July 13, 2012

Chamonix So Far

Mike's first impression of Chamonix.

During the pre-dawn hours of July 12th, an avalanche rolled down the Maudit Face on Mt. Blanc, killing atleast 9 climbers. Almost immediately, phones in the valley started ringing and the PGHM helicopters were buzzing the sky. Texts started going back and forth between the North American guiding community to check on everyone's whereabouts and luckily, no one in our small knit group was under the snow (although there were some close calls!).

Unfortunately for Chamonix, this sort of tragedy is not uncommon. The last major avalanche occurred in August 2008, lower down on the same route. Because Mt. Blanc is such an accessible and heavily travelled peak, people forget that it is a serious and dangerous objective. When you step off the Aiguille Du Midi with hundreds of tourists and climbers, it's like - Welcome to Alpine Disneyland! Then add in the false security of so many people walking up the same route - with the pressure to keep going because hey, everyone else is going for it - and BOOM. Nature moves and many people are in the way. Condolences to all who have been affected  by the tragedy.

I was lucky enough to be guiding Mike S for the past 10 days and we got in a bunch of great routes. Mike has a unique outlook on climbing. Basically, he doesn't care what  he climbs as long as he's having fun. This might sound like a pretty straight forward M.O. but you'd be surprised how many people come to Chamonix and just want to climb something that the friend's back home will recognize. Alas, thanks to Mike for a great two weeks of climbing!

Mike's second impression of Chamonix.

Walking in the Aiguille Rouge with the Mt. Blanc Range in the background.

The Dent du Geant and the Grand Jorasse in early morning light.

Climbers hanging out above the top of the Frendo Spur.

Mike making the final moves on the Arete de Cosmiques.

Looking down the Mer de Glace from the Aiguille du Rochefort.

The Dent du Geant from the Aiguille du Rochfort.

Mike on the Crochus Traverse.

Nearing the top of the Aiguille Verte.

After climbing the Aiguille Verte with Mike, I dropped him off at the Telepherique and flew back to Chamonix from the Grand Montets launch. This is a much more civilized way to travel than taking the public bus.

Flying over the Mer de Glace.

The sky bus.

Tony Touch testing out the new light weight harness.

Para-Alpinisme! The new Gin Yeti 19. Combined with the harness above, this set-up weighs in at just over 3 kilos.

Heading home after a nice flight from Les Houches to Chedde.

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