Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Forbes Arete, Aiguille du Chardonnet

~ Friday 29th August 2014

Superb day yesterday on the Forbes Arete, Aiguille du Chardonnet. First climbed in 1899(!) this is up there with the best AD ridges in the Alps, with difficulties on snow and rock, great views, a complex descent to make a traverse of the mountain, and 30 "Rébuffat" points as well! The Forbes in question was a Scottish scientist who, amongst other things, studied glaciers in the mid 19th century.He didn't make the first ascent, so presumably the route is named after the Aiguille Forbes which stands at the foot of the ridge.

Conditions were - unsurprisingly - snowy. This made for good going on the glacier, with the direct approach from the hut still passable.

The Bosse is in great easy condition too, snow all the way.

We reached the ridge in cloud fearing yet another "summer of 2014" experience, but luckily the skies cleared and the rest of the day was perfect, if a little cold and windy at times.

On the ridge things get trickier with some quite delicate snow sections, but lots of good crampon/rock/snow mixed climbing.

Awkward descent on snow-covered slab

Near the top

Final steps to the summit

Obligatory summit selfie

Droites/Verte wall of the Argentiere basin.

Vélan and Zermatt this week

~ Saturday 23rd August 2014

We started the week with Mont Vélan and, for once this summer, perfect conditions. The ususal warm welcome and great food at the Vélan hut followed by blue skies, well frozen snow and only 1 other team on the route made a great start to the week.

This picture is taken from roughly the same spot as this one earlier in the "summer"!

After a "rest day" of via ferrata at Nax and rock climbing in Arolla we drove round to Zermatt...

Pollux in perfect condition

First sun on the way up Castor

Chilly on Castor summit

Breithorn half traverse - still very snowy, with huge cornices. Tricky conditions! And so cold the camera refused to take any more pictures.

Dent de Veisivi

~ Saturday 16th August 2014

It's been a challenging week in the Alps, dodging weather and searching for good conditions (not the first time a blog has started with that sentence this summer!) A wet walk to Vignettes on Monday paid off though, with perfect conditions on the Éveque traverse on Tuesday, while other teams had a great day on the Pigne-Cheilon traverse (the new Pas de Chevres ladders are now open and a big improvement)

Airy climbing on the Éveque SW ridge

We drove round to Moiry on Wednesday for the Pointes de Mourti, which left Friday and a mixed forecast to end the week. Cragging down the valley or gamble on the weather for a last mountain route? We gambled and at first it looked like we'd lost - on the long climb to the Dent de Veisivi the clouds rolled in and it started to snow! Despite a few heavy flurries the rock stayed (just) dry enough to climb, and we appreciated the irony of climbing in fresh snow on August the 15th - mid-summer festival day in Evolene!

The Petite Dent de Veisivi looking moody in the cloud.

The sun came out!

Fine positions, good rock and great climbing make the Petite Dent de Veisivi one of the the Arolla valley classics, despite the brutal walk-in. Climbing starts at the col by the snow patch, top right of the picture.

The descent is a fine, if short, PD+ climb on steep, juggy rock.

A glance up the valley this morning showed overnight snow down to around 2600m...

Tsalion West Ridge

~ Tuesday 5th August 2014

The Tsalion west ridge is definitely one of the best rock routes in the valley, if not the Valais, with good rock, lots of good climbing and great positions. It is graded "AD" but beware! Local guides have recently added some bolts but it's worth taking a few friends and wires (and knowing how to use them!) The crux pitches involve committing and serious grade IV climbing, especially when wet.

Although it's a shame to not stay at the lovely Tsa hut, if you only have a day spare it's climbable from the valley with an early start - and a fit team - and so we found ourselves leaving Evolene at 5.30am. It's a stiff 2 hours to the foot of the route and we were dismayed to find it running water - un-forecast overnight rain and snow-covered ledges had left some very "damp" rock.

The first few pitches are tricky, especially when wet, but we soon managed to commit ourselves to a position where up seemed easier than down...

There are 2 bolts on this pitch (keen blog readers may remember...) but today 2 wasn't quite enough. This is a committing pitch

Aspirant guide Kenny Grant pulls onto the summit.

Perrons and Paradiso

~ Saturday 2nd August 2014

It's been another challenging week in the Alps, with more weather to make the Brits feel at home. Still there's always something good to do, with great climbing on lower peaks below the unseasonal snowline. The Perrons above Emosson is home to lots of big rock climbs and a great ridge traverse. With hours of airy climbing on good rock, some exciting abseils and a tricky crux it's a proper Alpine route despite the lack of glacier. Sadly, it was in cloud all day which deprived us of the stunning views as well as making the climbing a bit slippery and adding excitement to the abseils, the rope ends disappearing into the misty void!

We spent the next couple of days dodging showers and searching for dry rock in the valley.

Exciting traversing on Tichodrome, Dorénaz

The tricky crux of Tichodrome

With a glimmer of hope in the forecast we drove south to Gran Paradiso. At first things looked doubtful with even the St Bernard ducks hiding from the wind...

But it dried up for the hut walk-in, and the next morning dawned clear and cold. The approach to the North West face of the Paradiso is cruelly foreshortened - it's a good 2.5 hours from the hut to the bergschrund - but it was worth it. Perfect conditions on the face and perfect weather made up for the waiting and frustration of the previous few days.

Pulling onto the top, with Mont Blanc behind

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