Archive for September, 2009

Dry on Ben Nevis

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

A very fine day today on Ben Nevis. Climbing teams out on Centurion, N.E. Buttress, Raeburns Route on the First Platform, Observatory Ridge and Tower Ridge, to name but a few.

Plenty of good ridge walking on the CMD Arete.

We just managed to get over the top of the light cloud and were rewarded with a ‘Brocken Spectre’ A good sign of settled weather.

Remember Ricardo

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Ricardo Cassin has passed away, leaving a legacy of mountaineering achievement that will outlast his 100 years of life. I well remember the evening when he came to Fort William to give a lecture in St Andrews Church Hall (Now Brighams) over the road from the Belford Hospital, where, on that same evening my youngest Daughter, Hannah, was being born. Many thanks to Ricardo Cassin
I have been fortunate enough to climb just a few of the iconic passages you created.

Perfect on Mt Blanc

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

At the end of a full seven days of settled weather, we topped off the week with a traverse to Mt Blanc from the Cosmiques Hut. One local guide said that the conditions were the best he could remember.
The trail is all on good crunchy snow and the one short icy section on the Mt Maudit fixed lines is well protected. Yesterday at various sheltered places on the route, it was possible to light a match and it would have burned down to nothing.
Standing around too long was cold, but manageable with good warm kit and maybe a light duvet top to provide an extra layer of comfort. It really depends on how much ‘lard’ you carry on-board, along with personal fitness!

The view from Les Tines of Mt Blanc (top left) if it is climbed from the Gouter Hut, situated where the snow finishes at the right end of the skyline. The approach to this very busy hut involves a five hour trek and some serious exposure to stonefall, crossing the Grande Couloir.

The starting point from the Cosmiques Hut only requires a short approach after ascending to the Aiguille du Midi. Part of this hut approach is down a very exposed and narrow snow/ice crest. This same crest also provides a taxing finish to a long day if returning by the route after a successful summit.
The photo above was taken from the balcony of the Cosmiques Hut.

Julien and Joe at first light on the fixed lines at the top of the Mt Maudit Face. We had departed the hut around 3.30 a.m. To arrive at this point involves an ascent of the easy north flank of Mt Blanc du Tacul, which at the moment is fairly stable, but some years can have serious serac instability. Another short section of unstable seracs at the foot of the north flank of Mt Maudit should be departed with some haste.

The fixed lines on Mt Maudit exit on to the trail at the left of this photo. Normally, neither Mt Blanc du Tacul or Mont Maudit summits are visited when traversing to Mont Blanc.

Taken from near the summit of Mont Blanc. The traverse line follows good trails on the left flank of the cornice fluting’s.

Approaching the Col de la Brenva and the final steep approach to the summit. At this point some superb views across the icy eastern abyss start to show themselves

On the horizon are the tallest Swiss peaks appearing above a sea of cloud. Monte Rosa – Matterhorn – Tasch – Dom – Weisshorn. On the left are the chaotic spires of Aiguille du Diable, leading up towards the summit rocks of Mont Blanc du Tacul. The middle distance is the Dent du Geant and Grande Jorasses, shrouded in cloud, with the Grande Combin behind these peaks.

Finally, from the summit of Mont Blanc, turning towards the Italian summit of Mt Blanc de Courmayeur, rarely visited by the masses.

These jumbled serac blocks guard the exit to the Brenva Spur. At least two teams appeared through this icy maze and were very complimentary about the good conditions throughout.

The ‘team’ at the top. Well done Jerry-Chris-Julien-Joe-Alan-Mike.

This is a photo of the Chere Couloir, which is in pretty good shape just now and getting plenty of ascents. The last week has been blessed by cool weather, which will have a positive effect on bonding loose rocks. Routes on the ‘Triangle’ of Mt Blanc du Tacul are mostly in very good condition. One issue appears to be crossing late season bergschrunds, which have opened up to become steep and difficult in places.

The South East Face of Aiguille du Midi is clear and getting plenty of attention. In fact the late season conditions throughout the main alpine locations are worthy of a visit.

Thanks to Mark and Jane Seaton for providing me with accommodation and Chris Ensoll working with me and the team this week. And of course to Mike, Jerry, Julien and Joe. Twelve seasons (?), in The Alps, Scotland and Norway have provided plenty of adventure and friendship. See you in the winter.

Dent Blanche Delight

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

The good weather continues and provided a perfect day on one of the best ridges in the Alps. Our trip over three days succeeded on the South Ridge of the Dent Blanche. In this photo below it is the easier angled right hand crest.

One day approach, another for the climb over ten hours in total, and another for descent from the hut. I prefer to take the extra hut night in descent on this route, rather than continue for another three and half hours after a long day. This strategy also allows for a more leisurely climb, in the knowledge that a restful evening will follow the ascent. Unfortunately the hut had run out of beer!

Allow six hours for the hut walk. The hut is located on the extreme right of this photo, on a rocky ridge, close to the glacier.

An alpine trough full of icy water working wonders on aching knees. Just a pity I could not have taken it up to the hut, another three to four hours away. If ice baths work for Paula Radcliffe, it is worth a try, plus of course a double-dose of Glucosamine, Chondroitin and Calcium. Keep on truckin!

The Dent Blanche hut is often favoured by colourful sunsets.

Surrounded by magnificent views and classic alpine ridges and face climbs.

Early morning about an hour or so from the hut.

Same location as the last photo in descent. This icy and exposed traverse requires sound and confident footwork under the current icy conditions, late in the season.

The lower easy ridge section.

Approaching the Grand Gendarme. This feature is more often avoided by a flanking move left off of the main ridge.

Traversing on to the west side to outflank the Grande Gendarme.

Perfect, dry slabs of sound rock, high on the mountain. The Dent Blanche is an exceptional viewpoint, maintaining a central position amongst many 4000 metre peaks.

Matterhorn with Hornli Ridge on the left and to its right the North Face, Zmutt Ridge and Italian Ridge.

Dent Herens North side from below the Dent Blanche hut.

Weisshorn – Zinal Rothorn and Nadelgrat beyond.

Monte Rosa massif.

Well done Jerry.

Great Weather in the Alps

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Great weather in the Alps just now. As training for Dent Blanche and Mt Blanc, our group were succesful on Aig du Tour and a fine little east ridge on Tete Blanche.

Aig du Tour, from either the Trient Hut or Albert Premier is very popular as a training exercise for bigger peaks. Currently at the end of the season the glacier approaches are fairly serious, with many crevasses being open.

On the south-facing ridge of Aig du Tour. Plenty of good granite, requiring the usual care not to dis-lodge any big blocks. As a popular route, much of the loose rock has already disappeared.

Approaching the east-facing ridge of the Tete Blanche this morning, from the Trient Hut. A fine short climb, which arrives on the plateau and has a very simple glacier descent, back towards the valley, via the Albert Premier hut. In the background is the Aig du Tour, which we climbed from the Albert Premier Hut on Saturday enroute to the Trient Hut.

Approaching the climb and not sure if the bergschrund could be crossed.

Fortunately a way was found and we completed the climb in around an hour from the base.

Many climbs are protected at their base by significant cravasse slots.

Good climbing on the ridge at around PD+