Early Season Ice and Ski Touring
After a month out with injury I managed to enjoy an excellent March and April mainly ski touring and climbing around the Mont Blanc Massif and the Ecrins. Adventures in the Ecrins were hard fought and scary. Possibly the most scared I have been on skis. A true steep ski mountaineers paradise. I struggled to engage with the terrain and the decision making. I learned more about skiing I have ever done before.
The ski touring season subsides. The Arrochar Alps provided.
Followed by a Speedo Ascent of Electric Blue after a magical day on Gogarth.
The granite happens.
Neil Bryant called me as I made my way down from the midi exhausted after 2 days of Granite
We both wanted to try the Forbes Arete from Le Tour in a single push from the car. Although I was exhausted the weather seemed excellent and conditions would be perfect. At the 5am alarm clock I sprang out of bed revitalized and fully psyched, and soon enough we both were power walking past the Albert Premier at around 7.30am.
It was great to feel light and fit, I was nearly under 70kg and felt much better for it. I had been in the mountains loads with Neil and he just loves ascent! However the last slope up the Forbes Arete was brutal.
We had both massively underestimated how gnarly it actually was! However it was good to be with someone who was comfortable moving fast over moderate exposed terrain. About
half way he dropped his mountaineering axe. I was tied to someone who had no way of arresting. However he showed no signs of panic or weakness, if anything moved faster over slushy exposed snow arête with dizzying exposure was interesting but well protected and just added an extra challenge!
As the anxiety of the mountains subsided the usual phone calls from work requesting an early start quickened the pace. Arriving back at my flat before dark was great, and I even managed to have a beer in the garden before passing out.
Red Pillar of the Broullaird
After 4 days of work, Rhys Macallister was on the case for something “Grand Coursey”. We both set sights on the Red Pillar Of the Broullaird. An ultra classic rock climb onto the Broullaird ridge and up over Mont Blanc.
Liam Brophy took us through the tunnel before walking up to the Monzino. This kind of Alpine climbing appeals to me. Straight from work and too busy to think about the proposition. This section of the massif is perhaps my favorite area. The Monzino guards the wild glaciers and spires of rock, the ambiance is magic.
My legs were not working as well as they were working the previous week as Rhys raced into the distance. We met Jon Bracey in the hut and ate a ridiculous amount of Gnocchi.
After a good sleep we made our way to the Eccles bivouac. We decided to take it easy and play the game tactically with plenty of food and a whole day at the Eccles. The reason to rush was to get over the glacier before getting too hot. Rhys had his crampons on the wrong foot the whole way which made me laugh.
We climbed a few difficult seracs to get on route again, then made it to the Hut to be greeted by a happy Jon munching on a massive pack of cool original Doritos. After an unbelievably beautiful day chilling to Led Zeppelin and other great music.We made lots of food and lots of jokes about the giant 2 kg nut sack. This little tin can on the side of the Mont Blanc seemed to be Bracey’s home for the summer. Hearing about this inspires me to come back time and time again, climbing the many routes the area has to offer.
After an epic sleep we made our way out of the can into the dark starry sky. The view over Italy and the moon illuminated glacier was incredible. The orange glow of civilization created a barrier of light between the world we were in and the real world of the valley below. I didn’t want to be anywhere else. Expectations about a climb can be too much to bear but i no longer found anxiety, just pure excitement. Climbing with Rhys felt safe and efficient and soon where zooming up the pillar as the sun hit us.
About 2 pitches from the top a very iced crack stopped us for a while. Rhys took the lead and wrestled rather desperately up the overhanging iced chimney. Soon we were at the top of the climb and then moving together on the ridge. What we climbed was mostly loose but good fun climbing in amazing terrain. We made the top of Pic Luigi Amedeo before looking across at Mont Blanc and realizing how far we had to go. The light jovial banter then changed to lets get a move on. By that time I was really feeling the weight on my back and the altitude. We took it in turns to carrying the other rope and scrambled, down climbed and pitched some more. Finally we made it onto the continuous snow ridge up to Mont Blanc Courmayeaur. Once over the last rock step we dry wretched our way up onto the summit of Mont Blanc before taking a selfie and making our way down to the Goutier with an unbelievable sunset and the fountain visible on Lake Geneva. One regret was not taking a picture with my heavy camera at the bottom of my bag.
We were greeted in the Goutier with Tartiflette, lots of cake and good discount considering the normal price! We had a good sleep before racing down to get my van down to Geneva airport. Liam picked us up from the Bellvue lift before racing me straight home to get ready for work.I then had to pick up my work van for another few transfer runs to Geneva airport talking to passengers about whether i was a skier or a snowboarder.I tried my best to act like I had woken fresh up to an ironed uniform and keep a professional demeanor.
South Pillar of the Barre Des Ecrins
After a week of work I was psyched for another alpine adventure. Chamonix was looking less than positive however Ecrins weather looked like a winner. After a long day of work me and Tim Oliver bombed our way down to Ailefroide for a quick hit on the south pillar of the Barre des ecrins. Stopping for a pizza and a brownie, we had a few hours kip then walked in catching up to a party at the Bergshrund. The route finding was easier than expected despite a bombarding from parties above. We knew the only way was to move faster and get past them all out of the firing line. We managed to pass everyone and topped out of the Barre before racing back down just before it got dark. The climbing was mainly scrambling with a few hard scary pitches to overtake some parties higher up. Its amazing what you can get away with climbing in boots but this really was the limit. The following day was spent chilling in Briancon eating ice cream and pizza.
Petit Clocher Du Portalet
After another week of work, I had taken an extra day off to allow a good window for attempting the American direct and onto the Pierre Allain with Daniel Joll. We had our systems in place for a speedy ascent. But the a wet day meant more snow on the Pierre Allain then we desired. We concluded that weather was looking excellent in Switzerland for a few days climbing and camping around the Petit Clocher Du Portalet, a stellar piece of rock. After walking in the mist we got lost but guided by shouts in the distance across the moraine from the Tyrolean. We decided that it was too cold as we had another 2 days to climb as much as we wanted. We found a good camping spot and relaxed watching the awesome fin of rock emerge in & out of the cloud. The next day we went for the classic Etac Du Choc. This proved to be a mega classic. Abseiling down above Ave Caeser was more inspiration to get strong and come back. The next day we got up early and did Espirit du clocher and were back in Chamonix 4pm for drinks and food in MBC with Vas and Andy. Despite being disappointed about the Dru, we decided we made the right choice and had a great time climbing in a totally different area of the massif.
The psyche built up over the next week and soon enough me and Pat Brownlie decided to go up the Grand Montets ridge.. The ridge was a stunning scramble up to a fantastic severe level crack feature to the top of the last pinnacle. The slopes up to the top of the Aiguille Verte proved easy work and highly enjoyable. We decided to make a bivouac and snuggled down to an amazing light show managing to get a full recovery.We decided to head down the Moine Ridge instead of the Whymper due to safety.
The ridge made challenging work and after many hours of abseiling and down climbing we made our way over the bergshrund and down to the valley floor just as it got dark.
After another 4 days of work. Pat was psyched again and we got up and down in the Cordier Pillar from first bin in a day. After a great day we spent a long walk down back to Chamonix managing to order a salad, cheesecake and beer from Paradiso Pizza.
Finishing work the next few months was travelling around Italy, France and Spain, trying to climb as much as we possibly could before having to go back to reality. It was a truly epic experience to be able to climb on so much quality rock.
Moving into 2017 I hope the psyche will continue. I am currently looking forward to a winter in Scotland before I return to the alps again for another summer 🙂 Thanks for all the good times 2016!