Alec and I have had a great week in the Alps. The weather has been really kind with bright sunshine most of the week, despite arriving in heavy rain with a gloomy forecast. Conditions were a little bit limiting as a long dry and hot summer has meant that the mountains have suffered from large amounts of rockfall, little snow and poor snow conditions.
We flew out Saturday and on Sunday we caught the Auiguille de Midi cable car and climbed the Cosmiques Arete. This is very popular normally with the guides but we had the route virtually to ourselves as the weather was still overcast and we were in cloud most of the time - quite Scottish! The route is graded AD and has 1 crux move that is given 4b on a granite slab. It had snowed overnight and frozen so we climbed the entire route in crampons, gloves and with a single axe. It was a great little route and we even topped out to applause from the Japanese tourists at the Midi cable car station which is always nice!
On Monday we decided to head back up on the Midi and we headed towards the Auiguille de plan on the Midi-Plan traverse. It was bitterly cold with a strong wind reminding us we were at altitude, if the throbbing head and lack of breath had not already! Snow conditions were not great with mixtures of fresh windslab and some very icy sections.
On Tuesday we headed back up the Midi and climbed the Chere Couloir on the North Face of Mont Blanc du Tacul. The route provides 6 pitches of sustained ice, followed by several easier pitches of mixed climbing and is graded II/4 which equates to Scottish grade 5 but it was in good condition and so was very enjoyable. We shared the leads and then abseiled off rather than walk down the ordinary route under some big seracs.
On Wednesday we walked upto the Albert Premiere Hut above Le Tour and bivvied out above the Glacier du Tour. Our aim had been to climb the Auiguille de Chardonnay via the Forbes Arete but the snow conditions and a closer inspection of the descent route put us off so on Thursday morning an Alpine start saw us heading up to the Col du Tour and climbing the Tete Blanche which involved some nice rock climbing on the sharp granite and an abseil descent.
Our final day of climbing saw us back on Mont Blanc du Tacul. We climbed the north Face again, this time by the Contamine route which gives 350 metres of climbing at about Scottish grade 3. It was a lovely route, even in the sunshine for a while at the start and it rounded the week off well. All in all a fantastic trip! The full photo collection will be on the gallery pages by the end of today.