Friday, July 25, 2008

Arco and the trip to Edinburgh

So we headed all the way to the Dolomites through the Eastern side of Italy only to find that the weather forecast was wrong and bad weather had begun (So we missed out on climbing the Marmolada). We then drove all the way across Italy to a climbing town called Arco in the West. In the town there are climbing photos everywhere of the top sport climbers from the last 20 years and in the bars climbing videos are played on the big screens. There is climbing all around the town and it tends to be quality long very technical routes. We spent two half days and one full day climbing and i had a long endurancy battle with a hard overhung 7c (27) only to fall off just below the chains on the onsight. I got it second go and hopefully i can take that form and build on it in Ceuse. Arco is definetely a place i want to return to and spend some real time.
After Arco i got dropped off in Verona so i could make my own way to Nice and on to Edinburgh while Owen and Dan took the car on a long roadtrip to Prague. I was told all the trains were sold out and it looked like i wouldnt make my flight so i jumped on a train to Milan. From Milan i could get to Ventimiglia (which i hadnt even heard off) on the mediterranean and get a different train from there in the morning to Nice. So i made it!
Now i am in Edinburgh and have met up with Chris and Adelle. I have been to the top of Arthurs seat (a hill next to town), toured around Edinburgh castle and seen the esplanade infront of it where they have the military tattoo every year.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

World Cup, Dolomites and a Wedding

The world cup event in Chamonix was incredible even though it was outdoors and it rained on the crowd the whole time. All the guys i knew as being really good climbers stuffed up a key toe hook move and three people i didnt know managed to figure it out and so took the podium. It was awsome watching them all get close to onsighting what was probably around a grade 32 climb.
Since the weather was so bad and heaps of new snow fell we decided to leave and head to the Dolomites in Italy. We only had a few days before the wedding so we picked a huge target in the north face of the Cima Grande. The route is called the Brandler-Hasse and weaves around a bit but is pretty much direct up the slightly overhanging 550m north face. The day started with dodgy looking skies and an unseasonal cold snap. We started climbing anyway thinking we would eventually have to bail but about 5 hours in, with frozen arms and toes, when we had climbed just over a third of the wall, the sky had cleared and the temps slowly started to rise. The crux came at pitches 12 to 16 which were grade 23/4 and unfortunately we couldnt really try them as they were soaking wet so we pulled on gear through them. The top of the route posed a challenge as although the grade eased the rock stayed wet and we encountered sections of verglass. All up we climbed the route with descent in around 15 and a half hours.
The following day we were totally wrecked so after a sleep in we just did a 7 pitch route on a small spire nearby.
At the moment i am sitting in an internet cafe in Santa Margharita on the mediterranean after attending friends Tim and Christina's incredible fairytale wedding at a swanky villa last night.
Ill get photos up as soon as i can get them off Dan's camera.
Now we are heading either back to the Dolomites for the Marmolada or back to Chamonix depending on how we feel in the next half hour.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Marseille and Cassis

Dont ever go to Marseille! We arrived late in the afternoon, couldnt get any parking and were then told all accomodation was booked out for 50km around the city. We had been told there was a bit of an underworld crime thing going on in the city and when we were blocked from going down a thin one way street by a scooter driver we started to see the uglier side of things. After getting out of the cra to deal with the guy an old woman leaned out of a slightly open window and whispered "be careful, he is dangerous". I couldnt reason with the guy who didnt speak english but seemed to think we had caused him to scratch his scooter (he was going the wrong way down the street). Another lady started to act as interpreter saying we should fill out an accident report form (which implies fault) or give him some cash. After i refused a large crowd gathered and the lady put her hands up and left with a worried look on her face. An old man came up to me and kept whispering "police... police". Owen did his best to look tough behind me and i told the guy nothing was happening without the police which were called and must have told the guy to let us go. We then drove out of town and camped on a beach which we had also been told was very dangerous.

Luckily things got alot better when the next day we drove into Cassis which is awsome! A very nice mediterranean town with a beautiful port that is located next to the Calanques. The Calanques are chasms into the limestone headland which create natural ports. The climbing on the limestone here was superb and the water was crystal clear. So we spent three days here relaxing and climbing and are now ready for some more mountains.
The En Vou Calanque:Another of the many Calanques:We are currently back in Chamonix were a leg of the world cup for climbing is on. The weather is not great though so we may disappear at some stage for the Dolomites in Italy. We also have to be at the wedding on the 17th after which all our plans start getting a bit complicated.

The Matterhorn

Ah.... the Matterhorn. One of the most well known mountains in the world. There were three of us (Dan, Owen and I) so we recruited a fourth member to the party in the form of Glen, a huge Norwegian who is super strong and brimming with enthusiasm. Dan and I attempted the Hornli ridge which is the classic route and with good conditions see over 100 people a day attempt it. On our day which had alot of snow and followed a thunder storm it was just Dan and I. This made for a superb outing having the route to ourselves although with all the snow route finding was a tad tricky and all the snow made for slow progress. Because of this we turned around just over half way up.
Dan on the approach to the Matterhorn:
Owen and Glen climbed the Zermutt ridge a less done route and were successful summiting around 5 pm and making it back to the hut around 12 midnight. All up about 20 hours return. This was an awsome achievement and i am super jealous!

Glen on the Zermutt ridge:

On the Summit:

We all got down a bit worn out and decided to have a little break from the mountains. So after dropping Glen back in Chamonix we headed to the Mediterranean.

The American Direct on the Dru

So we got shut down on the American Direct. It wasnt because the climbing was hard but because we got lost due to route finding difficulties. It was a good thing though as after we bailed a thunder storm trundled in and soaked us all through the walk down.
The Dru (The American Direct goes straight up the middle): After a very nice bivvy on some grass lower in the valley we spent a huge day on the route trying to find our way. We were a bit stumped so bailed around 3pm (the photo below is near our high point). We missed the last train down from the glacier to the valley floor and Chamonix so spent an extra wet and cold 2 hours walking a trail back home.Since the weather turned bad with common thunderstorms in the afternoon we left Chamonix and headed to the Matterhorn in Switzerland.