Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Les Alpes

Last week I went to the Alps with Cassim Ladha. It was quite an impromptu trip as Cass called me about a week before setting off as his partner had dropped out. After a bit of thought I decided it was a good idea and agreed to go with him. We took Cass's new car from my house in Yorkshire to France via the Ferry at Dover. Our first destination were the Ecrins, thanks to a slightly more favorable forecast. We arrived in mid afternoon on Saturday and thanks to the long drive we decided to take most of Sunday off before walking up to the mountains in the evening. Our target was Jour de Colere, a 15 pitch ED1 on the Aiguille de Sialouze.
On Sunday I bouldered in the valley while Cass did some work. I didn't climb anything very hard but it was useful to get me used to the rock I'd be climbing on the next day.
Ailefroide Bouldering
We met up later on, had tea and got ready for our walk up to the Refuge du Sele. The walk was quite long and monotonous, with a couple of via ferrata sections, but nothing too hard. 4 or so hours after leaving the valley I was in my bivi bag outside the higher winter hut trying to psyche myself up for next days climb.
I woke at 5am when my alarm went off and sat in my sleeping bag making coffee and eating breakfast. It was still very dark and cold but we could see lights heading up the valley. We didn't want to hang around too much as we didn't want to get stuck behind another team and the weather was due to change in the afternoon.
Jour de Colere (Photo Credit: Cassim Ladha)
Jour de Colere (Photo Credit: Cassim Ladha)
As we walked to the bottom of the route it started to get light and I could see the length of the climb. As you can tell from my blog I mostly just boulder with the odd bit of single pitch trad in there. This thing was 15 pitches long. I could just about make out the line, and the location of the Crux F7a pitch.
Cass had the first lead, which after the initial snow climb in rock boots wasn't all that bad. We alt lead from here. I could give a break down of each pitch but this would be very dull. Things started to get a bit more interesting when I got to the bottom of the crux pitch. I had just led the previous F6b pitch so I expected Cass to have this one, but he wasn't feeling it, so I took it again. Up until this point on the route I didn't think we would do it. The weather was supposed to change soon and bring some bad rain and we were going quite slow, but after this pitch there were only 4 more easy pitches to the top. Easy.
This pitch went without too much trouble, although I did cover the crux foot holds in blood after cutting my ankle. I have to be honest I did the pitch "French Free", meaning I aided the crux moves, but its the alps and that's allowed.
Cass seemed to struggle with this pitch and looked quite tired when he got to the top. He set off up the next pitch but it wasn't long before he couldn't go any further and made a belay below an off width. I took over the reigns again and linked the rest of the pitch together with the next. We were now just 2 short pitches from the top, which we would be able to link together. Cass set off up this final link up but didn't get far before he didn't want to do any more. After a look at the topo I worked out that we could get to the abb line with a diagonal abseil. I lowered cass off and followed myself. It seemed to take an age to get to the valley floor thanks to the huge number of abbs needed but we managed it and walk out to bivi next to the hut again.
The next day saw us drive to Chamonix, via Italy. I wasn't feeling too psyched in Chamonix to try anything hard. I didn't want to commit to a big route seeing how close we got to the top of Jour de Colere then had to back off. I was psyched for something short and hard, but Cass didn't want to do this. In the end we settled for a walk from the Aiguille do Midi, across the Vallee Blanche and down the Mer De Glace. I quite enjoyed this although it wasn't too hard. We saw a lot of the Alps this way at least.
Vallee Blanche (Photo Credit: Cassim Ladha)
(Photo Credit: Cassim Ladha)

(Photo Credit: Cassim Ladha)

(Photo Credit: Cassim Ladha)

Requein Hut
On the way back we stopped at Font for a quick boulder. This was the first time ive been here and im pretty keen to get back.
After a day off at home I drove back to Edinburgh, stopping at Bowden on my way past. I managed to send Sprung, my first font 7c. It went down without too much trouble on the day. Im really psyched to get some more hard boulders done now!

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