Great end of season conditions in the Bernese Oberland. The settled conditions have persisted for most of the summer. We traversed the Monch after catching the first train up from Grindelwald and descended to the Monchjoch Hutte on a windless clear and warm day. The Gross Fiescherhorn looked a little too far away for some weary limbs the next day so a detailed crevasse rescue revision session boosted confidence for the team on future unguided acclimatisation trips. The giant Jungfrau started from the hut at 0500 and the frozen glacier was a pleasure to cross before torches went off on reaching the lowest rocks. Steady progress was made up the steep snow ice and rock slope towards the summit and the snow just started to turn to make the descent an equal pleasure. Excitement was kept up all the way to the top train station with a free hanging abseil over a bergschrund and some huge crevasses that needed crossed. An excellent few days with West Coast’s longest serving clients, the Doctors of Wind, well done guys.
Archive for the ‘Alps’ Category
Great weather continues in Chamonix valley. Still cold and settled up high. The Grand Jorasses has fresh snow higher on all its ridges, but the snow/ice routes looked in great condition today. Traverse of the Drus is reported to be in great condition to. Introductory day on the Mer de Glace to crampons, movement on glaciers and preparation for the Gran Paradiso in the days to come for the Australians on tour this week.
The forecast deterioration in the weather did not bring to an end the amazing conditions of late up on the high Alpine peaks. Only a few centimetres of snow and the cold temperatures holding on mean that between the late afternoon thunderstorms conditions are ideal, early starts reaping dividends, as ever.
We were bouldering and running above Les Bossons today, a quiet location with 20 boulders snaking their way up the hillside and running trails going higher before the reward of an, as ever excellent lunch and cold drinks at Chalet Cerro under the Bossons Glacier.
Another team had success over the 3 Monts route to the summit of Mont Blanc today from the first lift to the midi. It looks like this coming week will be a similar pattern as the last few days in the Chamonix valley.
Gran Paridiso next for us.
Rain for the first time in a couple of weeks in Fort William
Short walk in, thick ice, pairs climbing parallel on wide smears in the sunshine, abseil descents. The guys are having a break from Scotland this year and loving the climbing, cuisine and wine offered by our Italian hosts. The only thing missing is the sunset views out to sea. Bruce Poll and Chris Ensoll with Mike Anderson and team ( the doctors of wind)
And on Sunday 3rd March:
More sunshine in Cogne and a rapidly increasing temperature through the morning which caused some interesting and thought provoking snow slides from the sun exposed aspects. This made us run away and go for an entertaining and energetic cross country ski in the afternoon on the excellent trails under the climbing cliffs. Mike went leashless today and still has two axes. Jerry (aka Kermit the frog) was spotted on the cross country trails, see attached photo.
Thanks to Mike Anderson for this photo taken today of the Bishorn.
In recent weeks a course arranged through West Coast Mountain Guides has been run by Mark Seaton and James Thacker attempting to complete the Italian high Level Route on the south side of the Zermatt Breithorn, over Castor and on towards the Margharita Hut and hopefully finishing on Monte Rosa. Unfortunately the weather decided to intervene and an amended programme resulted. However, it just goes to show that with a little imagination on the part of the guides and the help of a Land Rover taxi on the Italian side of the range, success can be assured! Well done guys and thanks to Mark and James for persevering. Anyone reading this blog and wishing to have a go at this trip this summer, please get in touch. Thanks to Alan Irvine, Mark Seaton and James Thacker for the photos. A detailed account of the route eventually followed appears on Mark Seaton’s Blog
Looking into the early afternoon gloom in Fort William (it started nice!) my mood is lifted by this rather splendid photo from Mike Anderson, currently ski-ing above Zermatt. Watch out for those mega Rostis Mike and thanks for the photo. Was that taken with your Blackberry? I’m considering upgrading to a Samsung Galaxy. Trying to avoid an iPhone as its owners come over all precious and protective and dewy eyed and short sighted about the other possibilities on the market! Have a nice day.
Finally catching up with a host of photos from 9th and 10th September. After being reduced by poor weather on Monte Rosa, we moved over to Chamonix at the start of a good spell of weather. The previous week had given us good acclimatisation, which is always a bonus when catching a cable car straight to 3,800m and spending a night in the Cosmiques Hut. A leisurely afternoon start on the Cosmiques Arete after dropping our kit at the hut was supposed to avoid any crowds! Unfortunately we were in a bit of a ‘confusion’ of ropes, especially at the wall pitch close to the finish.
Various techniques were on display from prussiking up a fixed rope to cleanly by-passing the whole ‘guddle’ on the left or right. Interestingly the teams who showed a clean pair of heels were all British and fast. Leaving crampons on for this section (see photos), can provide added purchase on the smooth granite, as a number of conveniently slotted drill holes are placed just perfect for front points. Strange that! A night back at the hut plus an 0500 start placed us on the summit of Mt Blanc du Tacul all by ourselves on a very fine morning, with views all around. At the time of our ascent the approach face and seracs were all silent and well frozen. This area is notorious for serac fall and avalanche, so be warned in poor weather. Seracs are a law unto themselves and it’s wise to be swift when climbing below them in case gravity takes over!
At the time of our visit the conditions were very good and quite a number of teams were out on the Chere Couloir and adjacent routes. Since arriving home in Scotland another dump of snow has arrived in Chamonix, so my alpine blog is now out of date and climbers are asked to find more recent reports. One noticeable concern that will remain, was the amount of loose rock and glacial melt-back on the lower rock apron of the Aiguille du Midi, south face. So much so, that a fence has been erected below obvious loose ares to encourage climbers to stay clear!
Now the weather has improved (6th September) we left for Zermatt. I normally use a taxi into the village. The advantage being slightly cheaper and a place to leave your vehicle. Plenty of options on the left as Tasch is entered. Our plan was to try and climb Monte Rosa from the new Monte Rosa Hut which has recently been rebuilt uphill of the old hut. Just a shame it could not have been built a little higher, as the height gain on summit day is around 1800m! The new hut is however a wonder of modern design and boasts a 90% self-sufficient energy design, using solar power to good effect. The Swiss Alpine Club have removed the old hut with explosives I believe!!
Approaching the hut from Rotenboden on the Gornagrat railway has become increasing difficult since I first stayed on the site in 1975. Even in the last year, retreating glaciers have forced the authorities to place metal ladders in various places to help alpinistes and ‘hut trippers’ reach the hut with some degree of safety. Crampons will often be essential once the ladders have been negotiated to gain the Grenz glacier. The exit from the glacier on to the rocks below the hut is guarded by a very big and fearsome glacial tunnel that carries a huge amount of melt water.
Unfortunately our attempt on Monte Rosa was thwarted by bad weather and white-out only 150m below the summit. The normal route on the west ridge was cloaked in too much fresh snow and a large group in front had blazed a good trail to the col between Dofourspitze and Nordend. We followed this trail but it was filling in quite quickly and not easy going. The glacier below the col is not straight forward, especially in descent and in a white out. It’s certainly a good place to carry a GPS and plug in various waymarks in ascent, which can be followed in retreat if the trail becomes unclear.
The route from the col follows easy but steep fixed ropes at around Scottish grade II and is also used in descent. Thanks to the Verbier Guides for blazing a trail, both up and down the mountain. They deserved their success. Of interest here is the reason for the Verbier Guides being on the mountain. They were leading a group of young men on a drug rehabilitation programme over two weeks from the lowest point to the highest point in Switzerland and were …”as fit as butchers dogs”…well done.