Chamonix is famous for it’s long off-piste runs and ski touring off the lifts. Runs like the Vallée Blanche or the Breche Puiseux ski tour from the Aiguille du midi are world famous Chamonix ski touring outings. This year is a little different as it’s no longer possible to roll out of bed, stroll over to the Aiguille du Midi station and magically arrive at 3800 metres. Yes, the lifts are all closed and the mountains are again wild and inaccessible. This means no rushed powder frenzy, no queues, no lack of parking, no expensive lift pass and best of all no lack of fresh tracks! Of course this is not great for the local economy but it does show the Mont Blanc area in a new, more natural state which is quite cool.
Small mountains can be fun mountains!
The Aiguille du Midi would be around 3000 metres of height gain as a ski tour and Mont Blanc almost 4000 metres. This is not something you do often unless you’re an ultra marathon type. Luckily there are many lower mountains with great ski touring and with all the bad weather and wind in the early winter the conditions were perfect lower down. We were lucky to have consistent low temperatures with snow at low altitudes allowing us to ski the alpine foothills through fields and villages.
Ski areas can be perfect touring areas
Early season snowpacks are generally to be treated with some caution and the normally classic off-piste runs of Le Tour, Grands Montets, Brevent and Flegere are easier to manage from an avalanche perspective than some of the more remote areas. They remained pretty untracked powder fields if you were willing to skin for a few hours.
“Leave the roads; take the trails”
Would we do it all again?
I guess we’ll be happy when things go back to normal but for the moment we can enjoy nature in the quiet, wild mountains. Places where the Ibex, Chamois and other alpine animals are clearly much more active in open spaces and seem to enjoy the break from the human masses. It’s worth wondering if we’d build these lift systems if we were to start again, or if some areas should be left in their natural state. Couldn’t we all do ski touring and nordic skiing? It’s a great stress-free day and great for your health. Just saying….
https://alpineenergyguiding.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/DSC04818-copy.jpeg-copy.jpg5231000AndrewLanhamhttps://alpineenergyguiding.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cropped-AlpineEnergy-logo-1.pngAndrewLanham2021-02-05 11:26:252021-02-05 11:36:52Chamonix Ski Touring without lifts…
We want to get out here without endless Covid stresses…!
Some ways to plan when planning is not possible!
Like in the mountains, adaptation and flexibility are key! Keep fit, have your gear sorted, check which countries don’t have quarantine on arriving and or returning to your country. Have an open mind to new destinations. This year might be the time you inadvertently discover a hidden gem with amazing ski touring with no one around…
Ski Touring instead of lift accessed skiing may be the way to go this year. Don’t rely on infrastructure that could be closed by governments, aim for Ski Touring and Ice Climbing until things are more stable. Not only does ski touring lead you to fresh tracks and gets you fit, it also takes you to remote, beautiful places you would never experience otherwise.
More remote, less classic destinations could be a good option. The most strict Covid precautions are always imposed in the most populated places. Contact us about cool destinations off the beaten track where extreme restrictions haven’t been implemented and are unlikely to be implemented due to being more sparcely populated.
Variety is the spice of life, if you love the mountains, try something new: ice climbing in Scandinavia for example. The autumn and winter can have great conditions for rock climbing in southern europe. Right now we’re rock climbing in Greece which is perfect.
Many times I’ve left my home with my skis in hand, slightly worried and uninspired that I wouldn’t be able to offer the perfect ski day to my clients, only to be surprised by a great day when everything seemed against us. Other times, I’ve expected amazing conditions and been a bit disappointed, probably due to my high expectations not being met. The best experiences are never planned to be that way, they happen kind of spontaneously when we enjoy the journey and embrace the moment.
We can design flexible offers for ski touring, rock climbing or ice climbing. We’re ready to adapt to the situation, so won’t ask for any money upfront. Get in touch to make plans!
Alpine panoramas with clouds far below and an aesthetic route stretching out ahead of you with only wind and gravity holding you back. But how to find one’s self in the perfect adventure balancing risk and reward, challenge and preparation, ambition and experience…
What do I enjoy?
Be honest with yourself in planning your mountaineering objectives. So often I’ve seen and experienced rope teams with different visions of what is enjoyable. Do you climb for getting things done or to share time with a good friend? These are two important distinctions that can cause a lot of misunderstandings and conflict in rope teams. Some alpinists are very driven and result focused while others are totally happy just getting into the mountains, so long as a good time is had along the way.
Communicate with your partner or guide about your goals. Too often things are assumed and no one ends up happy. Implementing the idea of “win win or no deal” is a good policy here! If it’s going to end in tears don’t get involved regardless of how much you want to get out there.
The ascent of any route begins in dreams at least the autumn before…
Adaptation & Awareness
Are you able to be open to your environment and absorb the signals that the mountains and partners are sending you? It’s often not difficult to interpret problems like when you or your partner are not well, timings have been affected for whatever collection of possible reasons, for example: weather, conditions, warming, crowding or hundreds of other possible signs. What is difficult is being aware enough to observe the signs and communicate your possibly unpopular observations.
Noticing the signs and understanding that plans need to be adapted relate to not not being stressed out, over excited, overly focused, fiddling with gear, overly chilled out or overly attached to your objectives.
Try to be aware of your ability to adapt and build your human weaknesses into you plans. For example: you know you have a tendency to be over excited and focused when taking on alpine objectives. You’ve made your Mountaineering plans for the weekend, checked the weather, gained info on conditions and heard that there could be rockfall at a certain point if you arrive there too late in the day. Communicate a plan to your partner with very specific decision points where you absolutely must stop and discuss timing, whether to continue, do an alternative route, make a new decision point or turn around. Set an alarm on your phone as a reminder if you know you’ll forget.
Fitness in mountaineering is generally long endurance mixed with short bursts of high steps or climbing. Acclimatisation is just as important, if you’re fit, altitude will hit you just as hard as an unfit person. Leave enough time to acclimatise. Three or four nights above 2700m will generally acclimatise people enough for most alpine peaks. More is always better and the more you do the better you’ll feel. You can read more about training for mountaineering in the city here.
Rock Climbing is a great skill base for alpine climbing but there are problems with being a rock climber in an alpine environment; over confidence being the primary one. Alpine cliffs may not appear to be very difficult to the eyes of a good rock climber. The only issue is that they are often loose, unprotected and bigger than expected. On classic climbs, climbing straight over hard cliffs is generally an error in route finding and will cause you to loose time. Also an indoor or sport climbing style relies on the holds not breaking off, when mountaineering, falling off may be catastrophic so trusting holds too much must be avoided.
Hiking & Skiing
Hiking and Skiing is also a great base for Mountaineering as you’ll have a good idea of how to keep going all day, look after yourself in tough environments and navigate in the mountains. The limitations would be the lack of technical ability in climbing, scrambling and route finding. I often find that people with a hiking background will carry too much stuff when they start Mountaineering. You need to strip your kit down to the minimum necessary items and they must all be as light as possible! No more enamel cups and thermometres hanging off you backpack!
Experience is the biggest factor in keeping you safe in the mountains. From understanding and being aware of dangers to looking after yourself and managing your energy to route finding to understanding weather and conditions; experience is everything. However experience can also trick one into a false sense of security. The brain can think that it’s seen something similar before and because nothing bad happened in previous experiences, the current experience must be safe… Unfortunately a single human’s experience cannot be great enough to have seen all possible dangers and compute them rationally. Therefore we need to also rely on the experiences of others and data that has been collected, this is especially true with avalanches.
So what to do when you lack experience? Start really small and learn all the basic skills of equipment management, rope skills, movement, fitness, mountain weather and conditions. Then take on easy routes, gain as much information as you can. Consult the local mountain guides and look up all the information you can find, just don’t take all sources as fact. As you get better and more confident you can take on bigger objectives.
Sure Thing or Adventure
A crowded classic like the famous Arete des Cosmiques can seem like a good place to start as it’s easy to find the way by following the polished, scratched rock. There are plenty of good topo’s and information but on a busy summer day you’ll have queues of disgruntled people climbing over and around you if you’re not quick. It can be pretty stressful when you’re already just trying to survive the route. Often the biggest danger on any mountain is the other people. Rockfall in the route is most often caused by other rope teams, getting stuck behind a slower team can expose you to storms and nightfall, the stress of others is sometimes very distracting and at worst a falling rope team can floss you off the mountain which does sometimes happen.
The obscure adventure can be a great time but with all the disadvantages that were advantages on the crowded classic. There may be little information, timings and dangers may be relatively unknown. Obscure adventures in the Alps often involve a big approach and often there is a reason routes are left to fall into obscurity. They must be approached with an open mind and multiple attempts may be needed to figure out what it’s all about and what tactics will be required.
Choosing your objectives in the mountains and with who you share your adventures is a personal choice and no one can really tell you how to do it. However, working full time as a guide in the Alps, every year I witness many rope teams split in their motivations and visions. Teams that take on routes they are not at all prepared for and really risk and sometimes lose their lives on what was supposed to be a fun experience is all too common. The mountains are as inspiring and beautiful as they are dangerous so choose your actions carefully, be humble and have fun!
https://alpineenergyguiding.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/IMG_0919.jpg600800AndrewLanhamhttps://alpineenergyguiding.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cropped-AlpineEnergy-logo-1.pngAndrewLanham2020-10-02 15:09:572020-10-02 15:17:07How to Choose a Mountaineering Objective
Checkout our edit of the Breithorn East Traverse from last week!
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Skiing normally brings up images of powder and snow covered alpine villages with mulled wine and after-ski bars. However, many of the highest peaks are best skied in the spring and these good spring conditions can persist well into July or later sometimes. Skiing down wide open, high alttitude glacier slopes with nobody around in corn snow is exactly what summer skiing is about. One of the best venues for summer skiing is the Monte Rosa area. From Gressoney/ Alagna you reach the Punta Indren lift, which drops you off on the snow at 3200 metres. From here, many snowy 4000 metre peaks are accessible without much technical difficulty and they are perfect for skiing.
With summer ski touring, an early start is essential as it does get warm in the afternoon, it is summer after all! In the photo above you can see a number of high peaks in the Monte Rosa, all ideal for ski descents. As a mountaineer who skis, you can knock off a few summits and enjoy making big carving turns down the empty glacier and be down in a fifth of the time it would take on foot!
Clicking into your skis on a high alpine summit is a cool feeling, knowing you will be down in no time and the best part of the day is still coming, unlike your normal mountaineering descent!
https://alpineenergyguiding.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Parrotspitze-Summit.jpg600800AndrewLanhamhttps://alpineenergyguiding.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cropped-AlpineEnergy-logo-1.pngAndrewLanham2020-07-29 23:18:522020-10-05 20:30:59Skiing 4000m Peaks in Summer
A day of climbing in Kalymnos starts with enjoying some breakfast looking out over the Aegean sea and the Island of Telendos. Then meet your climbing partners and walk up the slopes between the sparce semi-arid vegetation with the occasional goat on the path, normally keen on getting it’s nose into your lunch…
The choice of crag for the day is maybe the hardest part of climbing on Kalymnos. For slab climbing lovers, there’s Poets, Afternoon, Olympic Wall, Julian, Arhi or Ghost Kitchen. For sculpted vertical climbs there are endless amazing sectors like Arginonta, Summertime, Dolphin Bay or Symplegades to name just a few. For well equipped multi-pitching, School sector and Telendos have excellent routes like Wild Country 6a+ and Platon 5c. For those who’ve been training in the gym and enjoy overhanging stalactites and tufas, sectors like the famous Grande Grotto, Panorama, Sikati Cave or Jurassic Park are world class.
Choose your routes and climb until your arms are tired, belay your friends, chat, encourage the others at the crag, take photos or chill and take in the view until it’s time to go down to Massouri again.
Head down to town for dinner at one of the friendly Greek restaurants on the Massouri main street. Before heading for shower and bed before doing it all again the next day!
https://alpineenergyguiding.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/P1030854.jpg585780AndrewLanhamhttps://alpineenergyguiding.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cropped-AlpineEnergy-logo-1.pngAndrewLanham2020-07-10 15:05:032020-10-02 11:09:48A typical day of climbing in Kalymnos
https://alpineenergyguiding.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/fullsizeoutput_4ed-e1575554883702.jpeg15001000AndrewLanhamhttps://alpineenergyguiding.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cropped-AlpineEnergy-logo-1.pngAndrewLanham2018-02-03 13:32:252020-10-05 19:24:32How are conditions in the Alps? + Some ideas for the spring
Its been a summer with much precipitation but also many days alone on nice summits in short weather windows and good snow conditions with little rock-fall danger. Here are a few photos from the sometimes sunny and warm season.
The summer started for me with two trips up Mont Blanc, both of which were cold but with great snow conditions and summit success.
Sunset from the new Refuge du Gouter
Some are up early for the sunrise shot over the Mont Blanc range
In July and August I spent some time in the Swiss Valais, these shots are from the Dufourspitze, Nadelhorn, Mont Blanc de Cheillon, l’Eveque and the Wiessmies:
Climbing on the Rifflehorn, acclimatizing for the Dufourspitze seen in the background on the left with Liskamm to the right
Sunset with the Matterhorn and the flag of the Monte Rosa hut silhouetted
The last steps before the Dufour summit
The sun’s first rays on the faces of Lenzspitze and Nadelhorn
The Mischabel hut guardians enjoying a morning stroll on Ulrichshorn
Smiles and photos on the summit of Mont Blanc de Cheillon
Morning views on the traverse of the Weissmies
A party on the summit ridge of the Weissmies
Some good rock climbing on l’Eveque SW ridge
Climbing l’Eveque with the ridge of La Singla behind and Mont Blanc far away to the right
Some trips to the quieter areas of the Mont Blanc range, finished off the summer guiding for me. Here climbing on some of the granite in the Orny area.
Fun scrambling on the Aiguille d’Arpette
Laurie getting stuck into some perfect granite
Great climbing on sunny aspects of the Purtscheller.
Don’t forget your chimneying skills!
We then started on some mountain ice and mixed, in great condition after the snowy summer:
Abseiling down to climb up to the Aiguille du midi again…
The profit-perroux gully, high above the Chamonix valley
Laurie exiting the crux pitch
Enjoying the last pitches up the Arete des Cosmiques
Guillaume in a mixed route on the Tacul triange
Some traffic on the Schmid route on the Matterhorn.
The morning’s rays interrupted by the Hornli ridge
The view down the Hornli ridge with Zermatt below and the north face to the left
Thanks to everyone I climbed with for a good, safe season, hope to see you again next year!
With some fresh snow and end of season calmness in La Grave made for three great days of skiing. All runs in La Grave start with a long ride in the old Telecabine…
Views from the Cabin
The first day we enjoyed the accessible powder from the recent snowfall.
Couloirs des Trifides were fun on day 1
We finished the day with a run on the glacier, Couloir de Banane and Freaux
Pow on the glacier…
Checking our tracks
Sam getting some speed in the Couloir de Banane
Day 2 we skied the road run with everyone’s favorite abseil in the middle…
Skiing the glacier with some ambience
The team ready to ski again after abseiling
In the couloir, ready to ski!
Sometimes you don’t need to go so far to find some fresh turns!
Almost under the Cables…
On our last morning in La Grave was spent on another road run in the Chirouze area with great snow and good adventure!
Untracked glacier at 3500m
Jurgen tracing his line
More good turns lower down
With a short walk and some river crossing tyrolean action were at the car and heading to Le Castillan’s sunny terrace for lunch and beers!
River crossing to get to the beers!
Thanks to Gerd, Jurgen and Sammy for a fun few days!
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