Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Les Fleurs du Mal- A first ED

A Conville Technique
After deciding to return home early, we had plans for one last 'big route'. The Walker was out of condition and the Dru north face was too icy for a person of so little experience. Me and Luke decided to tick an ED before we went, even if it was a not very serious one. We chose technical difficulty over danger and decided to visit the Envers Side of the Chamonix Aiguilles. Still 15 pitches and with a sketchy approach (especially with our direct start), but not a massive north face.

Upper Section
We bivvied by the Envers hut (without bivy bags) and walked up the next morning. We cruised most of the way up the route in no particular hurry, but reasonably fast and were on the upper crux section by 12ish. I led the E2 pitch (the only part of the route to have no bolts) and then up the beautiful slabs to the top.

The lower slabs
Some very nice climbing, but slightly eliminate as you are never further than 100 metres from a chossy VS gully. A fine outing though, and a good one to finish the trip on- if only we had stayed out longer.

The view from the bivy

Petis Jourasses West Face

Luke said it was the west face of the Petis Jourasses?
Being poor and stingy, we couldn't afford the train up and like the rest of the holiday, we walked up from the valley. We set up camp bellow the Jourasses and rested our legs until three. We got up and set off. Trotting in the pitch black, without a head torch, we arrived at the base of the route. I led out of the cold onto the beautiful granite face and up for 5 or so pitches, placing the odd friend. Luke and Tom seconded quickly and then Luke block led the next section, through the crux.

We were at 3/4 height now and Tom took over lead. The route was a bit tricky to follow and we promptly went the wrong way after only 20 metres. Tom retreated and I led us onto the easy 5 pitches to the top. Snow and dark clouds set in and we decided to ab off as we'd completed the main difficulties.

The retreat was a bit sketchy and Tom had to be rescued a few times. Luke also hung on a bolt for a while when he went a bit wrong and found he had no rope. A fine trip, if not a bit crap.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

The Cordier Pillar

Ian and Luke had been on Fissure Brown, and we went up to meet them that evening. I had planned to do the Frendo with Luke, but on arrival it was clear he had other plans. The Cordier pillar was the new plan and we were to do it as a five- me, Luke, Ian, Will Sim and Tom Ripley.

I was woken at 6 and up we got. For some reason we arsed about and weren't on the route until 11, but the laid-back atmosphere made for an awesome laugh.

Will and Tom set off first as the cumbrian team and the moors team of me, Luke and Ian followed closely behind. Me and Luke were rather hysterical and were singing rather a lot- putting Ian off on some of the harder moves. Then Luke snapped, a new speed demon was released. He took over the lead and our group of three became insanely slick- so slick we even overtook Will and Tom. Luke led the way, minimal gear placed, but moving amazingingly, shouting at anyone who wasted even a second. Ian followed ripping the gear out and putting Luke on belay for the next pitch as I legged it up behind, carrying the rather heavy bag. We got to the ledge in about an hour and a half, which was pretty good going considering there were a fair few pitches. We waited for Will and Tom and then had lunch.

We looked up at the last ten pitches, beautiful cracks. Luke and Will moved together to the top whilst Me, Ian and Tom brought the ropes up for them to ab. A few dodgy off-widths and Ian belaying mid-pitch wasted a bit of time, but we still got to the top with a few hours on guidebook time. We abseiled down in two groups, only to be re-united on the last belay ledge from the bottom.
A crater
Luke abed into the bergschrund and me, Will, Ian and tom waited on the ledge. Then something dodgy happened. The mountain started to shake and we took minimal cover.

Luke with his rope
The rope, Will was seconds from abseiling down on, was cut by a falling block and then a rock, no smaller than a couple of cars smashed into the Glacier leaving a huge crater. a lucky occasion, especially for Luke, who was surrounded by fragments of rock and a bag near-by had been badly ripped. We decided to run away from the route, dodging the still-falling rocks in a humorous style.

video to come!
Me, Ian and Will after the successful ascent of the Cordier.

Aguille de L'M

I arrived unfresh, after a 30 hour bus ride from Darlington, only to be dragged to 2,500 metres by Ian. He was eager to get climbing and dragged me up to the comfortable bivy spot under the impressive LM.

We were forced under a large boulder for the night when a wee bit of thunder came in. We woke up the next day and trotted round to the sunny NNE ridge for my first alpine route. 5-, should be oright on solo. I led the way up the easy slab and Ian followed up behind. I came across a dodgy section, a wide crack, Ian showed the skilless, but safe way, to thrutch up it and I copied his painful BETA. The NNE ridge was smote in about a 6th of guide book time and we made the easy decent for some food.

The couzy route was next- a UIAA 6. Ian said it was about HVS so we lopped the rope on. I led the crux pitch, but belayed half way through due to incompetence and rope drag. Ian ran up to the top and we were back down for some couscous and sausage.

Ian, not content with this fancied a look at Menegaux Route a 6+. we stormed to the top of the pillar, but then realised it was 9 O’clock. I felt bad stopping Ian having a crack at it, but the crux was high up and I had no head torch. An certain epic avoided there me thinks.

Another dodgy night was spent and then we trotted back to the valley for a bottle of red each- only €1.70 :-)