Thursday, 31 October 2013

Mic et Maousse & La Somone.

Tom and I had big climbing plans today but work intervened and we ended up with only an afternoon available. We were both keen for covering a bit of ground rather than cragging and so decided to go for a scramble up Brevent - always a good option. The lift closes until winter on Monday so we were doubly keen to get some final sunny scrambling in before the snow arrives.

"Mic et Maousse", a fun scramble that starts near the Col du Brevent fit the bill and provided a great little route. There was plenty of snow still lying around but we were climbing in mountain boots and so barely noticed it. The route provides some short sections of climbing and then an enjoyable easy ridge with good rock and plenty of bolts along the way. With an hour still left before the final bin, we finished off with the last 2 pitches of the nearby route "La Somone".

All in all, an excellent use of an afternoon. You can't beat Cham for half day hits!

Awesome autumn view across to Mont Blanc.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Ueli Steck Interview on EpicTV

The autumn has truly arrived here in Cham and the Valley is looking stunning right now. I haven't managed to get into the mountains much but I've been trying to charge ("run" would be exaggerating) up to either the Plan de l'Aiguille or Planpraz 3 or 4 times a week in an attempt to build some fitness. I could wax lyrical about how amazing the trees and the newly snowy mountains look but I couldn't do it justice. All in all, this is a great time of year so if you get the chance to see the Valley when it's this colourful (and quiet!) make sure you get out here. 

Anyway, the reason I've not been getting out much is that I've been presenting the EpicTV Climbing Daily show and will be doing so for the foreseeable. The big news this week is that we've just been to Ueli Steck's house, where we checked out his gear store (more interesting than it sounds) and got some fascinating answers from him when we did an interview. 

You can see my report on Ueli's ascent here and check or the show's brand new Facebook page (here) to see the interview footage, which we'll be showing throughout next week.

Conditions are apparently picking up in the mountains now so I'm pretty psyched to get up and check it out for myself next week. Report to follow so stay tuned. 

The Prarion lake in all it's autumn glory.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

First ski of the winter - Midi & Helbronner

The last 3 days have seen snow falling all the way down to town and it's been a shock to the system clearing the car again every morning. That's one chore I never mind doing though as it usually means a good day is in store, and so it was this weekend. 

First up was the Midi yesterday with Tom, Matt, Joel and Ben. A lap off the Midi Arete was followed by a fit of keen-ness which saw us drop into the Petit Envers and ski the first few pitches before skinning out. As is often the case, trying to describe a ski day is pointless when you can just show the photos so here goes - 

Snow clearing at the Plan de l'Aiguille.

Looking down on a snowy Cham from the top of the Midi.

Snow clearing at the top station.

Current conditions. Think the rock climbing season might be over!

Tom Grant deep in it on the Midi Arete.

Joel Evans skiing the Petit Envers.

Me deep in it. Photo Joel Evans.

Loving it! Photo Joel Evans.

Matt just about staying afloat. Photo Joel Evans. 

Me and Matt after some quality mincing. Photo Joel Evans. 

One more "deep" shot. Photo Joel Evans. 

With all the fresh snow, trail breaking back up to the Midi was TOUGH. Worth it though.

Today I went through the Mont Blanc Tunnel with Matt and Emma in search of more powder. We found it but if anything there was too much. It all felt pretty poorly bonded too and we didn't manage to find anything which felt steep enough to turn but safe enough to be OK. Still, it was great to be out and we managed to find a hut to jump off into the powder so a good day was had despite not finding any good skiing. Musn't grumble really, it is October after all!

Matt doing some high altitude bouldering/clowning.

Me jumping off a hut near the Helbronner. The run up was about a foot long so it was more a controlled face plant than a jump. Photo Emma Jack. 

 The aftermath. Photo Emma Jack. 

Matt at the moment of impact, with Emma looking on amused. 

We ran into a couple of guides at the Helbronner lift and they were telling of people getting back to the Torino Hut well after dark last night and I can see why after having been up there. There is a HUGE amount of snow up high and walking to anything is just about impossible now. Get skiing!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Petits Charmoz

We've had some funny weather here in Cham for the last few days, with plenty of sun but also some ominous clouds appearing most days. It looks like things are going to get really nasty over the weekend so I was keen to get a good mountain day in before the rain arrived. Once again I was looking for something which would provide plenty of mountain mileage and some good climbing. The classic Petits Charmoz traverse ticked the bill perfectly and the fact that it had been my first ever alpine route made it even more appealing. Gary was keen too so the banter was sure to be good (and constant!)

First bin didn't quite happen (we can't be expected to climb without a coffee in town first) but we were at the Plan de L'Aiguille just after 9 and got stuck into the walk. Although not a massive distance, the walk is pretty hard going. You cross 2 pretty major moraines and go up and down a fair amount so it eventually took us about 2 hours to reach the foot of the proper climbing. It would be possible to shave some time off that if you traversed high up under the Nantillons Glacier but the area is notorious for rockfall so we took a low line in and had to climb up a lot of unpleasant, loose glacial moraine as a result.

The Aiguille de l'M and Petits Charmoz from the walk in. The traverse goes from the col on the right to the col on the left.

Once on the route the climbing is fun and pretty straightforward. The initial chimneys provide a bit of a challenge but they're more physical and thrutchy than actually "hard" and then it's an easy scramble up to the Col de l'Etala, from where the views of the Drus are stunning.

Gary emerging from the Etala chimneys, relieved to have fit his shoulders through the final tight section!

Gary stuffing his face at the Col de l'Etala

From the Col you climb some more easy ground to reach the "Livre Ouvert" pitch which was actually pretty tricky and requires a tough rockover onto a small ledge. Luckily for us, Gary led it with a minimum of fuss but if 4c is near your limit you might be glad of rockboots. With the Livre pitch out of the way it is straightforward but exposed terrain all the way to the summit, which is brilliant and the views are awesome in every direction. 

Gary arriving on the summit, with the Grand Charmoz and the Nantillons Glacier behind.

The descent is a combination of short abseils and down scrambling and there are abseil anchors of various quality all over the place. Basically you need to get yourself into the couloir below the Col de la Buche and then scramble down the loose rock to the ladders which take you back to the Nantillons moraine.

Abbing off the summit. 

On the ladders

From there, it's simply a case of slogging back to the Plan de l'Aiguille, which only took about an hour. All in all, we did it in 7 hours bin to bin having not really rushed at all so the route is perfectly doable in a day if you're fit and keen. Great little route and a really good use of a single good weather day - get on it!

Beautiful view of the Blaitiere and Plan on the way back to the lift.