August 11, 2014

Guiding the Midi Plan Traverse, The Entreves Traverse and The Cosmiques Ridge

Looking out at the Aiguille de Plan from the Midi. The objective has a lot of climbing that can't be seen from the start. What an awesome route with lots of steep ridge climbing and cool rock.

Spent the past few days climbing some classic objectives with Brendan W. Brendan is super fit, so after an acclimatization lap on the Arete de Laurence and the Cosmiques, we moved over to the Midi Plan Traverse. I had never done the traverse before and we were lucky to find excellent conditions for moving together on the exposed sections (although we did short-pitch a few sections on the descent). A single 50 meter rope and a handful of cams came in useful. A stubby ice screw would also have helped out on a few icy sections. The route wasn't particularly busy (for Chamonix!), but there were quite a few parties moving around with a lot of rope between them on the no-rope or short-rope terrain. There is no ignoring the huge exposure waiting to capitalize on a single careless step, and watching teams long rope through the terrain was harrowing. There have been many fatal accidents on the route including this one last summer. When we arrived at the rock climbing section on the return to the Midi, we met a family of three with a young daughter who was quite distressed - claiming that she couldn't hear or see. The parents tried feeding her food, fearing that low blood-sugar, combined with the altitude, were to blame. Eventually, the girl started to calm down, but there was still lots of climbing between the team and the Requin Hut or the Aiguille de Midi. So they called the PGMH and one hour later a helicopter plucked them off and brought them down to Chamonix. Sounds like the PGHM are ALMOST as busy as the Kananaskis Country Rescue guys this summer!

Getting ready to exit the ice cave.

Climbing on the Arete de Laurence.

Party on the Cosmiques with the Trois Monts in the background.

Brendan on the crux of the Cosmiques.

Final moves before reaching the Midi.

Starting the Midi Plan Traverse.

Traversing over the North Face of the Midi.

These guys had just topped out  the Frendo and were hungry for more.

A team getting ready to descend from the Rognon du Plan to the Col Superior du Plan. 

Final pitch to the summit.

Yesterday we walked for two hours over to Italy in the rain. At least we got to climb something! Brendan on the awesome and exposed ridge of the Entreves Traverse.

Looking down in to Italy.

The Entreves is often called the Cosmiques of Italy, but I think the Cosmiques should be called the Entreves of France. Did I get that right?

Descending with the Tour Ronde in the background. 

August 05, 2014

Climbing the Aiguille de Peigne and the Gran Paradiso

Joe Stock leading the Climb for Conservation crew Ginna and Walt to the summit of the Gran Paradiso.

Despite the challenging weather and conditions in the Alps this summer, we've managed a few good climbs and summits. Last week, the Climb for Conservation team rolled in to Chamonix under grey and rainy skies. Our plan was to climb Mt. Blanc, but we opted for the Gran Paradiso in Italy after looking at the forecast.

Joe Stock- of huge Alaska fame - made a celebrity guiding appearance for the trip. The last time I worked with Joe was on the Gran Paradiso in 2012. On that trip, Joe encouraged me to paraglide from the summit snowfield, but this time, although I huffed the wing up to the Chabod Refugio, I decided to walk down the mountain. Not sure if that would be called maturity or cowardice?

Joe eating his signature baguette and banana sandwich. 

Libby trying to ignore the burro.

This little kid was running the burro operation.

Margot and Tom on top of the Gran Paradiso.

After spending a day sport climbing at the Church crag and getting rained on in town, Joe and I climbed the Aiguille de Peigne via the Arete de Papillon. We turned around at the base of the beautiful summit pitch - the Lepiney Crack - due to electrical activity.

Low on the route with the Bosson Glacier and Gouter Ridge in the background.

Joe on the ridge.


It was great to be climbing on beautiful granite again.

Looking out at the Aiguilles Rouges.

Joe on the Boite a  Lettres pitch graded a wet 6A. The Midi can be seen in the background.

Nearing the top of the Papillon Arete.

Climbing the ridge of the Peigne above the col de Peigne.

The last few minutes of blue sky.

Naturally, the afternoon forecast held true and we were engulfed in cloud near the top. Electrical activity was predicted and the Aiguille de Peigne would be a peigneful place with lightening crashing down!

Rapping from high on the Peigne.

Coming out of the Papillon gully with the North Face of the Aiguille de Midi in the background.

August 01, 2014

Morning Flight From The Brevent, Chamonix

Only in Chamonix can a work day start like this

And end like this. 
Angela and Margot climbing back to the Aiguille de Midi after a stormy afternoon up high.

Since crashing over 1.5 years ago, it's a been an introspective and challenging process becoming comfortable in the air again. Once you hit the ground hard, it's difficult to forget the sensation of impact. In order to get back to flying confidently, the two most important factors have been a) consciously deciding that I wanted to fly again and b) having access to an area that I could log numerous flights in a single day.  The first point may seem moot, but it provided the motivation to work through the nerves, doubt and fear that went along with getting back in the air - especially on the small wing. At first, there was very little joy or fun flying the 12 meter. Travelling up the gondola to launch, my heart often felt like it was going to explode out of my chest! In order to calm down, I practiced a simple breathing exercise where the goal was to make 10 full breaths without the mind wandering. This proved to be significantly harder than flying and I have yet to make it to 3, but the exercise helped me to calm down and focus. It took about 15 flights before I could relax and start to enjoy the process again. 

The Brevent launch is quite forgiving and stands about 1000 meters over the Savoy landing field. On a 12 meter wing flying at about 85 km/h, the flight lasts about 2.5 minutes. 

July 28, 2014

Guiding The Arete de Cosmiques and the Monch

Neil and Stefan finishing the Arete de Cosmiques with the Tacul, Mt. Maudit, Mt. Blanc and the Dome de Gouter in the background.

During the past two weeks, I was fortunate to climb with two clients who I met on Ama Dablam in 2007 and Mt. Elbrus in 2012. The trip was operated by Adventure Consultants, and despite some rough weather and snowy conditions, we managed some classic ascents. The initial plan for the trip was to climb the Eiger South Ridge and the Matterhorn, but the wet July weather kiboshed those lofty goals. So we turned our attention to smaller peaks where snow coverage would improve travel conditions. Often times, people get really down when the weather doesn't allow for certain objectives, but Neil and James kept cool and finished the trip with a speedy ascent of Italy's highest peak (entirely within the borders of the country) - The Gran Paradiso.

Evening light at the Cosmiques Hut.

Mt. Blanc de Tacul.

The Eiger Nordwand from the Kleine Scheidegg train station.

Trying to find our way out of the maze otherwise known as the Jungfraujoch.

Swiss Mystique.

Neil, Stefan and James marching to the Monch Hut with the Jungfrau in the distance.

Evening view from the front door of the Monch Hut. 

Morning light on the nearby peaks.

Stefan and James on the Monch with the Aletschhorn in the background.

Neil working up the summit ridge of the Monch.

The base jumping mecca of Lauterbrunnen.


July 16, 2014

Climbing the Gran Paradiso and other Chamonix "Classiques"

Dylan Taylor on the Passy Via Ferratta down valley from Chamonix. This was the rainiest day I have worked in since I can remember! And it lasted about 10 days. Tons of snow fell up high and the big peaks were practically inaccessible for about 10 days. In the Mt. Blanc massif alone, I heard various reports that up to 6 climbers went missing during this period.

Return to summer on Mani Pulite in the Aiguille Rouge. This is Neil J who I climbed with on Ama Dablam in 2007 and Mt. Elbrus in 2012. This year, he showed up in Chamonix for some warm up climbs before heading to the Eiger and Matterhorn. In the background you can see the Aiuille Verte, The Dru, The Mer de Glace, the Grande Jorasses, etc.

The Polartec boys heading down from the Aiguille de Midi the morning before the weather got bad!

Danica and Mike on the summit ridge of the Gran Paradiso.

Neil on the fine gneiss of Mani Puliti.

Climbing in the Alps on a quiet day with 100 of your best friends.