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Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Matterhorn

~ Saturday 28th July 2012

 Double success on the Matterhorn this week. After some good acclimatising on the Mont Blanc de Cheilon Traverse we headed up to the Hornli hut. The Swiss alpine club recently sold the hut to the town of Zermatt and it's due to be renovated next year (This could be interesting for the summers of 2013/14 - there will be limited beds available next year and apparently the whole building will be closed in 2014) A refit is, however, long overdue. It's currently a clear winner in the "worst alpine toilets" competition and a miserable experience after some pleasant nights this summer in the Argentiere hut, Ayas, Tasch, Dix,Vignettes, Chabod and Gonella. And it's expensive. 

Anyway, the Hornli ridge is in great condition (fairly dry as far as the shoulder and a good snowy track on the summit slope) and we made a quick and smooth ascent on Thursday, apart from the usual traffic on the fixed ropes. A second damp night in the cheerless Hornli hut made it hard to psyche up for the repeat ascent on Friday but in fact it went better than Thursday - no traffic jams and a very clear run up and down. 

 

 

Busy summer!

~ Saturday 28th July 2012

 It's been a busy few weeks with - at last - some good and fairly stable weather. More Gran Paradiso action last week, followed by another Crochues traverse:

This week we started with a traverse of the Couronne de Bréona. This great rock ridge is a short approach from Moiry. From la Forcla it's a tough 3 hour walk described as "magical" by a certain guidebook author but it's worth it for the exposed and continuous climbing. 

The next day we coaxed tired legs into walking up to the Vignettes hut, ready for a Pigne-Cheilon traverse on Tuesday. We started in some worrying cloud, seeing nothing on the Pigne summit. Happily as we started the climb to the Cheilon ridge the weather improved, staying chilly but clear for the rest of the day. 

Aiguille d'Argentiere

~ Saturday 14th July 2012

 After warming up on Monday and Tuesday with the excellent traverses of the Aiguilles Crochues and the Pointe Lachenal we walked up to the newly refurbished Argentiere hut on Wednesday. The hut is excellent, great food and very comfortable. 

 

Our plan was the classic ascent of the Aiguille d'Argentiere via the tricky normal route. This is straightforward glacier until the final steep snowslope - around 300m vertical metres of steep cramponing needing concentration and care, especially to get back down! All went well, good conditions and spectacular views.

Droites summit  above the clouds

The steep final slope

Summit!

Zermatt 4000m peaks

~ Sunday 8th July 2012

 It's been yet another week of unsettled weather - thundery, windy and lots of fresh snow. With a lots of plan changing and a bit of luck we managed to climb 4 4000m peaks - Castor, Pollux, a Breithorn half traverse. Finally on Alphubel yesterday we were rewarded with fine views and a deserted summit. The huge summit cross is barely visible, buried in snow with just the top poking out. 

 

A very snowy Matterhorn

Mont Blanc Success

~ Monday 2nd July 2012

 A long blog for a very long route - last week's success on the Italian route on Mont Blanc. This is the least frequented of the classic routes, promising a wild trip through the remote south side of Mont Blanc, far from the crowds on the Chamonix side. There's a price to pay though - it's over 3000m of ascent, with no help from lifts or trains, and the hut approach is almost a climb in itself. 

The walk starts easily up the beautiful Val Veny road, but soon leads onto the chaotic rubble of the lower Miage glacier. 

This leads - eventually - to a "stiff scramble" and a welcome arrival at the hut. Rifugio Gonella was recently rebuilt and it's stunning, occupying a fine perch overlooking the south side of Mont Blanc.

The hut is very comfy, the food excellent, but unfortunately breakfast was at an unsociable 10 minutes past midnight! Ouch. 

Climbing starts straight from the door with a steep traverse to a steep glacier, which leads to a steep snow-slope onto the Bionnassay-Gouter ridge...which is steep. And very airy. "Great" views of the lights way down in the valley. We reached the Dome du Gouter around dawn, where it's a surprise to meet other teams - only 10 people (including 6 of us) had set off from Gonella. We missed the Gouter hut crowds however and the Bosses ridge was fairly quiet. 

Summit!

 

 All that remained was the long descent of the Cosmiques route - and the interminable slog back up to the Midi lift!

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