August 30, 2014

Speed Flying From the Brevent, Chamonix

Earlier this month,  Dylan T and I spent the day lapping the Brevent on our small wings. It was a cool, cloudy day and there was hardly any thermal activity. The cloud flying was short and fun and the acro guys were out in full force throwing down all the tricks while facing backwards. We did about 5 flights total and it was a lot like skiing at the hill where you ride the lift up, bomb down and repeat. Dylan was flying an 18 meter Little Cloud and I was on a 12 meter Ozone Fazer. 

August 28, 2014

Climbing the Tour Ronde and the Entreves Traverse

Sara on the lower section of the SE Arete of the Tour Ronde with the Dent de Geant, Aiguille de Rochfort and Grande Jorasses in the background.

Even during a summer that has been dubbed with the worst weather in 40 years, there are still some sunny days. So even though a lot of the bigger objectives are not in great shape, lots of smaller routes are good to go. Here are some photos from a couple days out on the Italian side of the massif.

Approaching the Tour Ronde with the SE Arete on the left and the North Face on the right.

Low down on the SE Arete.

The views of the Aiguille Noire, the Peuterey Integrale and the Munchkin are awesome from the Italian side.

Looking down at the Brenva Ridge and the Frontier Ridge / Kuffner Arete of Mont Maudit.

Seth Hobbitsis showed up and gave everyone a lesson in proper guiding techniques.

Here Seth demonstrates the appropriate belay method on the summit of the Tour Ronde.

I found a girl on the top and took a photo with her.

The next day guiding Richard on the Entreves Traverse. How many climbers can you count in this photo?

Climbing along the exposed ridge of the Entreves.

Some parties didn't get the memo that the traverse starts at the Col D'Entreves! 

Another cloudy day in Chamonix. The flowers are the only ones in town that aren't complaining about the rain. 

August 24, 2014

Climbing the Rebuffat Route - South Face of The Aiguille de Midi, Chamonix

Half way up the Rebuffat Route on the South Face of the Midi with Mt. Blanc and the Arete de Cosmiques in the background. I traversed too early in this photo and ended up climbing a crux pitch to regain the route. But it made for a great photo so it must have been worth it.

A few days ago, Sara and I got really lucky with the weather and conditions on the South Face of the Midi. We were expecting tons of people and icy cracks, but the rock was dry and there was only one other party on the route. We brought a single 60 meter rope and could have rappelled off  from near the top. We also brought a single set of cams to #3 Camalot and 10 draws. We did not bring any nuts but it would have been nice to have about 5 medium - small wires. We walked down the ridge to the base of the route and climbed up and over with all our gear. We brought 1 ice axe between the two of us and I would recommend bringing a small one that can fit inside your pack. This will make the roof pitch much more enjoyable! A useful topo can be found here. An amazing climb when you're not fighting the rest of Chamonix for space!

The day before on the Index in the Aiguille Rouge. I think we found the worst possible place to climb.

Later that same day on a 4 pitch sport route lower down in the Arve Valley. Much more civilized.

Sara's first time walking down the NE Ridge from the Aiguille de Midi with the Dent du Geant and the Grande Jorasses in the distance.

Pitch 1 of the Rebuffat Route (5.9+)

Looking up at the S Crack (5.10)

Setting up the belay at the end of the Roof Pitch.

Sara climbing the S Crack.

I'm not sure what was better, the climbing or Sara's pink shirt?

Check out the climber on the Contamine Route behind the index finger.

A little bit of un-gentlemanly climbing before the easy finish to the top.

Sara avoiding the snow.

A different view of climbers heading back to the Midi.

Stepping across to the start of the final pitch.


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.