The Climbing season this year started quite well and unusually early for me. In April me and my climbing partner Thomas went to the Gorges de Taghia in Marocco, an extraordinary place where we climbed some very nice routes (the best certainly les Rivières Pourpres). Back again from Marocco I wasn't really motivated to do some stuff on ice and so I decided to just go rock climbing. After Thomas returned from his trips to Mallorca and Verdon we did some nice climbs in the Dolomites like the classic KCF on the Rochetta Alta di Bosconero, Die scharfe Helene on the Crep de Boe (a route opened by Mark Oberlechner and Simon Gietl In 2012) and Diamante on the Meisules.
Chamonix and the Mont Blanc range is a perfect place where I still have some routes on my wish-list and where I thought it shouldn't be too hard to find some guiding work.
The plan is to stay in Chamonix for about two months and try to climb as much as possible, meet new people and make some working experience abroad.
So we started on Tuesday 21st from Bolzano, the whole car packed with stuff that could be useful during this two months stay.
We first drove to Verona to the Gronell factory where I got a new pair of alpine boots (thanks Gronell! :-) ).
As we were not very sure if we should directly drive to Chamonix we first checked the weather. According to the weather forecast in Chamonix the weather wasn't really stable and so we decided to make a "little" deviation and do a pit stop at the Piz Badile.
Piz Badile – Cassin – 22.07.2015
Neither Thomas nor me ever clmbed the Badile before, so we decided to go for the classic Cassin route on the east face, about twenty pitches up to VI+. So we drove to Bondo and from there we went up to the hut, not as slow as we would have liked to...some lightnings suggested us to speed up a "little" bit - it was so hot that I decided to take off my pants and walk up in my underwear, something I never experienced before :-).
The next day we started early and got to the base of the face together with two Spanish guys that let us start first. So fortunately we didn't have anyone in front of us and basically had the whole face for ourselves. We decided to climb as much as possible simultaneously with t-blocks.
The perfect granite lead us to climb quite fast and so in 3h20 we already where on the north ridge, even though we lost some time to figure out which was the right crack at the beginning of the upper part.
About 20 minutes later we stood on the top and then started to descend via the north ridge. At half past one we arrived at the hut and then descended to the car.
We didn't want to get to Chamonix too late in the evening so we spent a night camping by a river near Courmayeur.
The weather wasn't good enough to climb the big faces we were aiming for and so we decided to go to the refuge des Enverses to climb some shorter routes.
Première Pointe de Nantillons - Au nom de la rose (7a+) - 24.07.2015
This route offers some really nice pitches on perfect rock, the only thing is, that except for the first pitches it doesn't follow a very logical line. Nonetheless a nice route with some interesting slabs and crack climbing sections!
|where are the bolts?|
|the 7a+ pitch|
|6c crack - quite obbligatory|
|camelot 4 - useful in this pitch|
|7a pitch - bouldery one|
|almoust on the top|
On the second day we had to wait a bit for the faces to dry up as it had rained during the night and the temperatures had dropped noticeably.
Tour Verte - Pont des soupirs (6b+) & Tour Rouge - Marchand du sable (VII) – 25.07.2015
So we chose an easy route and climbed the east ridge of the Tour Verte (Pont des soupirs). As the climb wasn't that long and demanding we decided to climb another route on the Tour Rouge and chose the classic "Marchand du sable", a very nice route with a very interesting first pitch (6a??...).
|Pont des soupirs - 6b+ crux|
|The first and hardest pitch of the Marchand du Sable|
|Nice 6a+ slab almoust at the end - not so easy when wet :-)|
|the final part of the slab-pitch|
Première Pointe de Nantillons - l'Age de l'homme (6c) – 26.07.2015
On our third climbing day on the Aiguilles des Enverses we wanted to climb a bit more demanding route called "La dolce vita" on the Aiguille du Roc. The description in the guidebook wasn't very useful and so, after about one hour trying to figure out where the route started we gave up and went to climb another route called "l'Age de l'homme" on the Première Pointe de Nantillons".
Way easier than Au nom de la rose also this mainly bolted route offers some really nice pitches but doesn't follow any logical line.
The atmosphere on the Enverses hut was really relaxed and we also had the pleasure to meet new people i.e. the girls of the spanish alpine climbing team ( equipo femenino de alpinismo), a very nice and motivated bunch of lovely girls. A pity we didn't meet them sooner!
The day after climbing l'Age de l'homme we returned to Chamonix where we finally placed our big tent :-) in the camping of les Bossons.
On the hut Martín, a Spanish guide, recommended us a climb called État de Choc on the Petit Clocher de Portlet. The weather still wasn't good enough to go for some really long route, so we decided to check out this one.
État de choc - Petit Clocher de Portlet (7a) – 28.07.2015
What is the most important thing when you want to climb as much as possible spending as less money as possible? Try to avoid using cable cars...! To do the approach to the Petit Clocher de Portlet there are two options: the first is to take the cable car and then hike for about two hours to get to the base of the face. The other option is to drive a little bit further and do the whole approach by foot. The descriptions says three hours - could be, if you don't park your car a little bit lower down because of a ban on transit. I won't say how much it took us to get to the base of the face but certainly longer than we expected.
The northwest face of the Petit Clocher of Portlet is impressively steep. État du Choque follows a logical succession of cracks and corners, including a 7a off-width crack.
After the long approach it took us some minutes to recover a bit and get ready for the climb. If was the first time we used tape gloves...never found it necessary before.
So we fought our way up, struggling and jamming up the endless cracks - quite demanding for limestone climbers indeed. On the second 7a I had to take two rests, even though I didn't find it impossibly hard...I simply was too tired. After about 5 hours we topped out and then rappelled down the face. What a route - what a climb!
|first 6c pitch|
|first 7a pitch|
|First 7a pitch - offwidth|
|camelot 5 more than useful...|
|squeezing up the second 6c pitch|
|start of the upper 7a pitch|
|doing the last hard moves of the second 7a pitch|
The day after the weather was bad and so we took the chance to rest a bit and order our stuff. Then on Thursday we went sport climbing in Bionessay - a very nice crag not to far away from Chamonix.
Pointe d' Ayères - Dret dans l'pentu (7b+) - 31.07.2015
Chamonix is well known for his rock and mixed climbs on granite but we never thought that you could also find some first class limestone routes. On our rest day we had a look at the guidebook of the Ayères valley and found a topo of a quite new bolted 8 pitches route on a really good looking south-face. In the office de haute montagne they told us that this wall dries up very quickly and so we decided to have look at it. Ok, the drive was not too long but therefore the approach took us longer than we thought ....never underestimate the approach times in french guidebooks :-).. So, as often, we arrived at the base of the face quite late, hmm, half past two... The first pitch turned out to be as horrible as the guy of the office de haute montagne had described it to us. Fortunately it was quite well bolted, otherwise you would fear to die climbing 6c on loose slate rock..
The hope is last to die and so we kept on going...and were rewarded! The second pitch already offers awesome climbing on solid rock. With exceptions of some sections in the 7b+ pitch and in the first 7a+ pitch the rock is really good and often requires good footwork. The grades are a bit stiff and the climbing quite sustained, so perhaps it wasn't that bad that in the meantime the sun had been hidden by the clouds. Anyway at the top we were freezing our asses off and were really happy as we got back to our backpacks where we had left our jackets after a few rappels.
|The crux pitch - 7b+|
|7b - very tecnical|
It was already dark as we got back to the car, what didn't bother us that much except for the fact that we knew we hadn't bought anything to eat for dinner. That meant that it definitely was time for another rest day.
Rest days are the best days? Could be - what we like to do is eating...a lot...
Sometimes low price and the high quality of the food don't go hand in hand and as a consequence the menu doesn't always look like you would want it to. The brand is something we really paid much attention to...as loyal Carrefour-clients we mainly buy Carrefour-products: the white ones - definitely nothing for bio-freaks..
So after the eating-day we went to do some sport climbing in Bionessay, not such a good idea as it got scorching hot after one half past twelve when the sun hit the wall. Anyway we wanted to go back soon as we had planned to go to do the traverse des Aiguilles de Chamonix. But sometimes plans and motivation don't go hand in hand and so we decided to stay in the Camping and start in the morning to do the Arête du Diable on the Mont Blanc du Tacul.
Mont Blanc du Tacul – Arête du Diable (D) – 03.08.2015
We took the first "benne" at 6.30 and started from the Aiguille du Midi at about 7 o'clock. Yes, I know, not the best time to start for such a route but hey, nobody is perfect ;-).
So we jogged down the glacier passing underneath the steep couloirs of the Triangle du Tacul, the Grand Cappucin and the satellites of the Tacul to the start of the couloir that leads up to the Brêche du Diable. After about three hours we were at the Brêche and started to climb the ridge. There weren't any recent tracks on the snow that had fallen during he last days and we enjoyed the fact to be alone on this spectacular ridge. Just some sections were not that enjoyable due to the snow especially on the 4c pitch to get to the top of the pointe Carmen where the cracks where filled with snow making it a bit more interesting. We finally got to the top skipping the pointe Isolée, as we feared not to get the last cable car, which we thought would start at 17.30.
|at the Brèche du Diable|
We got to the midi station at about five and realized there was no need to hurry, as there were still so many tourists on the Aiguille du Midi that it rather seemed to be in the Bazaar of Marrakech...
Back down in Chamonix we felt a bit tired but also happy to have finally done also this famous ridge.