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Archive for August, 2018

Alpine climbing July 2018

Posted by robjwall on August 13, 2018

The warm up was a weekend of crack climbing at Ettringen in Germany.



Then a week later Konstanze and I headed to Switzerland.  We used the excellent “Schweiz Plasir Sud” guide to work out where to go en-route to Ivrea.  Intially this led us to Freggio in the Italian part of Switzerland.  We attempted to find a (~16 pitch, with a walk off after 10 pitches) route called “Via del Pivello”.  The first pitches of slab seemed a lot harder than the book suggested,  and then the route ended after only 3 pitches.  After an hour of bush bashing including the slippery fern slide pictured we think we found the actual route and traversed in about 4 pitches up, and completed it to the end of pitch 10.



The rock was good, and the views of the valley extremely pretty (if not the noise from the Autostrada).


Looking down “Via del Pivello”

The next day we climbed some single pitch routes in a great little crag area called “Valle di Gorduno”, then travelled to Ivrea to see Kira, and watch Demelza race in the Junior World Slalom Canoe Championships, (where she made it to the U/23 C1 Semifinal) and eat a lot of nice food :).



Demelza and Kira at Ivrea

During the kayaking event K and I climbed 8  pitchs in the sun in Valle d’Aosta to climb “Bucca d’arancia”.  This was lovely but I was very happy to get back in the shade, and made me think we needed to plan to climb at much higher altitude.  Another day we did a couple of pitches at “Traversella”, where Demelza joined us for a great walk and very refreshing “swim” on the way back.



Refugio above Traversella


Secret swim spot

After the Kayaking was over we drove across to France and the wonderful Ailefroide climbing area where I had been two years previously.  On the first day we did a great ~7 pitch bolted 6a next to a waterfall called “Petits meutres entre amis”. I wish all routes had waterfalls – it was a constant debate to work out how much water to carry.


Petits meutres entre amis.


Happy climbers.

Nearly all the climbing to this point had been on bolted routes, and we both were feeling fit, so we wanted to push ourselves a bit and test out route finding and gear placing skills.  So we headed further up the valley above Ailefroide to the Glacier Blanc hut for a few nights.  (An inexpensive hut with good food!).  We managed to get slightly lost walking up the trail to the hut in the evening, we were not meant to cross this stream.


Lucky its summer!

The next day we were up early and walked an hour to Pointe de Cineastes to climb the 200m “Chasses Croises” 5c (obl), which was a mix of bolts and traditional pro.  The descent was to down solo half of the “Arete Sud Classique” (3a) which was probably the sketchiest thing we had done so far.  Cineastes had a real remote Alpine feel with tricky route finding and less than perfect rock.  A lot of the pro is to put slings around rock spikes.


Pointe des Cineastes

The second day here we attempted to find a crack line (“Eperon Ouest”) on the left side of the Cineastes, which was supposed to have bolted anchors.  There was a forecast of afternoon storms, so we wanted something we could retreat off.  After several pitches we never found a bolt, but the weather was ok, so we decided to ‘fail upward’ to the ridge at the top of the route and pickup the abseil line from the more popular ridge traverse.  The last long pitch (60m) up to a spire was magnificent exposed alpine climbing about grade 5a, with enough stable rock to sling little pinacles or place cams from time to time.  This was one of the best pieces of climbing we did on the whole trip (and its not impossible it was a new route!).   The descent was a really dirty couple of abseils and then some fun snow sliding off the backside.  We took no camera.  That night I was tired, and it was raining so we had another hut meal, and walked down the following morning in gorgeous sunshine and saw a few Marmottes.




Really, a Marmotte




Chamonix Aguilles from the town (Peigne on R).

We ‘rested’ a day or so (pack, drive, unpack…) and headed to the Refuge Plan de L’Aguilles above Chamonix which is only a 10 minute walk from the cable car middle station.  The weather on the first day was *perfect* so we left the hut at 3pm, and started a route “Eperon Nord” 6a? (chosen from my old Piola guide)  at 4.30pm.  Not best alpine practise.  The weather continued to be warm: perfect golden sunshine with no wind, so we were lured up going almost to the top of the excellent 8 pitch route.  Oddly there were bolts on the first two pitches only, and after that we found no anchors!   I was really enjoying being acclimatized, having perfect conditions, and being on this magnificent Chamonix granite, — it felt like I was just floating up it.   Just before the top Konstanze led a long, and quite loose left traverse to attempt to find the bolted Abseil line used by some more popular routes.  She found it, and we completed the abseils and down-soloing just as it got really dark, and, sharing our one head torch got back to the hut at midnight.  It was probably pretty close to a forced night out.  (I don’t *think* it would have been too cold, but I’m glad I didn’t find out!)

DSC01360.JPG The next day it rained, so I ate cake while K went for a walk, and then Andrew Mitchell arrived in the evening.

The following day (Sunday) we were out from the hut from 6am until 10pm completing the magnificent  “Voie Contamine Vaucher” on the Aguille du Peigne, which at 15 pitches (400m alt gain) was the longest route we did.


Andrew on one of the early pitches


Pretending to be scared


Looking up the line from about 5 pitches up.  We are heading for the giant ‘razor’ and chimney


Konstanze leads the incredible chimney pitch


Near the summit


All we have to do now is Abseil for 3 hours, go down the snow and walk back to the hut for DINNER


Looking down one of the many rapells



Andrew shows us the poses in the fading light

This was a great climbing day.  We did the route in good style despite getting lost quite a few times, and we all enjoyed every move.  My personal favourites bits were the airy 6a traverse under the roofs (crux), and the 6a layback protected by  stuffing cams into the moss, lower down  (you will never find that, we were off route!).


The way down –  9pm


We were all pretty shattered to be honest,  but the following day K and I went back onto the “Eperon Nord” and completed it properly this time AND made the 6pm cable car (we were only 30 min late so it was still running).

The final route of the trip was a few days later at Barberine: the bolted 8 pitch “Magician d’Oz”.  I was really struggling for energy and happy to have bolts.

Thanks Konstanze for an inspiring trip, and for calmness and route finding.  And thanks Andrew for making a 3, and sharing your confidence on the Contamine.  Salut.

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