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Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Mont Blanc/Gran Paradiso

~ Saturday 29th June 2013

Pleasant rock climbing in the valley last week, but back to high alpine summits this week starting on the Gran Paradiso. Plenty of snow and a good freeze meant we put crampons on at the hut and kept them on all the way. Battling deteriorating weather we reached the summit, dealt with the usual Paradiso traffic jam (not too many people but 4 confused Dutch guys made up for lack of numbers) and raced back down before the storm arrived. 

Gran Paradiso summit

Another day in Paradiso. 

Acclimatised and ready for Mont Blanc, we made the long slog up to the Tete Rousse hut. The Bellevue lift is closed for the season after a fire at the restaurant damaged the cables, so we drove down to Le Fayet and caught the train. Capitalising on the out of action Bellevue lift, the tramway du Mont Blanc is running no extra trains, and they still aren't running right to Nid d'Aigle. Oh well. 

The forecast wasn't looking brilliant - cold, windy and bad in the afternoon isn't ideal for Mont Blanc. We set off early, making good speed up the Gouter ridge. Things were going well until Steve's crampon fell off and disappeared. After a fruitless 10 minutes in the dark looking for a black crampon, we continued up to the hut, Steve now hopping. It's hard to be cheerful at 5am, especially at the Gouter hut, and having only 1 crampon doesn't help. Going up or down is clearly going to be tricky! Luckily a helpful French guide lent us some crampons - merci Lionel - and slightly behind schedule we continued up. 

"Red sky in the morning..." Hmmm. It's a long way up the Dome du Gouter. At the Col with the summit still clear of clouds, we put on more clothes to deal with the rising wind. Then more uphill, past Vallot, weather still clear(ish), over the Bosses, still clear and suddenly it was looking like we might make it. 

We did! On top of Mont Blanc! Amazingly, there was no-one else in sight. Brilliant. 

Mont Blanc summit

With fast approaching weather, we spent several seconds admiring the view then turned and ran down! 

worrying view from the top!

Looking back from the Dome du Gouter. Nice. 

Descending the Gouter ridge near the end of a long day!

Evolene Rock Climbing

~ Thursday 20th June 2013

 Good adventures this week on the crags around Evolene. It's been really hot - 35 degrees in Sion - but Evolene Pont crag is shady in the morning. Pictures here from le Sommitale, 5 pitches of bolted but still slightly "old-school" adventure!

Then we had a day at the Secteur Sanieres, above the la Sage road. Shady all day and only 10 minutes from the car this should be a great summer crag. Unfortunately it doesn't get much traffic and the routes are still quite dirty. Our attempt on the stunning-looking Sang Bleu ended in a complete loss of sang froid and vows to return with a brush!

Summer News

~ Sunday 16th June 2013

 It's been a week of contrasts. Firstly a very snowy and cloudy ascent of the Cosmiques Arete in Chamonix. So much snow that most of the rock pitches are buried, and half of the people in the lift were skiing. 

Next, a warm sunny morning driving the bus for paragliders with the Evolene Parapente School 2 flights from high up at the Étoile on a perfect day .

Then the Roc Vieux in les Hauderes fell down. Well, not all of it but it was impressive enough...

Today it was the Raid Evolenard mountain bike race. Perfect weather, if a little hot, and lots of competitors. Amazing to think that only a week ago the course was still snowy above l'Étoile. Summer is here!

Cheating?

 

First week of summer

~ Sunday 9th June 2013

 It's been a strange start to the season. Officially summer, but the Furka, Susten and several other passes remain closed by deep snow. Ski conditions are still good, with snow down to 2000m on north facing descents. Luckily the Gotthard Pass was open, the weather turned out to be perfect, and we found excellent conditions all week, although snow shoes were essential!

We were based at the slightly surreal Swiss military facility in Andermatt, training a group from the UAE Armed forces in preparation for their mountaineering plans (or maybe a planned invasion of Switzerland? Or future-proofing against a radical reversal of climate change?) The Adventure Training in the UAE military is run by keen mountaineers who have put a huge effort into organising an ambitious programme for the future, and inspiring a team of people more used to dealing with 50 degrees temperatures in the desert. 

Some of the guys had never seen snow before, but there was plenty at the Gotthard pass!

Plenty of snow at the Gotthard pass

Glacier ropework training

Snow shoeing is fun!

Building snow anchors

Building snow anchors

Jumaring practice

Apparently "juma" means Friday in Arabic and is also a popular man's name. This caused some confusion. 

At the end of the week we put all the training into practice and snow shoed up the Sustenhorn with an overnight at the Tierbergli hut. The guardian here deserves a mention - great food and a warm welcome. It's early days in the "hut meal of the season" competition but the bar has already been set high!

Funding cuts mean the Swiss army uses cardboard tanks

Funding cuts have affected the Swiss army. 

Mountain etiquette - stepping out of the track to let others pass.

The glacier approach to the Tierbergli hut, with a very snowy Wendenstock in the background. 

Single-file snow-shoeing up the glacier. Perfect for route finding  pointing out all the typical mountain features and hasards and discussing route choice in complex terrain. 

The beautiful and welcoming Tierbergli hut

Evening sun outside the beautiful and welcoming Tierbergli hut, our base for the ascent of the Sustenhorn

Sunset over the Apfelstrudelhorn

Reaching the summit of the Sustenhorn

A skier sets off for 1500m of spring snow. Bet he wishes he had snow shoes...

Cruising some big turns down perfect wide slopes of spring snow...

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