Les Ecrins and the Mont Blanc Massif

The start of this week in the Alps brought snow and even avalanche warnings being issued in the Mont Blanc Massif. Therefore, after climbing the Aiguille de la Charlanon, Rob, Andy, Mike and I escaped to Les Ecrins for a couple of days.

On Monday we walked to the Refuge de la Pilatte before traversing Mont Gioberney via the North East Ridge and the Voie Normale. The cold winds had covered the North East Ridge in rime and verglas which made the crux UIAA IV crack pitch pretty hard. It had a very Scottish feel. This should now have all cleared with the warm weather.

A local French Guide on the crux crack.

We spent the next three days in the Aiguilles Rouges and the Mont Blanc Massif climbing; Via Corda Alpina, Athina on the Contrefort de Droite, L’Index (2595m) and the Arete des Cosmiques.

All these routes were in good condition. The rock on Athina is not as good as that on the routes further left on this buttress and some of it should be treated with care. The Arete des Cosmiques still has enough snow on it to wear crampons the whole way.

Cool sky above the Cosmiques.

There are lots more photos on the facebook page.

The Beaufortain and Les Ecrins

Tina, Scott and I have had a busy week climbing and mountaineering finding good conditions and having the odd frustrating moment due to rockfall!

On Sunday we went to the Refuge Robert Blanc in the Beaufortain. The Guardian at this hut is excellent and we had a very enjoyable meal with him before an early start the next day when we climbed the Petite Aiguille des Glaciers (3468m). There had been fresh avalanches the day before. This may be an issue for the next few weeks in the Alps. The glacier was in excellent condition.

We decided to go to Les Ecrins for the next four days as the weather forecast was excellent for this area and there is a little less snow. Therefore we drove on Tuesday towards La Berarde but unfortunately could not get up the final section of the road due to a large scale rockfall the day before making the road unpassable. After a quick discussion we headed to Ailefroide for some rock climbing before overnighting in the valley.

After breakfast on Wednesday morning we climbed in the valley before making the approach to the Refuge du Sele where we got a very warm welcome. The next morning we climbed the South Ridge route to the summit of L’Ailefroide Orientale (3847m) before descending the South West Flank Route.

The South Ridge route on the L’Ailefroide is hard to find in the middle section when snow covered (as it is just now). The glacier section of the South West Flank is threatened by a serac for a good section of it (which is not mentioned in the British climbing guide) and this should be thought about carefully if deciding to do this route.

Yesterday we climbed one of the large granite routes in the valley, Spit on Cup. This newly bolted route can be found in the latest edition of the climbing guide.

There are more photos on the facebook page.

On the approach to the Petite AIguille des Glaciers.

On the approach to the Petite AIguille des Glaciers.

Descending from L'Ailefroide Orientale.

Descending from L’Ailefroide Orientale.

Mont Gioberney and the Mer de Glace

Danny and I are currently in the Alps climbing together. The weather is very changeable at the moment and lots of studying of weather forecasts is required.

On Monday we travelled to Les Ecrins before walking to the Refuge de la Pilatte. The weather on Tuesday morning was not perfect but we persevered towards Mont Gioberney. We were rewarded with clearing skies on reaching the Col du Gioberney and amazing views from the summit (3352m).

Today we visited the Mer de Glace above Chamonix and spent time ice climbing and practising crevasse rescue skills.

Currently there is large volumes of snow remaining from the winter in the Alps making routes more time consuming.

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Danny on the summit of Mont Gioberney.

Chasing the Sun with George and Paul

The weather was a little mixed last week in the Alps. However, by being flexible in our plans, George, Paul and I had a brilliant week climbing amazing mountains away from the crowds.

We began our week by visting the Vanoise. This is one of my favourite alpine regions as it is far from the crowds and very unspoilt once away from the ski lifts on the edge of the region. From thr Refuge Col de la Vanoise we completed the brilliant traverse of Mont Pelve (3261m). Details of this AD- route can be found on the website camptocamp.

As we completed the route late season, ice screws were required to climb over the bergshrund and a 60 metre rope was required for the abseils (unlike the 50 metres suggested by camptocamp).

The next day after returning to Saint Gervais les Bains we completed Aiguille de Toule (3538m) from the Punta Helbronner which is located on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif. The conditions were very Scottish e.g. whiteout and deep fresh snow. Needless to say, we did not see any other climbers!

For the last three days of our trip we travelled to Les Ecrins. This is another of my favourite areas in the Alps and it was great to return here to finish the last part of my alpine season.

Following walking in to the Refuge du Soreiller on Wednesday, we had a late start on Thursday to allow the weather to clear before completing Le Voie du Nain and Aiguille Centrale du Soreiller (3338m). This is an excellent rock peak situated behind the iconic Aiguille Dibona which is rarely visited.

On Saturday to finish off our trip we climed the Voie Boell with the Stoffer variation to the summit of the Aiguille DIbona (3130m). This was a great route on a great summit to end another excellent summer in the Alps.

Many more photos can be seen on the climbnow facebook page.

George and Paul near the summit of the Aiguille Dibona.

George and Paul near the summit of the Aiguille Dibona.

Big Days Out in Les Ecrins

Following a few hours rock climbing at La Duchere crag near Les Contamines last Sunday, Paul and I drove down to Les Ecrins on Monday morning to meet Tina, Scott, Steve and Duncan. We then made the long walk into the Refuge Adele Planchard. The walk begins near La Grave and is very scenic.

Our intention was to climb La Grande Ruine (3765m) on Tuesday morning, however a change in forecast prompted a change in plan. As the weather was forecast to deteriorate at 4am the next morning we opted to climb the peak after dinner. We managed to make the summit in difficult snow conditions before returning to the at 2am. We had a long lie the next morning until 8am before walking out and driving to Ailefroide to overnight.

On Wednesday we walked into the Refuge du Pelvoux before climbing Mont Pelvoux (3943m) on Thursday morning via the Coolidge Couloir. The route was in excellent condition and is best climbed at this time of year when the chance of stonefall is minimised by good snow cover. It is also worth having two axes for the couloir.

Following a short rest we made the 1800 metre hut climb to the Refuge de l’Aigle on Friday at 6.30am. This well named hut (the hut of the eagles) is in a simply stunning location and well worth the effort in getting there.

The approach to the hut involves significant amounts of scrambling, via ferrata and glacier work. It should not be made in poor weather or visibility.

On Saturday we climbed La Meije Oriental (3891m) in excellent conditions before returning to the valley and Saint Gervais for a great meal out in the village.

To see more images of this stunning area please visit the climbnow facebook page.

The team on the summit of Mont Pelvoux.

The team on the summit of Mont Pelvoux.

Paul climbing at La Duchere.

Paul climbing at La Duchere.

Argentiere Basin, the Aiguilles Rouge and Les Ecrins

Paul and Frank are just back from Les Ecrins where they had a great time climbing the Aiguille Dibona (3130m). They bivouacked before their ascent as the hut is currently being renovated and a little bit dusty! As usual the Dibona provided amazing climbing in a stunning setting.

Rob, Andy and I have had two brilliant days in the Mont Blanc Massif followed by a great day in Les Aiguilles Rouge. On Saturday we climbed above the clouds on the Petite Aiguille Verte (3512m) in perfect conditions before descending to the Refuge d’Argentiere to overnight.

We left the hut on Sunday morning in falling snow before emerging from the clouds into the sunshine to climb Pointe sup des Amethystes (3586m). A few notes on this mountain. Firstly, two axes are useful (the lads had two, I had one!). Secondly, two 60 metre ropes are very useful. I had one and therefore had to build anchors on wires and an abalakov thread to get back down.

Today we traversed the Aiguille Crochues (2837m). This is a really enjoyable route and great for practising moving together on.

Many more photos can be found on the facebook page.

The summit of the Aiguille Dibona.

The summit of the Aiguille Dibona.

Rob and Andy on the summit of the Petite Aiguille Verte with Les Drus behind

Rob and Andy on the summit of the Petite Aiguille Verte with Les Drus behind

Three Days in Les Ecrins

John, Harvey and I drove on Wednesday from Chamonix to La Berarde in search of some sunshine. Heavy rain accompanied our drive until we arrived in the village at which point the clouds cleared and the sun came out. We then had a pleasant walk to the Refuge Temple Ecrins. For those planning on going in the next couple of days to the Refuge de la Pilatte, check on access locally as one of the bridges is down due to recent floods.

The weather yesterday was perfect. This allowed us to make the ascent of Pic Coolidge (3775m). This is an excellent, long and varied alpine route and was in good condition.

After overnighting at the Centre Alpin in La berarde, today we climbed the 2611m summit of the Aiguillette du Lauzet utilising the via ferrata. The sun was out all day and we only encountered rain on our return to Chamonix.

Lots more photos can be seen on the climbnow facebook page.

On Pic Coolidge with Harvey and John. L'Ailefroide can be seen in the background.

On Pic Coolidge with Harvey and John. L’Ailefroide can be seen in the background.

Mountaineering in Les Ecrins

Duncan, Steve, Tina, Scott, Paul and I have been in Les Ecrins from the 9th to the 12th July. We had intended on going to Arolla but due to very bad weather throughout the Valais and the Mont Blanc Massif we had a quick change of plan.

The gamble paid off and we had a brilliant time based in the huts above La Berarde and La Grave. During the five days we climbed; Tete de la Pilatte (3476m), Mont Gioberney (3352m), Pointe Richardson (3312m) and Pointe des Chamois (3315m). The ridges leading to the summits were in the PD to PD+ range and had a very Scottish feeling in the current heavy snow condtions and rime ice.

We climbed these mountains from the Refuge de la Pilatte and the Refuge de Pave. Both huts were very friendly. The Pave Hut is in an amazing situation and well worth the 5 to 6 hour approach.

Scott and Tina on the approach to the Tete de la Pilatte (3476m).

Scott and Tina on the approach to the Tete de la Pilatte (3476m).

Steve, Scott and Paul outside the Refuge de Pave.

Steve, Scott and Paul outside the Refuge de Pave.

 

Alpine Summer Report 2013

A team on the ascent of Roche Faurio with the Barre des Ecrins beyond.

A team on the ascent of Roche Faurio with the Barre des Ecrins beyond.

It has been an excellent summer in the Alps. In many areas this past winter and spring ten metres of snow fell. This has led to some fantastic conditions on the glaciers and the ridges of many regions.

It has been a busy summer for the ClimbNow team. Paul has been busy throughout North Wales teaching rock climbing and summer mountaineering skills. Martin has been doing similar work in many parts of Scotland and has spent some time climbing with me in the Alps. I have spent the summer guiding throughout the Alps during the months of June, July, August and September.

Tina and Scott on the summit ridge of Les Agneaux in Les Ecrins.

Tina and Scott on the summit ridge of Les Agneaux in Les Ecrins.

My summer began with a holiday in Les Aravis and the Chaine du Bargy with Rosie. From here, I drove to Les Ecrins and spent two brilliant weeks climbing in the best conditions I have seen in the massif for many years. Routes such as the Voie Originale on the Pic Coolidge were in good condition. Normally this route would be unsafe by late June.

Steve, Duncan and Steve climbing Pic Coolidge.

Steve, Duncan and Tim climbing Pic Coolidge.

After Les Ecrins, I had three weeks climbing in the Mont Blanc Massif, around Saas Fee and in the Val d’Herens. I had the opportunity to climb many interesting and beautiful mountains such as Alphubel, Mont Blanc and the Lagginhorn.

A team descending from the summit of Mont Blanc.

A team descending from the summit of Mont Blanc.

At this point in the season, I often find it useful to have a few days off. This year I returned to the UK for a few days and to attend a wedding before returning to the the peaks around Saas Grund and the three areas mentioned above.

Sunrise on the ascent of Weissmies from the Almageller Hut.

Sunrise on the ascent of Weissmies from the Almageller Hut.

Highlights from this period include; the South Ridge of the Lagginhorn, the traverse of Pigne d’Arolla and Mont Blanc de Cheilon, the traverse of Weissmies and Allalinhorn’s Holaubgrat.

John, Harvey and Andy on the summit of the Lagginhorn having completed the South Ridge of the Lagginhorn.

John, Harvey and Andy on the summit of the Lagginhorn having completed the South Ridge of the Lagginhorn.

The season continued with many fine summits in the Mont Blanc Massif and Gran Paradiso National Park before I returned to Les Ecrins for two more brilliant weeks of rock climbing and peak bagging.

Pam on the summit of the Aiguille Dibona.

Pam on the summit of the Aiguille Dibona.

The final week of my season was spent in the mountains above Saas Fee and Zermatt. Conditions were challenging but as always the mountains and the team I climbed with provided some amazing memories.

This season I have spent fifty seven days climbing and mountaineering, twenty four nights in sixteen different huts, have climbed thirty four alpine summits and eleven multi pitch climbs as well as many single pitch climbs and completed five Ecole de Glace sessions.

I would just like to say a big thank you to everyone who has joined me on the many adventures this summer has provided and made it such a memorable season.

Outside the Refuge de Soreiller with Martin and Ivor.

Outside the Refuge de Soreiller with Martin and Ivor.

 

Coupeau

Following our time in Les Ecrins; Martin, Ivor and I have returned to Saint Gervais. We had a good afternoon yesterday climbing at Coupeau. This crag is located near Chamonix and provides a good selection of sports routes which are well bolted on gneiss.

Well bolted climbing at Coupeau (photo by Ivor McCourt).

Well bolted climbing at Coupeau (photo by Ivor McCourt).