Monday, May 06, 2013

Climbing in the Alps

Alec and I enjoyed a great weekend of climbing in the Alps this weekend, whilst the UK was enjoying the best sunshine of the year so far! We arrived to thunderstorms but the weather cleared on Friday night so on Saturday morning after a quick shop for food and gas we caught the Auguille de Midi Cable Car and jumped out at close to 3800m. With a slight shortness of breath we walked downhill in 20cm of fresh powder on snowshoes as the skiers whooped past us on the Valley Blanche. A local guide stopped us to ask what we were heading for and didn't seem impressed at my response that we were extreme snowshoers!

We made our way to the East Face of Pointe Lachenal and climbed the Pellissier Gully. This gave a great route, graded as TD or III, M5 with sections of snow, rock and ice. The ice itself was a little cruddy but a good winter in Scotland meant we were well prepared for that. The crux was a grade 5 mixed pitch that gave a couple of moves reminiscent of Arch Gully that I climbed this winter with Huw on Glyder Fach. They were fun and well protected if physical and slightly overhanging at altitude. We rapped the route and then headed for the winter hut at the Cosmiques. It was locked and we were too tight (and scared of the guardian because we hand't booked) to pay for the main Cosmiques hut so we bivvied under the stars. Sounds romantic but it was pretty chilly!

After shivering the night away we had to defrost in the sun before our bodies would operate in anything like a normal fashion. We headed round to the Three Points Pillar of Mont Blanc du Tacul and climbed the Albinoni-Gabarrou Couloir (TD). The route is 550m long and we soloed the first 250m which allowed us to catch and then overtake another party on the route. The upper pitches are given Scottish Grade 4 but the very top pitch was thin and felt harder as is often the case! As soon as the sun hit the upper face we were bombarded by ice and stonefall so I would recommend an early start.

The ice was in much better nick than we had found on the Pellissier although the snow was soft and cruddy for most of the route. It was a beautiful line in some fantastic surroundings and having completed the route the weather turned which made it easier to head home.

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