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End of season summits: Weissmies traverse, Mt. Blanc de Cheillon traverse, Gran Paradiso

With shadows lengthening and becoming more defined on the alpine landscape, fresh snow dusts the summits and the leaves change colour as the mornings come with a crisp freshness and the shy sun takes early refuge behind the horizon, leaving the natural world to dance on its last touches of warmth before the darkness lays down its cold, calm blanket.

The autumn can be one of the most pleasant times to climb in the Alps. With decent weather one can climb the classic summer routes and with the new snow and colder temperatures it is often an ideal time to climb some of the steeper ice gullies or north faces in the Mont Blanc range.

The end of the summer and early autumn have included the following ascents:

Weissmies traverse

This is an aesthetic and varied traverse of moderate difficulty on one of the 4000m summits surrounding the Saas valley.

sunrise above the Allmageller Hut, nearing the start of the climbing

sunrise above the Allmageller Hut, nearing the start of the climbing

the Mischabel chain across the valley just after sunrise

the Mischabel chain across the valley just after sunrise

The exceptionally snowy summer makes it possible for teams to gain more height on the snow than is possible in most years.

The exceptionally snowy summer makes it possible for teams to gain more height on the snow than is possible in most years.

The team putting on crampons on the subsiduary summit.

The team putting on crampons on the subsidiary summit.

the summit ridge

the summit ridge

the Weissmies summit

the Weissmies summit

 

Mt. Blanc de Cheillon is one of the less famous summits of the Valais mountain range due to the fact that it doesn’t quite reach 4000m but is a very worthwhile objective with an imposing pyramid form above its plunging north face, bordered by seracs on both ridge lines. The traverse is an excellent journey up the expansive glacier below the Serpentine and along the airy east ridge to the summit, the descent by the west ridge is easier than the ascent. It’s an AD rated climb taking between 6 and 8 hours from hut to hut.

sunrise from below the Serpentine with the Pigne d'Arolla in the foreground and the Matterhorn in the distance

sunrise from below the Serpentine with the Pigne d’Arolla in the foreground and the Matterhorn in the distance

Mont Blanc de Cheillon east ridge

Mont Blanc de Cheillon east ridge

 

Gran Paradiso is the highest summit entirely in Italy, not sharing its summit with France or Switzerland, more importantly it’s an ideal climb for beginner mountaineers, requiring more fitness than technique even though the scramble to the summit virgin Mary is exposed. The view is exceptional and the challenge not negligible.

an autumn afternoon approach to the Rifugio Chabod

an autumn afternoon approach to the Rifugio Chabod

taking in the first views of the objective

taking in the first views of the objective

view from the well equipped winter hut

view from the well equipped winter hut

everyone on top!

everyone on top!

 

 

 

Plenty of space to play in the Burnese Oberland

The climbing in the Burnese Oberland is slightly different to the other areas of the Alps. The summits are high, with steep limestone on their northern flank, to the south of the watershed its a maze of peaks divided by expansive glaciers really giving the feeling of being in a big, slightly wild place. It is a long range of mountains extending from the Col du Sanetsch in the west to Grimsel Pass in the east with a lifetime of mountaineering and rock climbing possibilities if we start to look at the sub-four thousand metre peaks.

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View east into the Oberland from the Mutthorn hut with left to right: the Eiger, Junfrau and Abeni Flue dominating the skyline.

Looking west into the Oberland from the Engelhorner. The horizon from left to right: Froschkopf, Kingspitze, Kastor, Rosenhorn, Mittelhorn, Wellhorn and Wetterhorn with the huge face of the Scheideggwetterhorn to the right.

Looking west into the Oberland from the Engelhorner. The horizon from left to right: Froschkopf, Kingspitze, Kastor, Rosenhorn, Mittelhorn, Wellhorn and Wetterhorn with the huge face of the Scheideggwetterhorn to the right.

A few weeks ago the Rosenlauistock and traverse of the Kleine and Grosse Simelistock were the objectives with Laurie from Australia. Here are some photos from these two days of alpine rock climbing in the Engelhorner:

The Rosenlauigletscher behind good limestone climbing.

The Rosenlauigletscher behind good limestone climbing.

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traversing pitch on the Rosenlauistock with the Wellhorn behind

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overhanging abseil on the descent

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taking in the morning views from the Kleine Simelistock

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great climbing, perfect setting

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Engelhorn ambiance

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Another party on the summit of the Kleine Simelistock where we had just come from.

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climbing the ridge up to the Grosse Simelistock

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on the crest

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summit sandwich

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looking back up at the “mountain goat” descent

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relaxing in the meadows below the imposing cirque

 

The Oberland is most famous for its high alpine summits and the biggest glaciers in Europe, here are some photos from the Finsteraarhorn, Hinterfiescherhorn traverse, the Grunegghorn and the Monch in late July.

the Finsteraarhorn in the morning light

the Finsteraarhorn in the morning light

the rimed up summit cross of the Finsteraarhorn

the rimed up summit cross of the Finsteraarhorn

Finsteraarhorn summit view over towards the Aletschhorn, Grosse Grunhorn and the Jungfrau

Finsteraarhorn summit view over towards the Aletschhorn, Grosse Grunhorn and the Jungfrau

the Grosse Wannenhorn  with the Valais behind

the Grosse Wannenhorn with the Valais behind

Grunegghorn summit view up the Ewigshneefeld with the Hinter and Grosse Fiescherhorn on the right and the Eiger at the top of the valley.

Grunegghorn summit view up the Ewigshneefeld with the Hinter and Grosse Fiescherhorn on the right and the Eiger at the top of the valley.

sunrise from the Monchjoch hut

sunrise from the Monchjoch hut

The view down the Aletschgletscher from the top of the Monch

The view down the Aletschgletscher from the top of the Monch

The Monch summit ridge

The Monch summit ridge

ski and ice pics

Some skiing and ice climbing shots from the last week of outings:

Sunset on Swiss Alps from Tete de Balme on an evening ski tour a few weeks back.

Sunset on Swiss Alps from Tete de Balme on an evening ski tour a few weeks back.

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Moody sunrise on the rime plastered granite spires of the Grand Charmoz

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Climbing through the mixed section of Lillaz Gully with the village of Cogne 600m below.

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Couloir skiing off the Grands Montets yesterday.

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..

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

Winter Alpine Climbing 2011

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

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.