Saturday, 27 September 2008

Bugeleisen 5th & 6th August

The Bugeleisen, or Flat Iron as it is known, is a classic route in the Bregaglia area so we had to go and climb it! It gets the name Flat Iron from its distinctive shape.
Laura and Robin decided to walk up to the Sciora Hut with us to spend the night before they walked over the high pass to the Sasc Fura Hut and back down to the valley. We spent the evening watching the views of the sunset over the peaks, chatting and just generally enjoying the whole atmosphere of the place and great views of the north face of Piz Badile and the Cassin Route.
We set off early and there were only a couple of parties ahead of us so all was good. The route is pitch after pitch of lovely slab climbing with nothing harder than 5a+. The bolts were all where they should be too so in some places perhaps they would have felt a bit spaced if the holds had not been so positive. I remember leading a lovely 5a pitch near the top which wasn't slabs but a little kind of overhang .
The climb was just so enjoyable and the many abseils needed to get down went well for us although we could see that there were many places where ropes could get stuck. We shared the climb and the descent with two guys from Germany who had been camped alongside us in Vicosporano and it made for a very chatty kind of route.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Via Miki, Bio Pillar 3rd August

Back up in the cable car and this time all went well and we trotted along the path past the Albigna Hut and on to the Bio Pillar and Via Miki, out route of choice for yesterday.
The first pitch was meant to be 4c so I thought great, my pitch, should be straightforward only it wasn't and I felt a bit defeated by it. It was only later that we found a description of the route in an Italian guide book that gave the pitch a 5c grade so I didn't feel quite so bad!
The second pitch was interesting - a short layback crack which was quite strenuous but easily protected. The bolts on the route were few and far between and trad gear definitely made the climbing feel a lot better. It was quite strange in that the harder pitches were more straightforward than the easier graded pitches. All the same, it was a great route though we both came to the conclusion that the route alongside, Via Classica that we climbed last year, was of better quality.

Dente par Dente, Spazzacaldeira 2nd August

Back up in the Albigna cable car and this time we were headed for Via Miki on the Bio Pillar which is about an hour's walk from the dam. We were sitting in the cable car only it wasn't going anywhere as somebody getting out at the top had left the door open so the cable car at the top wasn't going anywhere! Eventually, the electricity company officials who run the cable car decided that they would try to bring down the car despite it's open door. As it came down, we went up but oh, so slowly! We could only guess that because it was quite a breezy day, the open door was causing the other cable car to swing so every few minutes our cable car ground to a halt and we sat their swinging gently in the breeze.
After more than an hour, we reached the upper cable car stop at the dam but it was too late for us to head off for the Bio Pillar. That needed a full day.
So we thought about an alternative and set off to the Spazzacaldeira crag, which is only two minutes walk from the cable car and Dente par Dente. The route is eight pitches long but with an option to aseil off after the fourth pitch so this suited our rather shortened day quite well.
The photos show the first, second and third pitch and a view across to the route Via Felici which looked awesomely steep and one route would we have to go back for. The climbing was tricky up slabs and the steep walls and sometimes the bolts didn't follow the more obvious holds. Afterwards, we found that different guide books showed varying lines for some of the lower pitches.
(Route info - 6a, 5c+obl, 200m, abseil descent from top of pitch 4, abseil & down climb from top of route)
(Guide book - Schweiz Plaisir Sud, Swiss Rock:Granite Bregaglia)

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Piccolo, Piz dal Pal Tower 31st July

Piccolo, a lovely climb on Piz dal Pal, is just a short walk from the Albinga Hut. Laura and Robin and Ron and I chose to go up on an early cable car (cost SFR18 for a return trip) and were first to the route. There are a couple of choices of route for the first pitch which is the hardest. After the first pitch, the climbing is good on knobbly slabs. The top pitch is a wee bit tricky too.
(Route info - 5c+, approx 5 pitches)
(Guide book Schwiez Plaisir Sud, Swiss Rock Granite Bregaglia)

Albigna Slabs 30th July

We met up with our Dutch friends, Laura and Robin at Vicosoprano and went climbing with them at the slabs below the Albigna Hut. These slabs are so easily accessible from the cable car as to provide a pleasant cragging day.
The photos show Robin and I climbing the lovely slabs on Wassersimomfonie (5b).

Chamonix to Vicosprano 27th July

After doing a huge shopping at Les Houches (big thanks to Elaine for use of her car !) we packed up the van and drove by way of the Mont Blanc tunnel to Switzerland, Bregaglia and the Vicosoprano campsite.
The following day was torrential rain but it was an opportunity for us to learn some German weather words for storm, rain and cloud!
Gianna, who manages the campsite, is so helpful though I think she was baffled by what languages Ron spoke as she would try German, Italian and French but he always managed to come back with a loaf of white bread or the tokens for the showers so he must have been getting it right in one language or the other! Me, I could only manage to communicate in French so he was doing better than me! Bhah!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Tour Ronde North Face attempt 24th/25th July

Whilst Stephen and Julie were away, we spent some time exploring the approaches to routes on the Chamonix Aiguilles then decided to try for the North Face of the Tour Ronde. This route is a classic but not often in condition these days.
So bags packed and a bivvi night up high before setting off across the Vallee Blanche in the early hours of the morning towards our route. Unfortunately, other parties setting off from the Torino Hut had the same objective in mind and they got onto the route before us. The stonefall coming down from the two people above us made us turn back. We had chatted to a guy on the campsite about his trip there and he had been hit by a rather large chunk of ice which hit him in the face. He completed the pitch he was leading and went on to complete the route but suffered a badly broken nose. When some little pebbles hit me and some larger stones began falling around us from above with no warning shouts, we decided it was a route to go back for at another time. As the climbers above were directly above, any pieces of ice and rock were a real danger and not something we were willing to risk at this stage in our trip. It's a route, hopefully, we can go back to.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

A Marmotte day 15th July

We have a brilliant video clip of a marmotte just mosying about.

Chamonix 11th to 18th July

Stephen joined us for the first week of his Mont Blanc holiday. The first week saw us doing lots of walking along the higher paths around the valley in mixed weather. The aim was to check Stephen's fitness - he was fitter than us so no problem there - and to get a bit of aclimatistaion. For the second week, Julie joined the course and Jonathon Preston, their guide for this high altitude stage of the course, took them to Pointe Isabella, Pointe Lachenal and the Vallee Blanche and then onto successful ascent of Mont Blanc. We were so happy with their achievement.
Stephen's blog tells the story of those two weeks far better than I can so have a look here Also Stephen's ascent of Mont Blanc was to raise funds for charity. Julie's ascent was so brilliant too as she had attempted to climb Mont Blanc four years ago and had been frustrated by the poor commitment of their guide.
So congratulations to them both as they both put in so much effort and achieved so much.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Ailefroide to La Grave to Chamonix 11th July

Every year in January we go to La Grave for ice climbing and skiing so for the journey back to Chamonix, we chose to drive through La Grave to see how different it is without the snow and ice.
Also, the journey that we had taken from Chamonix to Ailefroide took us through the Frejus Tunnel which was interesting but expensive for a motorhome.There were also more tolls road tolls travelling by way of the Frejus Tunnel than driving round to La Grave then onto Grenoble and up the motorway towards Geneva.
It was quite strange looking at all the waterfalls as waterfalls rather than icefalls and we were quite amazed to see the classic ice route, Le Pylon, was just a brown, slimy looking cliff! The photos show a view of La Meije and Caturgeas, one of the classic ice routes of the valley. I'll find some winter pictures of the same view and add them on too later.

Sueur de Boucs 10th July

After our trip to the Dome des Ecrins, a rest day quite appealed but this was to be our last day in Ailefroide and it was too good a day to sit around so we went to climb Sueur de Boucs. If my translation of the name of this route is correct then it appears to be called "sweat of goats" which didn't sound too inspiring but what's in a name?
Two quite steep pitches then a little easy traverse to a slabby pitch then some strenuous moves onto an airy arete all on good rock.
(Route info - 5c+, 350m, 9 pitches, 7 abseils in descent)
(Guide book - Escalades autour d'Ailefroide)

Monday, 15 September 2008

Dome des Ecrins 8th and 9th July

We set off from the car park at Pre de Madame Carle which is at the top of the valley and the end of the road. Bags all pacled this time for a mountaineering trip up to the Barre des Ecrins.
The approach to the Glacier Blanc Hut was busy with tourists as it is a popular day out and the views across the glacier are well worth the walk. Beyond the hut, the path climbs steeply up slabs then drops down onto the glacier and onwards to the Ecrins Hut which is perched on a rocky point above the glacier.
The hut was full but it was a friendly place, the food was good and I actually managed to get quite a good night's sleep. By 4am we were down on the glacier and beginning the crossing of the glacier towards the steeper slopes leading up to the peak. We zigged and we zagged following a good trail which wound underneath some rather alarming looking seracs which had shed quite a bit of debris over the very route that the path crossed! The snow had frozen overnight but higher up, we found large areas of windslab and quite a bit of powder snow was blowing about in the wind.
The wind was stronger than we expected and the Barre was plastered in snow so when we reached the Breche Lory, the notch between the narrow rocky ridge leading to the highest point of the mountain, theBarre and the Dome, the more rounded and slightly lower peak, we chose to go the Dome at 4,015m.

Chaud Biz 5th July

Another climbing day, this time on the Drayes side of the valley which is one of the original, bolted areas. We climbed Chaud Biz and were met at the top of the route by Martin for whom we have to thank for the photos.
(Route info - 5c, 180m, walk off)
(Guide book - Escalades autour d'Ailefroide)

Lttle Palavar 4th July

After a day of very heavy rain and impressive thunderstorms, the sun came back out and we went to climb Little Palavar, a lovely route with slabs, aretes and yet another long abseil descent.
(Route info - 5c, 300m, 8 pitches, 3 abseils in descent)
(Guide book - Escalades autour d'Ailefroide)

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Snoopy 1st July

Snoopy - one of the classic routes on the Sous La Fissure crag. there are two routes, Snoopy and Snoopy direct which can be a little bit confusing and we ended up doing some of the direct pitches by mistake! I climbed a 5c pitch thinking it was meant to be 4b! The route is a bit vegetated lower down but the rock improves with height and Ron climbed the difficult slab with ease. I was glad of the rope above me!
Again, it was a fun abseil descent although it is possible to walk off too.
(Route info - 6b+max, 5c obl, 280m 11 pitches, walk off or 6 abseils in descent)
(Guide book - Escalades autour d'Ailefroide and Scweiz Plaisir Sud)

Lazy days cragging at Les Etoiles & Les Petites Dalles

The amazing thing about Ailefroide is that the climbs are just minutes away from the campsite. Palavar Les Flots was just a twenty minute walk and we could hear shouts from climbers on the routes on La Fissure as we sat outside the van. One night, after ten o'clock, we sat and watched the headtorches of some climbers who were finishing off one of the classic routes. It can't have been much fun doing all the abseils in the dark.
For rest days, we found lots of crags nearby but we made the mistake of going to Les Etoiles area at midday. The rock melted our fingers on Mars (5b) and Saturne (4b) as we sweated our way up before deciding that it would be a better place to go for some evening cragging.
Les Petites Dalles was a good area for a hot day as it gained some shade from the trees and the slabs were smooth, thought-provoking and fun!
(Guide book for both areas - Escalades autour d'Ailefroide)

Palavar les Flots 27th June

Back home in Aviemore and wondering where to begin with telling the tale of all the climbs I have done and everywhere I have been over the summer.
We started off with a few days in Chamonix before driving over to Ailefroide, a new area for me and what fantastic climbing there is!
We started off with a bit of cragging below the Fissure de Ailefroide then went on to Palaver Les Flots which is where the pictures above are from. 400m of lovely, slabby climbing on good rock. The six abseils to get back down were quite fun too!
(Route info - 5b, 400m, 12 pitches, 6 abseils in descent)
(Guide book - Escalades autour d'Ailefroide and Schweiz Plaisir Sud)