Showing posts from August, 2014

Big Bruises on Aiguilles Rouges

So all had initially gone to plan... We had climbed the route called Manhattan (Kaboul) on Aiguilles Rouges, which was largely problem free, albeit with an awkward crux sequence. We had finished in good time so opted to continue up the 4c and 5b pitches to the summit of the Middle Bastion. This meant descending by foot rather than by abseil but we had plenty of time before the last cable car departed. We zigzagged down the scree slopes and circled beneath the cliffs towards our bags at the base of the route. And this is where it all went wrong...

Some photos from the climb first:

Loose rocks of all sizes littered the hillside. Anna's feet slipped and triggered a couple of large boulders in her vicinity to roll in her direction. Both rolled over her ankles and feet despite her best efforts to scamper out of the way. My first impression was that she had largely avoided contact but then it became immediately clear that all was not well as Anna couldn't really stand. Her left leg …

The Midi-Plan Traverse (AD)

I will admit that maybe I am not the best person to plan a 'gentle' day...

We had climbed the two previous days with no prior acclimatisation and Anna was feeling a little exhausted. The Midi-Plan Traverse sounded a steady day in principle, given that there would be little height gain or loss once we had climbed from the Cosmiques hut to the ridge descending from the Midi Station. Technical difficulties we anticipated would be low, plus I had traversed the first part of the ridge a couple of times before so had some beta to back this up. The routes was graded III for seriousness in the Damilano guide, indicating "a long route with a difficult descent. Maybe some objective dangers" but this I attributed to the length of the ridge, with limited options for making a quick escape in poor weather. The forecast looked no cause for concern though with only cloud expected in the afternoon. By this time I anticipated we largely have completed the route. We also planned to des…

Contamine-Mazeaud (AD+, 350m), Mont Blanc du Tacul

Contamine-Mazeaud was in really good condition. The extended period of poor weather through the majority of summer had brought a lot of snow to the high peaks but fortunately things had settled down prior to our trip. Now there there was an unusually large amount of snow for late August but an abundance of beautiful firm neve in wait. What's more the temperatures were holding well below freezing for the next few days. It meant harsh conditions for high rock routes but excellent conditions on moderately steep snow slopes.

We initially moved together with 60m of rope trailing between us. Anna at the front crossed the bergschrund with ease and then continued without runners for maybe another 60 metres before the fear-o-metre tripped into the red. Herewith the snow was becoming more icy but inadequately so for ice screws so we descended down and left to some in-situ belay nearby tat.

With one of us now secured to the mountain I took the lead with an assortment metal-wear clipped to m…

Walk on the Wild Side (n6-), Skurvefjell

The guidebook described the Eastern part of Skurvefjell as 'løs' (loose) with 'dårlig sikkerhet' (poor protection). Still, this didn't seem to perturb us. Particularly given that our chosen route merited four stars in the local guidebook. It was presumably loose and a little bit dangerous in a 'fun' sort of way, like Wrecker's Slab for example... At nearly 300m height, the cliff certainly looked impressive and too good to resist.

The first pitch gave an indication of what might follow. Compact rock with little in the way of natural protection. My first runner was maybe 12m above the ground. Where cracks existed they were nearly always associated with unstable rock. Already the climbing was feeling serious but after a couple more runners in succession I begun to feel happier. The first pitch weaved up and right and then back left so naturally I reduced the left rope runners as I approached the switchback. The first real alarm bell rang when I spotted a 3…