Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Dent Blanche South ridge

~ Friday 29th July 2011

 More snow in the Alps...With bad weather on Wednesday we decided to walk up to the Bertol hut and approach the Dent Blanche hut from there, a scenic trip along the ridge dividing the Val d'Hérens from the Zermatt valley . It's a long haul from Arolla, 1300m of steepness. There are new ladders at the hut now but more exciting still - new toilets! At last, the infamous Bertol hanging sacks have been replaced with modern units, a huge improvement. Still only 2 of them though...

The new Bertol ladders

After a snowy aftenoon the next day dawned cloudy but slowly improved. Good tactics saw us leave the hut last and avoid any trail breaking on the way to Tete Blanche. Carelessly we found ourselves out in front from there on for the traverse to the Dent Blanche hut - a long, calf deep slog with great views. 

More snow in the afternoon...but after a early breakfast the skies soon cleared to give stunning views. The south ridge is a good route when snowy but it was slow going and sadly we turned back before the top, time passing quickly and a long descent ahead. 

High on the Dent Blanche South Ridge

Mont Blanc de Cheilon

~ Monday 25th July 2011

 The unsettled weather continues, and it's cold too. It was snowing as we left the car in Arolla on Monday, and -6 at the Dix hut this morning. As well as unsettled the weather is very localised - very little snow at the Dix but apparently 30cm at Vignettes. 

We set off for the traverse of Mont Blanc de Cheilon, choosing to start up the normal route and do a "reverse traverse". This is climbable dry or in crampons if snowy...and it was. Worth mentioning the serac fall on the normal route too. This looked innocuous last week but collapsed at 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon, right across the upper snow section of the normal route. We avoided it completely by steeper snow on the right, and from above it still looks unstable. There's a big crack up and left. 

The summit ridge was snowy and climbed in crampons - but was dry 3 weeks ago. Descending from the summit is quite tricky at first but soon easily down climbable. Reaching the east summit we were very glad we'd chosen to go this way - there's a lot of soft snow which would have been hard to climb up.

Summit ridge with serac fall visible behind

Down climb from the summit

The descent from the Serpentine col was calf deep, untracked (amazingly no-one has traversed the Pigne d'Arolla) and quite crevassed... 

Bishorn Revisited

~ Friday 22nd July 2011

 Despite changeable weather all over the Alps there was a glimmer of hope in the forecast for the central Valais. So back to the Bishorn!

Heading up from the beautiful Turtmann valley is longer but nicer than the haul up from Zinal and has the advantage of a night at the Turtmann hut.  Unfortunately the new snow spoiled plans for the Brunegghorn - which is a long way anyway never mind in fresh snow - so we headed straight up to Tracuit, the only team on the impressive glacier. This was dry last week but very snowy now. 

The afternoon weather was awful, and there's not much to do at Tracuit...but we were rewarded by perfect weather this morning. Clear skies and no wind. Phew. A quick breakfast meant we were first away, breaking trail all the way to the top but earning ourselves a deserted summit with superb views of a very snowy Switzerland. 

The last move!


~ Tuesday 19th July 2011

This was the first time I've stayed at the Moiry hut since the new extension was opened - it's fantastic. The copper exterior has darkened and now blends in quite well, and the inside is very comfortable. Arriving soaked in a downpour we were shown the showers and the drying room! There seems to be tough competition this year for the tastiest food and largest servings - last week I thought Turtmann were clear winners, but Moiry was very good...and all locally sourced and organic. 

We approached the hut up the lower Moiry glacier, which was perfect - if wet - crampon practice ground. Rewarded with nice weather in the morning we climbed the Pointe de Mourti, a varied and interesting route with stunning views above the cloud inversion. 

Dent Blanche and Dent d'Hérens above the clouds

Gore Tex

~ Tuesday 19th July 2011

 For the past 2 years I've been part of the Gore Tex test team. We've been testing the next generation material and comparing it to the current Pro Shell - which I think is already the most waterproof and breathable material on the market. The last couple of weeks have seen some very "testing" weather conditions - wind, cold, snow and a lot of distinctly un-alpine rain! 




~ Saturday 16th July 2011

 We were lucky with the weather last week, getting a perfect day yesterday on the Bishorn after 2 wet and cloudy days.

After a couple of days warm up rock climbing and on the excelllent Moiry glacier we drove round to the beautiful but very wet Turtmann valley for the short walk to the Turtmann hut. This has to be one of the nicest huts in the Alps, very well run and with fantastic food in huge servings. 

The next day started wet again, and we climbed up the Gassi gully in thick cloud. A few clear spells allowed glimpses of the Bishorn summit before the clouds came back. The glacier up to Tracuit is already completely dry and needs some carefull footwork!

Amazingly Friday dawned clear and cold with a spectacular inversion in the valley - perfect conditions with hard snow and blue skies, a great end to the week. The Bishorn has a reputation as a straightforward 4000m peak but still needs respect - the glacier is currently very crevassed!

Swiss Rock

~ Friday 8th July 2011

 With the forecast saying wet and stormy in the high hills we headed down to Bramois to finish the week. Bramois is like a different world - driving down 1500m from Arolla to the vineyards and orchards in the valley is a big change.

We went for "La Voie des Diedres", a 7 pitch route on a steep and impressive part of the cliff. Although bolted the route has an adventurous feel with some loose "rock" and outrageous situations. 

Pitch 3

Pitch 5

Last pitch!

Arolla Conditions

~ Wednesday 6th July 2011

 Just back from an excellent 3 day trip in which we climbed 2 of the best AD routes in Arolla - the traverse of the Éveque and the Pigne d'Arolla-Mont Blanc de Cheilon traverse. 

After a night in the cosy Bouquetins bivouac (hello to the guys who arrived at 11pm...) we ploughed through soft snow and a tricky cornice to the start of the SW ridge of the Éveque. After a scrappy start this route turns in to excellent, exposed and quite tricky climbing on great rock. 

A comfortable night at the Vignettes and an early start for the long haul over the Pigne to the Mont Blanc de Cheilon - happily a good over night freeze meant excellent hard snow and fast progress. The Cheilon traverse was completely dry and we made quick progress, encouraged by the fast approaching clouds...A swift descent of the dry west ridge - climbed in crampons and corniced 2 weeks ago - saw us quickly back at the Dix hut for lunch before the long trek back to Arolla...

Miroir d'Argentine

~ Sunday 3rd July 2011

 Excellent day on the Miroir d'Argentine today. This is quite a big day driving over from Evolene but worth it for the amazing climbing. We did the Direct route with the direct start - great and varied climbing. 

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