Sunday, July 31, 2011

Triangle du Tacul..

Today was the final day of seven day's of guiding with Lewis, Jane and Al Powell (for Alpine Guides).

Keen to squeeze another route in we opted for an early "bin" taking the lift to the Aiguille du Midi.  The day previously we had noticed that conditions were good on the Triangle du Tacul so decided to head there, with the Contamine-Grisolle (Left Edge) in mind.

Other parties were doing the same; the Contamine Mazeaud and the Chere Couloir also had multiple ascents.

We had a great time on the Contamine-Grisolle climbing a mixture of good snow, neve and ice in places.  Finally, we continued to the Col du Tacul before descending back to the lift...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rochefort Arete..

Jane, Lewis, Al Powell and I decided to head up to the Torino Hut yesterday to make the most of the good weather in Chamonix.

Leaving the hut early this morning we had the elegant curving snow arete of the Rochefort Ridge largely to ourselves.  This famous knife-edge allows the ascent of the Aiguille de Rochefort at 4001m, for those with a steady nerve and good crampon technique.

We retraced our steps back to the Pt Helbronner while another party started putting a trench in towards the Canzio Bivouac Hut on the Col des Grandes Jorasses...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Monte Viso..

Lewis, Jane, Al Powell and I have just got back after exploiting another brief weather window in Italy.

Yesterday, we made the punishing drive down to Monte Viso 3841m in Italy (bordering the Queyras Parc du Regional).  For many people Monte Viso will need little introduction, being visible from most of the western alps.

We started from the small village of Castello climbing up the Vallone di Vollanta before reaching the small Forciolline Bivouac Hut (pictured).  From here we made an ascent by the voie normal - Monte Viso South Face, PD.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gran Paradiso, Petite Face Nord..

With unsettled weather here in the alps at the moment everybody has done a bit of head scratching as to where to go...

I have just started a week with Lewis and Jane along with Al Powell from Alpine Guides.  Keen for a bit of uphill product we headed to the Gran Paradiso 4061m making an ascent of the Petite Face Nord AD.  This is a shorter route to the left of the classic North Face, which combines some 45-55 degree neve/ice climbing with a fine snow crest to finish. (Al and Jane pictured on it's flanks above).

We made the summit in good time before descending the Chabod Route (NW Flank) back to the hut.  Now the head scratching resumes....!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Breithorn, Castor and Pollux..

I joined Scott, Dafydd and Kevin O'Neal (Mountain Vision) over in Saas Grund on Thursday.

The intention had been to make an ascent of the Hornli Ridge on the Matterhorn but unsettled weather and snow to low levels had dictated a change of plan.  We decided to head round to Zermatt and visit the Monte Rosa Group, accessing some great 4000m peaks from the Klein Matterhorn lift.

A mid morning lift took us to the top station from where a quick ascent of the Breithorn 4164m followed in poor visibility.  A quick descent to the Klein Matterhorn Hostel followed, a "new" hut adjacent to the restaurant in the lift station.

The following morning (Friday) was cold and crisp as we plugged a trail over towards Pollux 4092m, making an ascent of the SW Ridge (PD+ with the helpful addition of some fixed ropes - pictured).  Finally, with a bit of time in hand we made a quick ascent of the adjacent peak; Castor 4223m.

The area was a popular choice with British Mountain Guides in recent days, allowing us to exchange cherry hello's with Martin Moran, Julie-Ann Clyma, Andy Nelson, Pete Rowlands, Tania Noakes and Jonathan Preston!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

John Lyon School - Saas Grund...

I have just spent four days with The John Lyon School Mountaineering Club in Saas Grund.

I joined Kevin O'Neale (Mountain Vision), Julie-Ann Clyma and the JLS team while they practiced some essential skills prior to a planned trip to Greenland.

We spent a day doing Ecole de Glace (pictured) accessed from the Hohsaas lift - where any technique that involved brutal hacking seemed to be popular!  Following this we opted for an adventurous ascent of the Mittaghorn Via Ferratta before visiting the Britannia Hut in some foul weather.

Luckily, the weather improved dramatically the following day allowing an ascent of the Allalinhorn (4027m), the culmination of a few days hard training....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mont Blanc Attempt..

The last couple of days have seen fairly unsettled weather conditions with high winds at higher altitudes.

Unfortunately, this coincided with the Mountain Vision's team scheduled attempt on Mont Blanc via the 'Three Monts' route from the Cosmiques Hut.  Strong winds, poor visibility and light snow forced us to wait a little before bailing back to the Midi.  Prior to this a brief clear spell allowed us to do the first section of the Midi-Plan arete.

The weather looks a little unsettled for the coming days, fingers crossed for an improvement.  Meanwhile I am heading back to Saas Grund in Switzerland..

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Alpinism on the Allalinhorn (4027m),..

Over the last couple of days I have been based in Saas Grund working for Kevin O'Neale of Mountain Vision.

I joined Andy and Kit, along with a larger team led by kiwi guide Russell Braddock, for a couple of days prior to an attempt on Mont Blanc. With a good forecast we all went to the Britannia Hut above Saas Fee allowing an early start on the Allalinhorn's Hohlaubgrat the following day.

This popular routes gives a good combination of a gentle glacier approach, steep snow slopes and a narrow ridge before climbing a mixed rock step to the summit.  This combined with a quick descent to the Metro Alpin lift station makes for a popular excursion.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Driving, part of Mountaineering?..

When I started the British Mountain Guides scheme Martin Chester of Plas Y Brenin asked if I could guess "what his defining part of the scheme was?.."

I imagined this might be climbing some of the finest peaks in the alps with great clients, jumping the queue in telepherique stations, or maybe getting a very expensive little pin badge etc etc.

I was wrong, Martin was referring to "driving solo across the alps!".  Of course he was in part right, as any trip to a larger mountain range usually involves some sort of epic drive, the journey itself often being synonymous with mountaineering.

So as I drove from Sheffield to Chamonix I had plenty of time to think about past epic journeys: The Old Man of Hoy in a weekend from Sheffield (for Simon's stag do), climbing the Comici on Cima Grande di Lavaredo in a long weekend and numerous trips to Scotland with Andy Lole at the wheel.....

It's all part of the experience.