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.
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.
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!