Archive for August, 2007

Blizzards and Biblical Rain

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Four days into the Alpine Intro course, working with Chris Ensoll and the weather has gone bad for today at least.
After the normal introduction to pulley systems, prussiking and ropework, we started up the hill. The first day, enroute to the Britannia Hut involved an ascent of a new Klettersteig on the Mittaghorn. I had climbed this N.W. Ridge previously, prior to the fixing of metal ladders and it was pretty loose and dangerous. All that has now changed and the whole day, including the ridge and traversing over to the Hut takes around 6-8 hours including copious rest stops.The most convenient approach to the ridge is via the first section of the Metro Alpin lift system as far as tower four. We spent two nights at the Britannia Hut, with plenty of glacier training and ascents of some local low peaks. Unfortunately, severe weather thwarted our attempt on the Allalinhorn, but we managed some useful ice climbing close to the revolving restaurant, which also serves very good coffee and Apfelstrudel, by the way!

Thanks to Maria Ovens and Marcus Gates for the use of the photos below.
Zoe gaining some shelter at Metro Alpin from the blinding blizzard last Wednesday.
Calm before the storm in Saas Fee
Wet and uncomfortable, but cheerful in the shelter of the Metro Alpin tunnels.
Communal sleeping dormitories at the Britannia Hut. All good fun.

En-route to the Britannia Hut, via the Mittaghorn Klettersteig.
Kit check at the start of the course.
Practicing prussiking in the woods! Cannot believe you put in that photo of me prussiking in the woods! Thanks Alan and Chris for a fantastic week, I am missing the alps already! Just loved the whole experience. Thank you both so much. Take care.

Karen x

Mittaghorn Klettersteig above Saas Fee

Karen & Zoe dreaming of sandy beaches:)

Base camp at the Roby Hotel in Saas Grund

Ibex outside the Britannia Hut

Glacier training above the Britannia Hut with the Allalinhorn above.

Lizards, Snakes Hot Rock and Cold Mountains

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

Climbing today with Chris Ensoll before starting an intro alpine course in Saas Grund. One Lizard landed on my shoulder, before dropping another five metres to a lower ledge. It shook it self off and started back up the pitch towards me. I went flying past it five minutes later off the crux of a 6a+ route on Pisschevere a few kilometres west of Martigny above the autobahn. No harm done to Lizard or myself, fortunately. On the descent we came across some sort of snake. I’m not great on snakes, so couldn’t identify it!
The high tops look pretty snowy and cold just now.
View towards Mt Blanc
View towards the Argentiere Basin.
View towards the Aiguille du Midi
Strong winds blowing off the ridge above the Vallot Hut.

Lots of Sun in Chamonix

Friday, August 24th, 2007

Arrived in Chamonix and the conditions look good. The continuous snowfall this summer at altitude has ‘topped-up’ the snow pack and looks set to continue into the Autumn, which will hopefully provide good climbing on mixed routes. I doubt if the high rock routes will have seen much traffic this year (Walker Spur), but south facing routes will be okay. Routes such a the Aig Verte by the Whymper Couloir ‘MAY’ be worth a look. Very sunny today.

Aiguille du Midi today.

Good Climbing this week considering the weather

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

This last week turned out not too bad, considering the forecast. The climbing course run by Richard Bentley visited Garbh Bheinn, Rannoch Wall, East Face of Aonach Dubh, Glen Nevis crags and Ardverikie Wall. During the week we had plenty of showery weather at times, but not enough for a wash-out! Thanks to Lucy and Kevin for the photos, all on Olympus digital cameras.
Aonach Dubh East Face
Garbh Bheinn South Face
Ardverikie Wall, third pitch on Friday
Ardverikie Wall on Friday
Ardverikie Wall on Friday

More poor weather in the Alps

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Hi Alan
Adam Henly and I had a good week in the Bernina/ Bregaglia area despite shedloads of rain and snow. We spent two days sitting in the Sasc Fura Hut besieging Piz Badile– waiting for the rain to stop– and got in a couple of interesting smaller outings in the mist while we were there: a recce of the Nordkante and the Cassin Route up to about 2400m; a trip round to the Italian side to climb Pizzo Trubinasca (2928m) the easy way. Then on the third day the rain did stop, but in the sense that it turned to snow, which wasn’t what we were after, so we walked out of Sasc Fura, drove over from Bondo to Pontresina, and went up to the Tschierva Hut to besiege the Biancograt instead. Again we had to wait a little– we went up the relatively small and much easier Piz Tschierva (about 3600m) in the mist while we were waiting– and then the next day decided to go for the Biancograt even though the clouds still hadn’t lifted (and even though Adam had a text from Martin Moran, who advised against trying it until the weather lifted…).

It’s a fantastic route, but very very very long, especially when you don’t know the way, can’t see it because of the mist, and are e.g. trying to work out whether you should be downclimbing or abseiling round the next problem that comes up.The Biancograt snow-ridge itself is a piece of cake, a simple walk-up, a bit like a bigger and more aesthetically appealing version of the ridge from the CMD arete to the summit of the Ben. It’s getting on to the Biancograt from the Tschierva Hut beforehand, and off it on to Piz Bernina itself and then on down to the Marco e Rosa Hut afterwards, that is the difficult part. It’s complex up and down routefinding on a very gnarly ridge, with snow and ice and a fair amount of dodgy rock, for hours and hours and hours. Perhaps it’s a bit like the Skye ridge in winter, except Bernina is a whole lot more sustained and a whole lot more exposed– and not even that much shorter. In the snowy conditions we did it in, it was definitely une grande course, and we both thought merited a D not its usual AD.

The walk-out from Marco e Rosa to the Diavolezza cablecar– across the glacial plateau called the Bellavista Terrace, down the Fortezza Ridge (two abseils and a lot more routefinding work), then across the lower glacier and up the hillside to the cablecar hut– takes longer than you expect too.

After that we had a rest day, lazed around, toured cute Italian-Swiss villages like Poschiavo, and ate pizza. Despite these refills I weigh a stone less than I did when I left.


Tim C

Thanks Tim,

Good to hear from you and that you managed Biancograt in what sounds like poor conditions, even though the wise counsel of Martin advised against it! Take care.

Fine weather today

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Yesterday above Loch Treig, showery with transient light and grey shades. Breezy on the tops, but still possible for one group to climb on Rannoch Wall. Today it is better and another group are off to the South Wall of Garbh Bheinn. Plenty of midges at all altitudes!

Fine and Dry on the Aonach Eagach Ridge

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

Yesterday as part of Walklochaber week we managed the Aonach Eagach Ridge in near perfect weather, which was worth waiting for. The whole day was around 7/8 hours with plenty of rest stops along the way to enjoy the views. We were fortunate enough to see Red Deer, Golden Eagle and a group of Goats on the ridge. In thirty seven years of visiting this rocky spine I have never seen Goats up there before.

Dreich in August in Glen Coe

Monday, August 6th, 2007

Well, August is proving to be fairly moist. Today we set off to scramble on Curved Ridge as an alternative to the Aonach Eagach Ridge. It was okay and at least dry until we summited and then the heavens cascaded down. Still, a good day out and the high pressure promised by the Met Office on Wednesday might just offer a chance of success on the Aonach Eagach. Watch this space! This day was part of the Walklochaber week and guests choose which day trip they wish to take part in. On this day it was felt that the large amount of exposed down climbing in wet and windy conditions on the Aonach Eagach would be too much to handle.