especially one route Ibon and I had talked about in the forefield: the North couloir of les Drus. Originally we wanted to climb the route with Israel as a three person party but in the end another motivated guy, Sergio, joined us. We didn't have any informations about the conditions but as everywhere else the conditions were good we thought we might have a look.
We started saturday morning and took the 11 o'clock train to Montenvers. We thought we better take it easy as we had partied a bit the evening before and our backpacks weren't really light. At about 15.30, after 3 and a half hours we reached the bivouac site.
We saw that there was already some stuff in one bivouac cave. It didn't last very long until the two guys who had left their stuuff in the cave returned to their camp. They told us that they had tried to climb the route but they took the wrong corner and therefore had to turn back. Furthermore they told us that the access to the couloir was quite complicated because of an overhanging icewall that they climbed with aiding techniques. Anyway they told us there was also a fixed rope that we could jumar up. Finally they wished us good luck and headed to the Montenvers train.
We put up one tent, then started to melt some snow and to prepare our stuff for the next day.

As it was starting to get dark we saw two other people coming up im our direction. The two guys, Michi Wohlleben and Luka Lindič, two strong and well-known alpinists, planned to climb the direct route. 
We decided to start at 4 in the morning.  
In the light of our headlamps we got to the overhanging icewall that we passed jumaring up the fixed rope. As the ice wasn't as hard as expected Michi and Luka took the better decision directly climbing the icewall and overtaking us.
The icewall gave access to the couloir. the first pitches were quite easy iceclimbing up to about 75 degrees steep.

                                                             Michi and Luka on the Directe
At the point where the direct couloir goes straight up we first had to climb two not so hard but delicate mixed pitches followed by a third, harder mixed pitch that leads to the start of the famous Nominée crack. 

This thin crack is about 30m long and filled with rock pitons. We quickly abandoned the idea to try to free-climb it and started to aid-climb the crack. 

After this pitch we continued climbing straight up, probably missing the point where we should have gone to the right. So after 4 pitches instead of the supposed 2 pitches we got back to the icy couloir. The climbing on those 4 pitches was nice mixed climbing up to about M6+.

In the couloir we just had to bite through the last not hard but strenuous ice pitches to finally reach the Breche du Dru after about 12 hours of climbing. 

Then, in the light of our headlamps we abseiled the whole couloir via the direct variant. we mosttly did 60m abseils first on abalakovs, then on good belays on rock.
At the bivouac site Ibon and I packed our stuff and continued heading downwards, as we wanted to get back to Chamonix. 
Another great day, another great adventure shared with good fellows!

Mittwoch, 1. Oktober 2014

Prima Ballerina - Cima Piccola


Autumn has come and thus the good weather. 


Fortunately it's not always necessary to do long approaches to climb good routes in the Dolomites. So Thomas and I chose a route that was on our wishlist and met our requirements. So the choice fell on "Prima Ballerina", a very nice bolted route on the southface of Cima Piccola di Lavaredo. The route was fist ascended by Christoph Hainz and Simon Kehrer in 2012. It offers 11 very nice pitches on steep dolomite-rock up to 7b (6c+, 7a, 6c, 7b, 6c+, 7b, 6b+, 6c+, 6b+, 5c, 4a). We had a really pleasant day (except for some stonefall and some funeral-trompet-music) and both managed to onsight/flash the route.
The day before we climbed a nice classic line, the Eisenstecken on the Mugoni (Rosengarten). A route that (like other Eisenstecken-routes)  is worth visiting if you want to experience how hard a classic grade six on not perfect rock can be :-).


Samstag, 27. September 2014

Matterhorn Northface - Schmid


The Matterhorn, one of the most impressive mountains of the alps with his 1100 m high northface, is certainly one of the mayor goals in an alpinist's life. Certainly it is a fact that the easier routes like the Hörnli ridge or the Lion ridge are often overcrowded and that can somehow leave a bad taste in the mouth. But hey, it's the Matterhorn...
I presumed that conditions should be good on the northface this autumn. To be honest after the last adventure in Chamonix I hoped that the weather wouldn't be perfect for a few weeks because I felt a bit tired and not super motivated.
But then I saw some pictures on facebook and heard about some people that climbed the route. So I contacted some friends of mine that were interested to climb the route and so we (Martin, Alex, Aaron, Thomas and I) started from Bolzano on monday.

Wind and welcome greetings: lovely Hörnli hut...

We directly drove to Täsch, from there to Zermatt by taxi and then up to the Schwarzsee by cablecar. As we knew that the Hörnlihut was closed due to renovations we brought our tents, sleepingbags and food.  We knew that monday should be quite windy, according to the weather forecast up to about 60km/h and that tuesday it should be less windy.
As we got to the Hörnli hut the wind was very strong but we thought that it shouldn't be a problem if we just placed our tents close to the refuge where it was a bit sheltered. Otherwise we thought there probably should be some place inside where we could just spend the night. As we were almost at the hut we crossed two climbers that told us that they were going to bivouac a bit further downwards because it was to windy at the hut.  To our surprise there were a few workers working in the building site. So we thought we just ask them if it possible to place our tent near the refuge. "No way! It is forbidden to camp here!". They showed us a place about 100 m away from the hut where we could place our tent.
There were already 3 other parties there, all of them busy with trying to build some stone shelters and placing their tents. We soon recognized that the wind was that strong that you would have needed a perfect shelter and an expedition tent to have a chance up there. First we tried to find a bit more sheltered place, but as we couldn't find any we decided to try to build a big stone vain. Fortunately we didn't even try to place our tents as we had seen how the poles of one of the other tents had just been bent by the wind...The wind was that strong that we sometimes even couldn't stand upright; it just blew us was incredibly strong, I guess about 90km/h...
 So we decided to go to the toilets outside the refuge and stay there even though another climber had told us that it was impossible to stay there because of the smell. The stench was disgusting but we got used to it. At least it was a sheltered place where one can spend a night. Nonetheless after a worker came to "visit" the toilet we thought we should try to appeal to the refuge keeper's better nature.
Inside the refuge it was warm, the workers had finished working, there was plenty of space in the refuge. But as we spoke to the keeper and told him that we couldn't sleep outside because of the strong wind he didn't care at all and told us that he certainly wouldn't let us sleep inside and that furthermore it was strictly forbidden to sleep in the toilets! As I told him that this kind of behaviour was unrespectfull and that this was denial of assistance he  just answered that if we were in such big trouble perhaps it would be better if we called the mountain rescue. Finally he suggested we'd better go down to Schwarzsee and spend the night there.  (it was already dark and extremely windy)
Ok, now we had a problem. It seemed the omen's were not very good, but we knew that if we would go down the chances to climb the face the next day would be quite bad. So despite of what the keeper told us, we decided to cook something and spend the night in the toilets hoping for less wind the next morning. There was just little hope left and if it would just have been up to me, I think I would have gone back to the Schwarzsee.


So the next day we got up at 3.45. The wind had stopped blowing, the weather was perfect. We knew there were a few parties that wanted to climb the route that day and thought there would certainly be someone ahead. We were wrong. Some guys who had started at about three o'clock had turned back apparently because the snow conditions were bad...
Anyway we left the toilet at about 5. We traversed to the rock bastion were we had to climb diagonally up a snow covered ledge to reach the Matterhorn glacier. A perfect wakening call. We started to climb the icefield at about 6:10. As I feared there weren't any tracks that showed us the way but at the beginning the route finding isn't that hard. Packed snow sections alternated with more icy or mixed sections. In some places the ice was quite thin and required concentration. So the first part was almoust harder then I expected. It took us about 2 hours...
Then Alex and Aaron, Thomas and Martin tied in and I, as planned went on alone.
This time I was quite nervous probably because I was still a bit tired and because there weren't any tracks and I knew the route finding would not be easy. After the 400m icefield you have to climb a snow-ice ramp with some mixed sections up to perhaps M4. In this section the conditions were manly very good and so I got up quite quickly to the point where you have to leave the  ramp and traverse to the right (at about 4000m). There I traversed first passing a short delicate mixed section and then continued on ice to a evident iceline. As I couldn't see any old tracks I wasn't 100% sure if it was the right way and so I decided not to risk to much and waited until the others came up. (Martin had a really good picture of the face). I started again in front of them.
The icefall-pitch, about WI4- is followed by a very delicate traverse. I probably climbed up too much instead of traversing lower down and so I had to do a very unpleasant traverse to the right, first on steep thin ice and than on snowcowered rock. After the traverse I climbed up a quite easy mixed section and then kept on climbing rightwards in direction of the Zmutt ridge. Like on the rest of the route there weren't almoust any tracks and so it still was quite tiring.
I climbed the last part to the summit on the Zmutt ridge and got to the summit at about 13:50. It took me way longer than I thought, 7h45, but anyway I was happy. Only 45 minutes later also Martin and Thomas reached the summit, and a bit later also Alex and Aaron who had climbed some direct variant (straight up instead of traversing after the ramp).
Then we together started the strenuous descent via the Hörnli ridge. With almoust any tracks and much snow this descent can be very demanding. I thought we would be down at the hut in four took us 6!
Even though we missed our stinky toilet we packed our stuff and went down to the Schwarzsee to sleep. The day before I would never had thought we would climb the route...incredible. But perhaps sometimes  you just need to believe it's possible...


All's well that ends well. 

Thanks to Thomas, Aaron, Alex and Martin for the good time and props to these talented youngsters!