My time in Chamonix is coming to an end. I’ve just dropped David off to get his airport transfer. Later on this afternoon I’m meeting Amy and Trystan at the train station and driving to Briançon Ailefroide area in the Ecrins tomorrow.
For the past couple of weeks David and I have been living in the van in ‘Cham’. We drove down over two days through Belgium and Luxemburg to avoid motorway toll charges. Van life has been awesome, epically better than camping. We have been staying in random parking spots in Cham to avoid camp-site fees. The French seem much more tolerant of such antics than in the UK. We have been parking next to many motor-homes doing exactly the same thing.
Home for two weeks
The weather as usual has been pretty poor. I don’t think we had more than two consecutive days of sunny weather. I think we managed to make the most of the weather; the walk to check the ‘meteo’ became a daily (sometimes twice daily) routine.
As usual we didn’t manage many of the routes we had in mind. For the past two of three years David and I have been psyched to do the Frendo Spur, there was not really single day on this trip where good weather and good conditions for the route coincided.
We did manage to climb plenty of other good routes, mainly rock routes. Here is a quick summery of the trip highlights:
La fin de Babylon (220m ED- ,6c)– Brévent S Face – Aig Rouges
Our initial plan was to warm up with a rock route on Aig du L’M but poor weather and cold temperatures made us opt for a route in the Aig Rouges. We bought the new Piola guide book for the Aig rouges which is excellent. The route its self was awesome, climbed in mist and very cold temperatures (I’ve worn less clothing winter climbing in Scotland!). The route is 220m long and 8 pitches all fully bolted but slightly spaced. The highlight was getting out of the tent in the morning to see an awesome cloud inversion in the Chamonix valley and also a 6c traverse under a massive roof on pitch 4.
Breakfast avec Tesco Malt-Loaf
6c Roof Traverse
Congo Star (300m TD+ , 6a+) – SE Face Aig Pierre Alain – Envers des Aiguilles
After an enjoyable day of bad weather which was spent meeting up with friends, drinking great micro brewery ale and some average quality cragging. We once again planned to climbing a route on on Aig du L’M but out plans were again messed up by bad weather and low freezing level. This time we bought the new Piola guidebook to Envers des Aiguilles (the granite crack climbing mecca behind the Requin and Envers huts). David had previously owned the guide then lost it..sad times. Therefore we were both familiar with the routes and psyched to get up there. We stayed at the Requin hut which was awesome; very friendly guardian called Delphine and the hut's own cat, all helicoptered in!
We climbed a route called Congo Star which was 300m and 10 pitches long, all of pristine Chamonix Granit...fantastic. The route was semi bolted although a small rack of cams and nuts are required, contrary to what the guide book says! The route took us about 6hrs including the 9 abseils for decent. On one of the abbs I found an Omega Pacific cam which was quite a find.
Outside Requin hut
Fantastic crack climbing on Congo Star
David Pretending he's not loosing...again!
Note to Delphine in Finest French
Chèré Couloir (D 350m) – Mont Blanc du Tacul
To satisfy David’s need for snow and ice we decided to camp at Col du Midi and climb Chèré Couloir
The route was 5 pitches long with 75 degree ice, about Scottish IV with the addition of bolted belays. It was defiantly the steepest ice I’ve ever led, but it wasn’t too hard. As usual on a winter route the hardest part for me is staying warm and not crying/throwing up due to hot aches! Overall I did enjoy the experience. The physical crux of the day was slogging back up the Midi arête with oversized packs then running around the lift station trying to find a toilet!
Glacial Camping Atmosphere
Mont Blanc du Tacul
Early Morning/Night Approach sans Head Torch
Thin ice on Pitch 3
David on Belay Traverse
David Leading Pitch 4
Me Leading Pitch 2..I think
Le Piége (TD+ 200m 6b+) – S Face Tour Verte – Nantillons Envers des Aiguilles
After an enjoyable day sport climbing on a sheltered crag called Cascade Doran above Sallanches (down the valley from Cham) David was all set to go home before he checked his transfer details and realised he had an extra day! With the weather looking good we wanted to make the most of it. We drove back to Cham and walked up to the Envers hut. My friend Bez also came along. We climbed a 5 pitch route called Le Piége (which translates to ‘the trap’). The climbing was fantastic, proper granite crack climbing, I even taped up my hands for the particularly brutal hand jamming crack on first pitch, it would probably be given E2/E3 in uk money. The route had bolted belays and the odd bolt on a slab, but a full set of cams and nuts plus about 14 QD’s is defiantly needed.
Sport Climbing above Sallanches
Morning view from the van..bivi in hills above Sallanches
Bez....Ready for Alpinism!
Fat Marmotte on Approch
Me getting stuck into the first brutal pitch at 7am
Bez and David Seconding 3rd Pitch
David leading 4th pitch from a very cramped hanging belay
Bez Seconding Last Pitch
Bez on the Summit
The Envers hut was great, even better it only cost us €5.75 each! We took our own food and got 75% discount since we are BMC/CAF members and all under 25.
Right...now of to St Gervais to pick up Amy and Trystan! Bring on tres bien grimpe in the Ecrins