Post subject: Rock and Pow in Cham & Italy, April 15-27 - A few more pics
Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 2:53 pm
Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 2:30 am Posts: 236
I had a call from my friend Rob in Chamonix saying "I finish work on the 15th, I'm thirty on the 19th, let's do something big"
Flights booked, Book of Death (Baud guide) scoured over, arrived on the 15th to glorious sunshine, went straight to Les Gaillands crag for some sport climbing.
It had been snowing up top, so we spent the next day in and out of clouds at Grands Montets ski area and spent the afternoon in the park. Bit slow and heavy, lots of straight airs from me on the 166 mojo, Rob got his front 5's sorted.
We'd decided to try for Mont Blanc, so to start acclimatising, we got the last lift up the Aiguille du Midi (3800m) to sleep in a snow hole and give the Cosmiques Arete (AD rock and snow climb) a go the next day (Rob's birthday).
Edit: Pics mostly on Rob's camera, taken by Rob and me, with a couple from Laurent
Rob with his ABS (Advanced Baguette Sandwich) pack
Walking round to the bottom of the arete and our snowhole site
Lovely sunset to distract from feeling rough (I live at sea-level). Across the Vallee Blanche towards Italy.
The Tacul face and the Cosmiques refuge
It took us four hours - no snowsaw. Plenty warm enough inside, and actually very comfortable (4 season thermarest and MEC Asgard bag - both lovely)
Rob's birthday present was high winds, cloud and snow, a pass on the cosmiques arete and a trudge back up the snow ridge to the lift. We hadn't noticed the wind at all in the hole, people staying in the refuge said they'd not been able to sleep because of the wind in the rafters.
It was nice in the valley though, so more cragging, couple of multi pitch routes at Servoz.
We got good and drunk that evening, so next day was a bit of a write-off, with some easy climbing in the afternoon.
Next up was Gran Paradiso, the only peak over 4000m entirely inside Italy - the rest form the borders with France and Swizzerland. The weather looked a bit shoddy for the next day, so we put it off for 24 hours. Losing track of the days now, I'd imagine we went climbing instead!
We'd been told the Cosmiques couloir was in really good shape, so we went up to do that in the morning before heading over to Italy. Snow was good in the couloir, getting back to the Plan d'Aiguille lift was a hot, sweaty ballache! Photo's all on the film camera, though. Edit - see later post.
Saw this kitting up for GP. email sent to Voile, reply waiting for me on the way back saying they were sending me a replacement.
The drive up the Valsavarenche valley to Gran Paradiso was interesting. It's a narrow, steep sided valley with lots of stuff having come down either side, close to and over the road. At the top of the valley there was avalanche debris 10 feet high on one side of the road, 6 feet high on the other. We found out later that it had only been cleared 2 hours before we got there. pics on the way down.
It was still drizzling while we were getting the skins on, but the more we faffed, the clearer it got.
Apparently it's pretty rare to be able to skin from the car park at this time of year.
Arrived at the Rifugio Emanuelle Vittorio II a couple of hours later, headtorches for the last 20 minutes. Perfect timing. We missed the rain, the slush at the bottom was firmer, and we were in time for dinner! 3 courses, and a large bottle of Moretti beer. It was quite busy in there, 16 people going for the summit the next day. There was an lovely, excitable Austrian (?) girl there: "you have Sparks! so cooool!" She'd been up that day on a Prior split, and said it was impossible on a splitter, that the neve was really hard. Hmmm. She had a brilliant laugh on her and a twinkle in her eye, so we weren't sure if she was having us on!
5:45 start the next day
6 guys from Chamonix up front, keeping up a really decent pace, putting in a skintrack that was thigh deep in places. It was starting to look good!
A celebratory lunge for making it into the sunshine.
the nearly summit
The actual summit is the left hand peak of the two in the distance. The white thing on top is a statue of the Madonna.
Some people headed for the summit, but we decided we'd rather have fresher tracks and less soupy slush at the bottom than spend an hour or more swimming through waist deep powder up an exposed ridge, just for the sake of it.
Thanks for sticking with me, here's your reward.
Phlump! Rob again.
Horrible back arm from yours truly, but I'm having fun!
a look back up at the main (funnest) pitch
celebratory beer back at the refuge
views from the terrace. I've posted this one big so you can ogle that steep face opposite. so much to do around this hut, and the other 2 hours skin away. I'd love to spend a week there.
riding back down to the car park was hilarious, in a not-hilarious-at-all kind of way. couple of over the handlebar cartwheels, the snow at the very bottom was knee-thigh deep soup, very sweaty work, then a push out at the bottom. Shorts, t shirt and flops were amazing back at the car.
Bob and his van
The avalanche debris from the previous day. While we were changing back at the van, we saw another avalanche at this same spot lasted about 2 minutes, it was like a waterfall, thousands of tonnes of snow, we thought we'd be stuck for sure. it didn't even reach the road! This one must have been huge!
previous avalanche, across the road, trees carried 50 yards over the river.
follow the scar down the bank on the right, to the busted wall, the trench across the road that you can't see in the photo, and the bent railing, to the truck sized boulder in the river bed...
Next objective, Monty B. Not from this side though, that's a bit too much like hard work!
safety/strategy meeting. 7 of us in at this point
We wanted to do the Trois Mont Blanc route, but the only tracks on the Tacul face were serac fall tracks. We would meet the next day go to the mid station on the Midi lift, skin to the Grand Mulets hut and follow the track some friends of friends had set a couple of days previously, following a ridge above the main Grands Mulets couloir.
The four of us who still fancied it the next day met at the lift at four, and with a look up the mountain, the weather forecast and advice from the ohm, we sacked it off and went climbing instead
Lots of tricky, balancy slab stuff, and lots of looking at the sky, wondering if we'd made the right decision! It looked a bit clearer, but I've never seen clouds so high moving so fast, or so many layers of cloud moving in such different directions. Pretty much every point of the compass. Nuts.
Next day was gusting 80kph+ up top, so tick in the box for a correct decision. Le Fayet crags, ended up playing silly games on a very easy slab. No hands, penalty points for dabs. Shoes quickdrawed together and flipflops on hands. One foot only - bloody hell that was hard!
Last full day, weather still bad up top, but fine in the valley. Back to Gaillands, led my first 6b+ (5.11a), though I suspect it was overgraded.
Brilliant trip highlights were GP, the snowhole and the 6b+, and, as always the people you meet. I hope to meet up again with Juha, Laurent and Sion before too long, preferably somewhere snowy, rocky or beery!
Walking to the station for the first day back at work.
It's not Chamonix, but England's not such a bad place to live!
Post subject: Re: Rock and Pow in Chamonix and Italy, April 15th - 27th
Posted: Fri May 08, 2009 5:50 am
Joined: Sun May 13, 2007 7:13 am Posts: 29 Location: Chamonix
Nice trip report, too bad you didnt get up MB but one things for sure its not going anywhere and sometimes its nice to know you made the right call! too many people get into bother up there because they go even with a bad forecast.
I have only ever made it to the vallot with my solid board and turned back due to bad weather, still want to do it on my split and think the Grand Mullet is the way to go, Its made for touring. I went up the 3 mont blanc last your (on foot) and didnt see too many areas where you could skin. I know there is a large section under the seracs that can be dodgy but recently there have been many more accidents on the Tacul than the grand mullet.
I saw that blue merc van kicking around Cham for a bit!
Post subject: Re: Rock and Pow in Chamonix and Italy, April 15th - 27th
Posted: Fri May 08, 2009 7:11 am
Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 6:09 pm Posts: 388 Location: Chamonix, France
The Grand Mulet is supposed to be relatively safe and easy except for the serac falls. The problem is that on the skin up you're under them for about 2 hours. From what I know the safest way to go is supposed to be to make sure you skin that bit up really early, so glacier movement is minimal.
I might be up for that one towards the end of May if anyone is interested.