Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Modica Noury and the Valley Blanche

Toby and i got an 8.30 tele freak up the Aig du Midi and skied over to the start of Modica Noury on Mont Blanc du tacul. This is a 500m III/5+ or hard Scottish V route. We had about 45 mins of good visibility which was just enough to make us sweat out our breakfast on the approach slopes and turn the snow in the sun to porridge.

A Norwegian team (the owners of Climb Inn at Rjukan) were having a nightmare getting over the bergshrund. Toby levitated up the vertical mush 10m to their left and so we squeezed in front. The ice was in excellent easy condition with many hooks in place that the axes can just be slotted into, however two sections are thinning out to what the French might call 'mixte' but what Brits still call bomber ice climbing. We moved together and strung several of the pitches together and pitched a couple. The quick abseil descent down the line allowed us to ski the Valley Blanche to the terminus of the Mer de Glass from where we walked down in the rain to Chamonix.

I couldn't get any pictures of the other routes as we were in a white out with snow fall for most of the day. Albinoni Gabarrou, Pinochio, and the Super Couloi were climbed yesterday but i think that folk are starting the super Coulior up the Gervassuti pillar now. A report of an ascent of the Eugster Direct on the north face of the Midi from last week reported it to be in hard mixed condition. A team is staying up at the midi to try another few routes and another team is up the Argentiere glacier seeking out those elusive 1000m+ Td or above routes!

Its currently lashing it down in Cham now so it's back to the planks this afternoon and probably for the rest of the week

Monday, April 02, 2007

Failed on a new line.

As i said i gave the skiing muscles a rest and i convinced Es and Toby Keep to try this new line on the North Face of the Aig du midi. Actually it didn't take any convincing at all and phrases such as "Bring it on!" and "Lets 'av it" were heard.

However, logistics for a winter condition route in the mountains means that if we chose to walk it would have been a situation of camp 1,2,3... etc just to get to the climb. Esmond and I decided to put our plastics into out Fritshci bindings and hope for the best, Toby wisely decided to climb in his ski mountaineering boots.

Anyhow we got on a morning telefreak with out to much trouble other than the odd look from folk doing the valley blanche who wondered where we were going with such big packs. We left from the half way station and put a skiing track over to the north face. If anyone wants to go and have a go at Fil a Plomb they will find a nice track prepared for them. This route looked thin at the bottom of the crux, but i dont think that you can make it out in the pictures I'm uploading. This may fill back up with the warmer temperatures we will be having this week but it is hard to know for sure.

We got a couple of hundred metres up our route before my ice axe broke (my fault for not checking that the bolts were tight enough before we left the house). I was leading at the time but was able to down climb to my last runner and build a belay. A subsequent search couldn't find all the bits needed so i Heath-Robinson'ed it with a rock 5. We carried on and Esmond started his block of leading whilst Toby and i took the second's packs. We made pretty slow progress as the whole route was buried under up to a metre of powder in some places and the leader had to spend a lot of time clearing loose snow and rock to get up the pitches. The other bolts on my axe began to work loose and not having an allen key or any spare bolts (some thing I'll not do again) combined with the poor conditions and slow progress we abbed back to the skis and spent a night in the hut just below the freak station. We were all totally soaking and the prospect of a bivi and the likely hood of another 2 to 3 days on the face in the current conditions did not appeal. Did i mention that it started snowing as well? It wasn't a tricky decision in the end!

We were just getting cosy in the hut when Simon and Neil from Liverpool turned up after having snow-shoed into the Carrington-Rouse and very nearly got to the top when a huge spindrift avalanche came down the route and knocked Simon, who was leading, off sending him on a 10m fall at the end of which he bust his ankle up quite badly. They got them selves down the route and over to the hut where we gave them our stove and some of our copious amount of food we had left. They said the the conditions on the route were OK, more mixed than Ice and probably pretty Scottish.

I think that the Eugster direct will be in slow, laborious mixed condition also. Have a look at the photos i took of the faces and make your decisions with care.