Monday, August 20, 2012

Alpine Stuff

After 'The Fish' Alan and I returned to Ceuse. I felt a bit like I was done with the area but Alans psyche to try a route called 'La Femme Blanche' 8a+ rubbed off on me and in a few days i had done the classic. We had a good crew of strong climbers so energy levels were high. I managed another 8a+, 'Le Poincenuer de Lilacs', in the following week while Will got 'Encore', his first 8a+ of the trip.

I then left again to meet up with Rob in Chamonix. He hadn't done any Alpine climbing before and I had some easy classics i had always wanted to do. We settled into town by having a large meal that may or may not be responsible for giving me stomach issues that i have now had for a week and a half! The first iffy weather day we went up the Brevent cable car to 2500m for a bit of acclimatisation. Rob went for a walk while i fell asleep on a rock out of the wind. The next day the weather had improved and we made it up the Agui du Midi, 3800m, to do the first on my list of classics. The 'Voie Rebuffet' is a nice line on perfect granite that wanders up the south face of the Agui with a maximum difficulty of 6a. The approach is a 5 minute walk down a snow ridge and the 250 meter route only takes half a day at a slow pace and tops out back at the cable car station. It was super classic and a good first route to have done.

First route, the 'Voie Rebuffat' in the background.
Rob enjoying it!
We returned to the valley in perfect weather which was forecast to last all week. After a rest day we packed our bivvy gear and joined the hordes walking up to the Gouter hut on the normal route up Mt Blanc, the second route on my classics list. The hut was full so we bivvied on the snow ridge above it. The next day we summited by 7am after starting walking at 3am. The summit was cold and windy so we didn't hang around except for some quick summit photos. We were back to the bivvy by 10am and then continued the walk reversing all the previous days gains back to the valley. All up that day we walked 1000 vertical meters up and 2800 vertical meters down! Advice to others doing the route would be to go as light as possible which would include forgoing a rope and harness. Boots, crampons, and a single axe are all you need.
Everyone waiting at the rail station up to the start of the Mont Blanc trail.
Me on the summit of Mont Blanc.
Rob on the summit of Mont Blanc.
Randoms on the summit of Mont Blanc.
Rob and I were stuffed after the walk so we took two rest days and headed to Italy. The third classic on my list was the Matterhorn. In 2008 I had attempted an early season ascent of the Hornli Ridge with Dan Lee but we were to slow and turned around. I was keen to try a different route this time and the Lion Ridge from Italy was a perfect option. We arrived in Cervinia, the town in the valley below the Matterhorn, and got a Jeep up to the Abbruzzi hut, 2800m. The hut is new and amazing, great food and great rooms with full ensuites! Despite not wanting to leave the next day we walked for four and a half hours to the Carrel hut positioned on the Lion Ridge of the Matterhorn at 3800m. The rest of the day we sat around enjoying the view.

We started just before 6am in the morning following or passing between parties that had started as early as 4am. It took us four hours to the summit where an old fat guide had a go at me becuase i had 8m of rope between myself and Rob while apparently i should only have 2m. I pointed out that if his client slipped and fell he would just take the guide with him and they would both die. The client looked shocked and the guide told me i should learn to climb before attempting the mountain :-) It took three hours and a bit to descend to the Carrel hut where we had a snack, packed up our gear and continued down to the Abbruzzi hut for the night.
Me on the Swiss summit of the Matterhorn.
Rob on the Swiss summit of the Matterhorm.
Randoms on the Italian summit of the Matterhorn with the Swiss summit in the background.
The next morning the Jeep took us back down to Cervinia where the car was waiting. I had a vague plan of doing a ridge of the Eiger this trip to get the classic trilogy of European peaks done but after Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn we both felt we had done enough and it was time for some climbing. Getting those two peaks on your first Alpine trip is a pretty good achievement for Rob and I am psyched to have finally done them. We are now in the warmer climate of southern France in the amazing Gorges du Tarn where the camp ground has a pool and pizzeria. The crags are also on the road so no walking :-)