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!

Dienstag, 16. September 2014

Solo Grandes Jorasses Northface - Polish Route + Traverse of the Grandes Jorasses + Rochefort Ridge : 1-day-action


The last weeks the conditions in the Mont Blanc area were excepionally good especially on the Grandes Jorasses northface. Unfortunately almost every day the routes were overcrowded with a countless amount of climbers, most of them climbing the Colton Mc Intyre... not ideal, but as the conditions are very rarely that good I thought I have to seize the moment.
After having returned from the last Chamonix trip I tried to find out if there was somebody I know that wanted to go to climb the Jorasses and so I finally decided to to ride along to Chamonix with two friends who wanted to climb the Slowenian Route on Pointe Croz on sunday or monday. As the refuge was booked out on saturday we decided to go there on sunday and climb on monday.
Originally I planned to solo climb the Slowenian route (and then climb on following the ridge to Aiguille de Rochefort and further to the Torino hut) but I changed my mind after talking to Christoph, a strong austrian iceclimber and alpinist who climbed the route the day before. He told me that there were some very delicate sections and that he would not recommend me to solo it. So I decided to rather climb the Polish combination (according to the guidebook 800m, WI5, M5+) , a route that starts on the left of the Slowenian route and ends on the left of Pointe Hélène. I knew that about two weeks ago the conditions were very good on the route and that on september 8th Korra Pesce did the first solo ascent of the route ( (now it is about WI 4+, some sections with delicate ice and some mixed sections).
We started on sunday, took the Montenvers train at 2pm and hiked up to the Leschaux hut. Surprisingly there were only four other parties on the refuge. Like the last time breakfast was served from 00.00 to 01.30, but this time I decided to sleep a bit longer.
I started from the hut at 04.05. in contrast to the last time there weren't dozains of lights showing the right way and so I stupidly took a detour through some crevasses before I retrieved the tracks. At 6.45, with the first light, after having checked that I was in the right place I started climbing.
Mostly there were some tracks showing me the right way except for a few places where I didn't take the ideal line and two times I had to downclimb some sections to get on the right way again. The ice was mostly very good but especially on the steepest sections it required some attention because it seemed somehow fragile and perhaps a bit detoriated by the diurnal warming of the last days and the precedent repetitions. Also the direct exit at the very end seemed very precarious so I decided to exit on the left side. I topped out at about 09.50 and rested for about 20 minutes before starting the traverse in direction of the Canzio bivouac.
You often have to climb directly on the ridge (very exposed) or traverse underneath the ridgeline sometimes on mixed terrain. From the Pointe Marguerite you abseil a few times (4x25m), then climb up again to the Pointe Young and then abseil again to get to the Col des Jorasses. I reached the Col at 2 pm. I took a short break and started again. I knew there still was a quite difficult rock sections to get to the top of the Calotte de Rochefort. You can abseil it when you come from the other direction (the most classical way) but in this case you have to climb two quite exposed and not easy pitches. I belayed myself on the first pitch and basically aided the second one. It wasn't easy at as the less steep parts were still covered with snow. I probably lost 1 ½ hours on these two pitches... Then the dificulties diminish and get more classical, often very exposed snow ridges and easy mixed terrain - you always have to stay concentrated...especially after over 10 hours of climbing.
To the Dent du Geant it still is a long way to go even though it never seems that far away. Finally I got to the Torino hut at 20.45, about 16h40' after having started from the Leschaux hut.
It was very good experience, very intense and demanding. It just was something I thought I could do, a challenge, something I wanted to experience – sometimes there is no why :-). 

Sonntag, 7. September 2014

Grandes Jorasses - Colton Mc Intyre & Aiguille Sans Nom - Brown Patey

Some dreams will always remain dreams, but some must be lived. Some weeks ago I saw a post of the Leschaux hut on Facebook where they reported that there were good conditions on the Grandes Jorasses. Two friends of mine, Johannes and Christoph, also climbed the Colton Mc Intyre on the end of august and they told me that the conditions were really good. The message was clear: it's time to start and realize a big dream. I had to work until the end of august but I didn't have any commitments for the first two weeks of september. Thomas had to work, so I asked Matin Dejori another young strong and talented alpinist and climber if he was up for going to Chamonix for some days. Fortunately he was motivated and so we started on tuesday, september 2nd. We started quite early, drove to Chamonix and did the approach to the Leschaux hut. On the way up to the hut we could already see the white nothface of the Jorasses: super good conditions! We quickly realized that we wouldn't be alone on the route: there were at least other ten parties that wanted to climb the Colton Mc Intyre the next day and a couple of other parties that were up to climb the Bonatti-Vaucher and the Slowenian Route on the Pointe Croz. Originally we wanted to start at about 03.30 but due to the fact that there would be so many people climbing on the face the next day and that breakfast would be served from 24.00 to 1.30 we decided to start a bit earlier. We got up at 1 o'clock and started at 1.45 ...we were the last ones. The many lights showed us the best way to get up to the base of the route. We soloed the bergschrund and the first part up to the first rock bastion and past about five parties. Then we had to slow down a bit as we had to wait because there wasn't any possibility to pass the parties in front of us. The crux pitch at the second rock bastion was well tracked but  delicate as it was mostly just pressed snow. The rest of the route was in perfect conditions and we toped out at 13.15 right after the second party. Then we walked down to the Boccalatte hut and further to the valley where we arrived at about 19.30. then we hitchhiked back to Chamonix.
On the next day we got up quite late and went to the OHM to check the conditions of some other routes. We didn't have any fix plan but finally we decided to go for the Brown Patey a great route on the northface of the Aiguille sans Nom (big thanks to Laurent).  The lower part of the route is rock climbing, the central part is ice followed by a some mixed pitches that lead to the summit of the Aiguille sans Nom. From there you have to follow the ridge to the Aiguille Verte and then descent on the Whymper Couloir. Usually the route is climbed in two days: the rock section on the first day and the ice section on the second day. Our plan was different: we wanted to do it in one go. The only problem was that it was already too late to take the last cablecar to the Grands Montets and so we decided to take the first one on the next day. We started at about 8.30 from the top station and after a 2 hour approach we were at the base of the route. We soloed the first 300m and then we did some pitches, probably some harder variants :-) as our description wasn't really perfect... at about 14.30 we started to climb the icy section. the weather wasn't really good even though according to the weather forecast it should have been "slightly" better. We started to climb the ice slope following some tracks and got to the steepest section where it started to snow quite heavily. So we had the pleasure to climb the upper pitches under constant snowfall and that made the whole thing more interesting. We did some variants again and climbed some nice mixed pitches before reaching the ridge. Then we climbed the last part to the Aiguille Verte in the dark and reached the summit at about 10 pm. 
Then we abseiled the Whymper couloir and went on to the Couvercle hut where we slept a few hours before descending to the Montenvers train and back to Chamonix.
One more dream that has been lived!