Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Mont Blanc

~ Wednesday 28th July 2010

 A successful but tough ascent of Mont Blanc today. Conditions are good apart from the Grand Couloir, which is very dry. We used crampons to cross it going up in the dark, but came down easily without them. We saw the usual stonefall, but other teams reported lots, perhaps blown off by the wind or knocked off by others...a french guide told me about watching an eastern European guy (there were dozens) fall off the cable below Gouter - he bounced 15m, stopped then walked down. Lucky.

We left the Tete Rousse hut at 1.30am and woke up crossing a very dry Grand Couloir. All went well though, and by 4.00am we were at the Gouter hut. 

A very nice sunrise quickly turned to wild, windy and cloudy weather above the Vallot hut, which meant hard going on the upper ridge. We reached the top at 8 o'clock but only spent a few minutes there before starting the long way down...legs refuelled at the Gouter hut, then down to Tete Rousse, then the train, cable car and a sleepy drive home. 

Pigne d'Arolla

~ Monday 26th July 2010

A very enjoyable traverse of the Pigne from the Vignettes hut yesterday. We walked up the new Vignettes path. Th enew bit is a short section just below the glacier. It's well sign posted on the way up, and climbs steeply up to the glacier with some cables and metal steps. On the way down it's a bit harder to spot at the moment...

Poor tactics meant we broke trail all the way up the Pigne through 15cm of fresh windblown snow, but got great views on a very cold clear, morning and were first to the top, then the only team who descended to the Dix hut.

The descent to the Dix hut is very crevassed now, much more open than 2 weeks ago. A few good jumps are needed, but the highlight was this monster hole on the Mur de la Serpentine!

Petite Aiguille Verte

~ Thursday 22nd July 2010

 With big thunderstorms forecast for the afternoon we decided to finish the week with  a trip up the Petite Aiguille Verte. This is still in good condition, and we had a great short day climbing up the left ridge and down the right, with varied mixed climbing and superb views. 

 There are more pictures here

Climbing the left hand ridge

On the exposed ridge to the summit


~ Wednesday 21st July 2010

 We climbed the normal route on the Lagginhorn today which has changed hugely in the last month - in late June it was crampons all the way, today we were on damp rock to 3700m, when it froze and became excitingly slippery rock...crampons on for the last bit, with steep hard snow for the top slope. We descended straight down the ridge instead of going across the glacier, which turned out to be a fine descent route although I think it would be a patience testing way up, with lots of loose rock. 

Sweating up the lower rocksWeissmeis through the clouds

Mont Blanc de Cheilon

~ Monday 19th July 2010

 Excellent conditions today on Mont Blanc de Cheilon with dry rock and - at last - a proper freeze overnight. The route was busy, but we were first away from the hut and made good time, pursued by at least 20 other climbers (15 of them from Joint Services military holiday...) We came down the winter route under la Ruinette, which is still in good condition. 

Compare the pictures to these from June 26th for an idea of the change in conditions in the last month

the summit ridge

the army reach the top

We love helicopters

~ Saturday 17th July 2010

...except when they land 10 metres away. Having a quick rest at the Col du Pigne yesterday with the Kingston Grammar School group, we were amazed to have a helicopter land no more than 10 metres away from us - it would have been hard to land closer! There is a licensed landing spot here, but this pilot chose to drop 2 passengers right next to us just as we were about to move on, blowing hats, helmets and gloves away. He then made a second trip to drop 4 more people, who walked the last 50m (in trainers and jeans) for a 5 minute birthday party on the summit. Having landed right on the track, the pilot chose to take off for the return trip with another team less than 50m away. 

The future of heli drops and heli-skiing is under debate at the moment in Switzerland, and it's not surprising when pilots show so little consideration for others on the mountain. Bravo Heli-Alps

School Holidays

~ Saturday 17th July 2010

 Holidays in Arolla last week for a group of 6th formers from Kingston Grammar school 

With 4 guides, 15 students and 3 teachers spent a week learning alpine skills and climbing La Luette and the Pigne d'Arolla, with all 22 of us on the summit yesterday morning - an excellent week. 

sunrise over the Pas de Chevre

negociating crevasses on la Luette

it's not a race but we were first...

Arolla climbing

~ Friday 2nd July 2010

 The summer is well and truly here with very hot weather and a huge change in conditions over the last week - early starts are essential now to beat the heat, and the amount of snow melt in a few days is amazing.

Leaving the Vignettes hut at 4.30am yesterday it was 4 degrees, but luckily there was a track to the Eveque and we made good time despite soft snow. Great summit, and we were the only team on the mountain. 

Today we left early again fpr the Pigne d'Arolla traverse and were the only team on the summit at 6.30am, with great views and good conditions for a very enjoyable detour over the south summit and the long descent to Arolla via the Pas de Chevres. 

Near the top of the Eveque, Dent Blanche, Bouqetins, Matterhorn, Dent d'Hérens behind

Eveque summit

Looking south from the Pigne d'Arolla to the south summit

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