Saturday, 28 January 2012

Nottingham Uni MPS out on Cairngorm

Sunshine, blue skies and sundogs on Cairngorm for the Nottingham University Munro Pineapple group today. Look at the wikipedia link here for an explanation of what sundogs are. Certainly they are something that I have never seen before and thanks to Reuben for pointing them out to us.
The weather was perfect as Claire, Rosie, Ellen, Reuben, Sinead and I  walked up Coire Chais ridge and up to the summit. The emphasis was on the differences between summer and winter navigation today but with the visibility so good, a lot of imagination had to be used! We had a brief look at the snowholes in Ciste Mhiread, jumped on some snow drifts and abseiled over cornices.

As an extra note, there are quite a few decent sized snowholes in Ciste Mhiread but one or two have rather large, unpleasant amounts of yellow snow in them. Surely people can walk away from the snowhole area? Beware of where you dig.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Nottingham University MPS winter skills

I was out today with the Talisman Activities Nottingham University Munro Pineapple Society winter skills group - Ellen, Claire, Sinead, Rosie and Reuben.
We walked into Coire an t-Sneachda where we got some views into the corrie before the low cloud hid everything away. There was some good snow to use for practising step kicking and cutting before we walked over to the moraine ridge. I was surprised that there wasn't more snow but the snow that was that gave us a lot to look at and talk about with all the different layers that we could see. We found a good spot to try out the crampons then walked back to Coire Cas for some ice axe braking. The fresh snow meant it wasn't really that slippy until the folk sliding got a bit of help from Reuben as he towed them down the slope.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Back to Aviemore

A lot of snow fell overnight in La Grave so we had to dig out the car this morning before we could drive to Grenoble airport for the flight back to Edinburgh.
So back home now and looking forward to finding out what's happening here!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Les Deux Alpes

We all enjoyed a relaxing day skiing on the Vallee Blanche side of Les Deux Alpes and the weather was much better than we expected with some sun and only a light breeze.
Snow forecast for here for Friday so packing and clearing up the apartment then back home on Saturday.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Super Misere, Alpe d'Huez

Back to Alpe d'Huez  for our last climb of the trip to climb Super Misere which looked like a Scottish icy gully on Ben Nevis!
The first pitch had some steep icy bulges and the ice was rock solid as it wasn't in the sun. The second pitch looked less steep but with some thin ice in places, a couple of the ice screws actually bottomed out on the rock. It was steeper than it looked and even where it looked like the angle eased, it was still steep! Finally into the sun at the top of the second pitch with the ice becoming a bit more amenable.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Supercramp, Alpe d'Huez

Alpe d'Huez with its sunshine was just too appealing compared to the bitter cold of the La Grave valley!
This time we climbed Supercramp taking the ramp that forms the start of Supercramp direct but continuing on and across to the belay at the top of Supercramp's first pitch. The ice above was steep especially the last few metres but the sun had softened the ice making it easy to whack in the axes and the crampon points just stuck in the ice.

The water was dripping off the icicles above as I climbed the first pitch but I soon dried out in the sun on the belay. On the top pitch it was a bit wet just below the final steep section where bridging out to the left seemed the best way to get over the bulge and the icicles to bridge against were surprisingly solid. They didn't look it!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Symphone d'Automne, Alpe d'Huez

Another day at Alpe d'Huez this time to climb Symphonie d'Automne.
The ice on the first pitch was much harder and more brittle than we expected. The route gets the sun late in the day which meant that as it softens, the water runs down and fills in all the axe and crampon placements from the day before making the climbing hard work first thing in the morning.
We climbed up the first long pitch then on towards the curtain of icicles that form over the route before abseiling back down for a picnic in the sun.
There was a group of climbers on Ice Bille but other than them, we saw no others and we were surprised by how quiet the climbs were.
Ian enjoyed the skiing though some of the runs higher up were shut due to high winds at altitude.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Stalactus, Alpe d'Huez

The overnight temperature at La Grave has been around -12c and the ice is hard and brittle. The high pressure that has settled over the Alps has given milder temperatures higher up so we decided to go to Alpe d'Huez to get the benefit of this. The ice routes are accessed by a half hour walk along a pisted trail from the first level of the lift that ultimately ends up at Pic Blanc.

As it was the weekend we expected the routes to be busy however there was one large guided group on Ice Bille, some more folk on Symphonie d'Automne and Supercramp so we picked out an icy line to the right of Ice Bille, had a quick look at the guide book at the wrong description and set off thinking we were on something totally different. We were actually on Stalactus (II, 4) which had a steep ice wall for the first pitch then an icy groove with a steep bulge at the top for the second pitch. Lovely climbing!
The route came into the sun quite quickly softening the ice and making us over heat in all our warm clothes!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Le Pylone

Ron and I went to try out our new ice axes on Le Pylone and for me, to try climbing steep ice without leashes. The ice was hard and fragile in places and the axes took a bit of getting used to but with nobody above us, we could enjoy the climbing.

Le Pylone is probably the most popular route and one of the most accessible. Last Sunday we counted at least nineteen climbers at or on the route so a place best avoided at weekends.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

La Meije

We didn't have to go far to find fantastic skiing on La Meije, just two minutes from our apartment. We skied one run from 3200m down and across to the second lift station at 2400m to pick up the gondola back to the the top. Another run took us down the Vallons de la Meije and through the forest to the lower lift station at 1800m then back up again for a final run all the way down to La Grave.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Alpe d'Huez

Another lovely day so we drove to Alpe d'Huez for some more skiing. We went straight up to Pic Blanc at 3330m to enjoy the long run down the Glacier de Sarenne and then down into the Gorge de Sarenne. There was a new lift on the Auris en Oisans side so we had to go up that to explore an area that was new to us. The snow cover was great everywhere that we skied!
On our drive down the La Grave valley, we stopped to have a little look at Caturgeas which had a huge amount of old avalanche debris at it's foot!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Les Deux Alpes

We drove down the valley for a fun day skiing in the sun at Les Deux Alpes on the Vallee Blanche side. This got our ski legs working again!
The weather was perfect where we were but the glacier skiing was closed due to high winds at altitude.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

La Grave - climbing and skiing trip

Ron, Ian and I arrived in La Grave to find perfect weather - blue skies and sunshine and cold with the added bonus of a recent heavy fall of snow. A quick look up and down the valley showed that the ice routes were quite thin but rapidly growing in the cold temperatures. The skiing looked fantastic!

Friday, 6 January 2012

A windy day on Cairngorm

Day five of the Talisman Mountaineering course and another windy one!
We walked and navigated our up the Fiacaill a' Choire Chais to Point 1141 with the wind blasting across the ridge and with visibility that was just too good! From there, we walked up to the summit of Cairngorm then across to Ciste Mhiread for a sheltered lunch break.

A few skiers and snowboarders were doing some exciting looking jumps off the snow ramps they had built. We climbed up and down the steep snow slopes then dug some shelters and cut lots of snow blocks before turning back in to the wind and heading back down. By this time, the temperature must have gone up as the ice that was on the plateau was turning a bit slushy and the rime ice was blowing off the fences.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Talisman winter mountaineering course - day one

The Talisman New Year winter mountaineering course began today with Charlie, Antonia, Eugene and Johanne enjoying the wintry weather on Cairngorm. We were nicely sheltered from the strong south westerly winds in Coire na Ciste which had some great old snow patches which were ideal for practising step kicking, step cutting and ice axe braking. Also lots of chat about the different types of crampons and axes and winter kit in general.

The snow showers continued off and on all day and the roads on the drive back into Aviemore were slushy and slippery!