Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mischabel Hut and the Ulrichshorn..

Despite the fact that it's late August it's been a busy week in the Alps in general and particularly over in Saas Grund.

I was working for British Guide Kevin O'Neale (Mountain Vision) with a group from John Lyons School, Harrow.

With other British Guides Phill Thomas and Johny Baird we headed up towards the Weissmies and the Triftgletscher for an "ecole de glace". The following day we made the exciting ascent to the Mischabel Hutte at 3340m, a steep and interesting ascent equipped with sections of ladder and cable.

From here we hoped to ascend the Ulrichshorn 3925m, but a combination of altitude and high winds resulted in all three teams retreating. Other parties turned around from the Nadelhorn 4327m and the Lenzspitze 4294m (the north face of which looks in good condition).

The medium range forecast suggests that colder conditions will dominate in Europe with northerly winds, perhaps making for ideal classic north face ticking conditions...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gastlosen and Miroir d'Argentine..

With snow to lower levels it was time to head to some lower level rock, this time in Switzerland. Mark Walker, Alison Culshaw and I decided to firstly do the highly rated limestone traverse of Gastlosen.

This traverse of the Eggturm (1934m) and Glattewandspitze (1995m) done South to North makes an excellent outing at AD+ (4c obl.) Mark and Alison are pictured just short of the Glattewandspitze, the ridge stretching out behind.

Following this we drove around to Villars to traverse the Miroir d'Argentine from the small hamlet of Solalex. This 2Km limestone ridge of AD/AD+ again gives a great outing but feels long. As advised by British Guide Bruce Goodlad we decided to "keep our foot down" and made the round trip in just over 8 hours, with 4.5 hours on the ridge..


Unsettled weather in the Alps..

Apologies for the lack of updates. Last week has been fairly unsettled in the western Alps, resulting in a bit of ducking and diving to get the best conditions.

Early in the week a significant snowfall ensured that even rock routes at a lower level were out of condition. At higher altitudes this made things hard going and it wasn't until Thursday that parties made it to the summit of Mont Blanc.

Ian Hey and I took the opportunity to do the valley rock climbing classic 'Autoroute Blanche' TD+ 6a,6a+,6b+,6c,5c,6a near Le Chatelard. Ian is pictured making use of the only positive hold between more middle grade slab padding..


Friday, August 13, 2010

Bernese Oberland..

After a brief visit to the UK it was back to the Bernese Oberland on Sunday to start a week of work for for Alan Kimber (Westcoast Mountain Guides), Mark Seaton and Jonathan Preston.

Together we spent the week traversing the Bernese Oberland climbing the Grunhornli (3595m) and the remote Finsteraarhorn (4273.9m), again experiencing some challenging weather.

Again starting in Grindelwald under the shadow of the North Face of the Eiger, we got the train to Jungfraujoch and descended to the well positioned Konkordia Hut. This glacier was in much better condition than my previous visit due to the fresh snowfall in the intervening week.

Following this an ascent of the 'Grunhornli' put us in a good position to climb the 'Finsteraarhorn'. As the highest summit in the Oberland it's a popular objective but not easy, being surrounded by a lengthy glacial approach on all sides. We made relatively quick work of the North West Ridge in cold and windy conditions before tucking into the famous "Finsteraarhorn Rosti" back at the hut. Ant and Dec are pictured just below the summit above.

With bad weather forecast we decided to escape to Oberaar near the Grimsel Pass. This was a rewarding experience in itself with 14km of glacier, heavy rain, slightly strange hut guardians, erroneous phone numbers, grim taxi's and a massive landslide. But that's another story....