Showing posts from March, 2012

Le Fil à Plomb (TD- / III 4+, 700m)

The warning signs that we were going to hit Alpine rush hour were evident from the moment we stepped off the téléphérique at the Plan de l'Aiguille the afternoon prior. Every climber including ourselves was planning to climb Le Fil à Plomb on the Rognon du Plan next day. I had not even heard of the route until a few day ago when I had spotted it from the téléphérique during our descent from the Aiguille du Midi. With the Grands Montets station shut due to high winds this seemed to natural plan B. The winter room in the Refuge du Plan de l'Aiguille was over-subscribed with one group having to be turned away. Still, on the plus side we were one of about four groups, which on the grand scale of things was not cause for major concern, provided we didn't begin the route at the same time.

My 3am alarm appeared to serve as a cue for everybody to rise and soon there were a dozen or so climbers scurrying around the small confines of the winter room making final preparations. We we…

Spectacular Alpine Sunset over Mont Blanc

We hiked up to the Cosmiques hut for dinner tonight and were rewarded with these views.

Gabarrou-Albinoni (TD / III 4+, 500m)

We rose early, donned our snow shoes and descended towards the North-East face of Mont Blanc Du Tacul. We moved together over the lower half of Gabarrou-Albinoni and then swung leads on the steeper upper pitches. Conditions on the route were good. The ice was a little too thin in places for optimal screw protection but stepped-out and easy to climb. By the time we reached the penultimate pitch the route was becoming very busy as teams descending the route met other teams still on their way up. At one point there were two other teams sharing our hanging belay. I led off as one team pulled their abseil rope down, wrapping around my neck and leaving me with rope burn. With most of the teams still below us I found myself climbing like a hunted animal trying to keep ahead of the pack. I brought Mike up and then pushed on up the final pitch as quickly as I could. It's easy to see why this route is so popular though given the easy access, classic Alpine ice and easy descent. I've wan…

Contamine-Negri (AD+ / II 2, 350m)

Temperatures dropped to below -20°C during our first night's camping on the Col du Midi at 3500m. I slept with all my clothes on, which was far from comfortable. I woke in the night with a sore head, took some aspirin and tried to sleep again. Mike was as restless as me by the early hours with both of us feeling the altitude. By the morning everything had froze; water, sun cream, and even toothpaste. With high pressure was prevalent it was essential that we spent half an hour melting snow in order to thaw the sun cream before any climbing could commence. By now the sun had risen.

The Triangle du Tacul was the natural place for an acclimatisation climb due to its close proximity, relatively short routes, and easy abseil descent. Contamine-Negri, which skirted the left-hand edge of the triangle, sounded worthwhile and chartered territory unfamiliar to me. We had brought snow shoes but the snow was firm and our intended route only a short distance away.

The lower slopes of the triang…

Relax (IV/V), Saltdean

Trad chalk climbing is an odd style in so far as you need to clip in to your axes and hang on them in order to free up both hands to bang in a warthog with a lump hammer. Given that so few people chalk climb the ethics book hasn't been written yet. How often you stop to hang on your axes in order to place gear is entirely up to you. Therefore the style is similar to ice climbing with elements of aid. In the case of a route called Relax on the Western Cliffs at Saltdean I found myself hanging on my axes fairly regularly during the first pitch which was unrelentingly steep for the first half. My wrists burned with each successive swing of an axe as I steadily bridged up the beautiful corner. The chalk was top quality. Hard but very stable and a joy to climb. Every bit as good as the 'sport chalk' routes at the crag but of course without the bucket holds. The steepness eased as I approached the belay however the climbing was every bit as absorbing. I set my belay up on the kn…