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Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Dent Blanche 3rd Time Lucky

~ Sunday 28th September 2014

It's been a frustrating summer on the Dent Blanche with 2 earlier attempts ending in failure, the first due to huge amounts of snow, the second due to un-forecast howling gales. There may well be "no success like failure", but the Dent Blanche hut is a long walk for a lesson in humility!

Third time lucky, and with a perfect forecast...fingers crossed.

Dent Blanche NW face

A late-ish after-work start saw us in the car-park at 2.30pm. 15 minutes later we were back up there, this time with 2 pairs of boots, ready for a sweaty 1600m to the hut.

Trying to get to the hut before dark!

We spent a pleasant evening, eating interrupted by frequent dashes outside to photograph the amazing sunset.

Evolene, Val d'Hérens and the Rhone valley from the hut

With only 1 other team and a solo-ist, the route wasn't busy. Weather was perfect, and we were off into a sunrise as amazing as the previous day's sunset.

The South Ridge has been snowy all summer and the lower part is still plastered, covering the usual easy rocks in easy-but-serious firm snow. Not a place to slip. The rock however was dry, so we climbed the direct line over the Grand Gendarme. Great, steep climbing on perfect, red rock.

Starting up the Grand Gendarme

Steep rock on the Grand Gendarme

Near the top of the Grand Gendarme

Airy positions on the top of the Grand Gendarme

From the top of the Grand Gendarme a short downclimb rejoins the normal route at the top of the couloir. From there, it's fine, exposed climbing over more gendarmes...

...before a traverse on the shady west face avoids the final gendarme.

Traversing around the final gendarme

The tricky corner to re-gain the ridge, and the end of the difficulties

Only 150m more ascent...all of it on narrow and exposed snowy ridge.

Getting back down is a mix of downclimbing and abseils.

Abseil off the top gendarme

In a normal summer there are plenty of metal spikes for anchors in the couloir, but at the moment the crucial middle ones are well buried in snow, meaning some cunning was needed to descend the rock-hard snow!

Abseil down the couloir.

After a quick re-fuel at the hut, all that remained was a 1600m knee-bashing descent...

Autumn in Arolla

~ Friday 26th September 2014

Whilst it's rarely crowded in Arolla, the Autumn leaves the mountains truly deserted. Peaks that can feel busy in peak season take on a different character when the huts close - wild and adventurous. Hauling heavy 'sacks loaded with 3 days of food out of Arolla, we passed 2 people walking down the path - the last people we were to meet for 3 days!

Dawn from the Col de Chermotane

The Vignettes winter room is warm and cosy. Home for 2 nights - just the 6 of us and a few mice!

High on the Éveque SW ridge

Day 1: the excellent traverse of the Éveque. Short, but with surprisingly tricky rock climbing and some "airy" positions!

With the forecast promising a settled high pressure and no precipitation, we were surprised to find 10cm of fresh snow in the morning! We went back to bed while the weather cleared, and were rewarded with a fine, clear day. Plan A was to traverse the Pigne and Mont Blanc de Cheilon, but the snow and late start meant (as so often!) that Plan B was needed, and we enjoyed a wild and beautiful traverse of the Pigne d'Arolla instead.

Leaving Vignettes in fresh snow

Chilly on the Pigne summit!

Dent very Blanche

Descending towards the Dixence dam

Mur de la Serpentine

3 countries in a week

~ Saturday 13th September 2014

It's been a busy week. 3 countries, 3 huts, 3 peaks.

Switzerland, France and Italy were the countries (no surprise there)

We stayed in the Vélan hut for Mont Vélan. Only 6 of us there, and as the other 3 had gone up to celebrate the guardian's birthday we had the peak to ourselves. It's still in great condition - the normal route can suffer late season in dry summers. The scramble through the Col de la Gouille and the 1100m ascent make it a very good Mont Blanc preparation peak.

Descending from Mont Vélan

Next, we had a "rest day" up the Aiguille du Midi. A quick ascent of Pointe Lachenal and some quality acclimatising time drinking coffee at 3800m!

Off to Tete Rousse next, which as usual was an unforgettable "experience".

In the dark all couloirs are grey

Pleased to have survived a night at Tete Rousse

Turning back early due to the cold and high winds, we drove south for our third country. It's always a pleasure to visit the Chabod hut. The Gran Paradiso didn't disappoint either. Great conditions, fine views - and the usual summit frenzy confirming all the Italian/French queuing stereotypes. I guess Madonna is used to the crowds.

When you gaze into the crevasse...

Liskamm (Lyskamm) Traverse with Frost Guiding

~ Thursday 4th September 2014

The traverse of Liskamm is one of the great high-level ridges in the Alps. Long, serious and committing, the Moran 4000m Peaks guidebook says "all members of the party must be highly competent". Gulp. Luckily the wind dropped, skies were crystal clear, and conditions on the route were excellent, giving us a fine day all round.

Looking down the lower part of the west ridge


On the airy section between the two summits


Looking back to the west summit


Cornices on the main summit


Margherita Hut

It takes commitment to wear crocs on snow at 4500m, but the sunset was worth it.

Best food, best sunset, and most irritating room companions of 2014, at the Margherita hut.

Spaghetti First Course

~ Thursday 4th September 2014

I'm relieved to find that even the Italians call this route the "Spaghetti Tour". Setting off from Zermatt with our Matterhorn plans abandoned/postponed, we turned left for a very breezy Breithorn. Hard-to-stand-up breezy.

A bit breezy crossing the Breithorn plateau

Still quite blowy on the summit

After a nice night at Ayas, the "good" forecast turned out to mean "clear-but-blowing-a-gale", and chilly with it.

Grand Paradise at dawn

Cold and windy on Pollux

Then a quick snack and off up Castor...

4 climbers battling wind and spindrift on the Castor summit ridge

Fine views in all directions. Tomorrow's aim was looking particularly fine.

Second course coming soon...

Frost Guiding buys Moran Mountain's Alpine business

~ Monday 1st September 2014

We are delighted to announce that Frost Guiding has bought Moran Mountain’s Alpine Mountaineering business. We will now run Martin Moran’s popular Alpine Mountaineering courses from our base in Evolene, Switzerland from June to September.

Our program includes the old favourites:

And we have some new intermediate/advanced level courses:

We have also added a 3 day Mont Blanc extension to follow on from our other courses.

Judith Hawtree will continue to provide her warm hospitality and home baking at chalet “Chemin des Etoiles” where we offer shared and single occupancy accommodation.

The full 2015 Alpine Mountaineering and Trekking program is available on our web site now.

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