Dru, Mountaineering course, Chamonix ski guide, haute route, chamonix climbing, Chamonix freeride, Chamonix mountain guides, Swiss mountaineering

10 minutes of sunshine on the Dru

The couloir nord des Drus caught my eye on a walk in the Aiguilles Rouges this October, it looked to be in very good condition. We then had rainy weather for a while and the Montenvers train was closed. Recently Jon Bracey did the route and seemed to think it was in tip top condition. With the train running again, I managed to motivate aspi guide Guillaume Thebaudin into heading up there.

Always a cool feature the Dru..

At Montenvers station I bumped into the young Scot, Ally Swinton, who had just been on the Leseur route and confirmed general good conditions.

After sharing the bivy spot with some friendly guys from the mountain rescue, we headed up to the bergschrund, starting up the couloir at five o’clock. At eight o’clock Guillaume started his lead on the famous Nominée crack, with his combination of dry tooling, french free and aid.

Looking down the approach couloir, great conditions!

Guillaume on the Nominée crack

The next two pitches into the main gully were excellent, airy mixed pitches.

Traverse at the top of the second mixed pitch.

Ambiance guaranteed

In the S of the upper couloir

The team getting our 10 minutes of sunshine for the day at the breche

We arrived at the Breche des Drus at two forty five and then rappeled the couloir and the N couloir direct which is uuuh.. steep.. We were back at the bivy before dark for a relaxed dinner and good sleep.

High quality route, the mixed pitches are not to be underestimated. Take a No. 4 camalot or two..

Aiguille de Chardonnet, climb, alpine climbing, Alpine Energy Guiding, mountaineering & ski adventures, Andrew Lanham Mountain Guide, Chamonix, Aosta Valley, Swiss, lyngen alps

Autumn on the Chardonnet

With this calm autumn weather I thought I’d better get off the couch and climb some mountains. I chatted to my friend Guillaume who was keen to check out the Gabbarou route on the Chardonnet N face. The approach is long especially with the fresh snow we have at the moment but it’s always a fun face to climb and the summit is really beautiful so I signed on.

Autumn sunset from the Albert Premiere hut

After taking a good couple of hours to snowshoe across the glacier du Tour to the bottom of the face we decided to take the Escarra start to the route as that way we could quickly access our snowshoes on the descent and we could assess avalanche conditions on the descent route. With some deep snow, we arrived at the foot of the Escarra 4 hours after leaving the hut.

The route turned out the be good with nothing really difficult. Two and a half hours later we were on the top and three hours after that back at the hut enjoying the afternoon sunshine before heading down to Le Tour.

Guillaume walking up to the hut

The start of the Gabbarou gully

In Gabbarou gully

Guillaume on top

Grandes Jorasses north face, climb, alpine climbing, Alpine Energy Guiding, mountaineering & ski adventures, Andrew Lanham Mountain Guide, Chamonix, Aosta Valley, Swiss, lyngen alps

Winter Alpine Climbing 2011

Some mixed / ice alpine climbing in winter and autumn 2011 with my friends Tomas Muller and Olivier Ballari

Aiguille du Moine, climb, alpine climbing, Alpine Energy Guiding, mountaineering & ski adventures, Andrew Lanham Mountain Guide, Chamonix, Aosta Valley, Swiss, lyngen alps

A Cracking Summer

This summer I did quite a few high quality crack climbs. Here are some of  them:

With Jonno, I started the season with one of my favourite routes, 5 great pitches of very fun cracks on Brevent, I think it’s the fourth time I’ve done it, it’s so fun. Ignoring the official topo it’s a 6b bolted pitch to warm up on followed by a 6c+ and three 6c’s. These four pitches are the money.

The corner which is the 3rd and 4th pitches of Premier du Corvée

Next route was on one of the coolest features in the range, the Petit Clocher du Portalet.

Petit Clocher du Portalet

We weren’t feeling quite man enough to get on Etat du Choc which is supposed to be amazing. So chose a nice looking line up the middle of the east face, Esprit du Clocher. It started with a rude 6a+ pitch.

The 6a++ pitch to get off the deck

pitch 2

We stretched pitches 3, 4, 5  into two 6c ish pitches which were excellent cracks with a difficult move left followed by a pumpy traverse and full gas below on pitch 5.

pitch 3-4

Jonno in the pumpy traverse

L’Envers des Aiguilles was the next stop with New Zealand mountain man, Stefan Sporli for the routes: California Dream and Chloe. We found a few quality pitches in California Dream!

Nice corner hands to fingers on California Dream

I was really happy to get into the hills with my good friend Olivier again after he had taken a bad fall and broken his pelvis last year. A brave guy! Back climbing difficult trad routes not long after a drawn out recovery. We headed up to Les Flammes de Pierre, to do Le Feu de la Rampe. It was a descent route with an excellent crux pitch in the middle!

Chunks of ice that have fallen from the tongue of the glacier a long way up!

The face

The excellent pitch, a soft 7a, good times!

another view of same pitch

With Oliv, we then fell upon a gem of the range, in the Argentiere area on Le Minaret. The route’s called Versant Satanique.

pitch 2 is where the good stuff starts

parallel cracks run like train tracks up this face

getting amongst it behind the big characteristic flake

perfect 6c cracks above the flake

the start of the last pitch

top of the last pitch

We rapped the route and walked back to Argentiere which made it a long day with more than 2500m total down-hill walking for the day, ouuff! Maybe a good idea to sleep in the hut…

For gear we thought wires, double rack of camalots until no.3 and one no.4

A week or two later Oliv was sur-motivé and suggested we do Sale Athée on the Moine. I looked at the topo and laughed at him as it was rated 8a… He explained that was just the last pitch and non-obligatory. So with some hesitation I agreed and off we went. Leaving from the first train to Montenvers, we stashed sleeping bags at the station and did the three-hour approach to the base of the route.

Half way through pitch three was where it started looking like we were in for an excellent crack climb. It just got better from there on..

a bit of added drama for the camera here I think..

this pitch was a 40m hand crack, one of the best pitches I’ve ever climbed only tainted by the four bolts or so right next to the perfect crack for red and yellow camalots… oh well

not fingers and not hands…

the airy 7a traverse..

We had a great time and called it a day at the foot of the bolted 8a slab which takes you to the very top as it would just be twenty metres of A0 for us…

For gear we thought wires, double rack up to no.2 camalots and one no.3.