One week in Cham per year is definitely not enough. Climbing potential of this place is so huge that you could probably spend your whole life there and you wouldn’t be able to climb all the routes. So when leaving the town in the beginning of July, after 4th stage of The Mountain Academy, I knew I would come back. I just needed to wait for the right moment 🙂 And the right moment came in August. Together with my friend Tomek we came for 10 days with our heads full of dreams and names of big routes. Although weather was marvellous in previous weeks it deteriorated soon after we arrived. We got drenched to the bone already on the approach to Envers des Aguilles. Another storm hit during our warm-up route on Tour Verte. Then there was another one accompanied by some minor showers… Luckily a weather window appeared exactly when needed so we could send our main goal for the week – Republique Bananiere on Aguille de la Republique. The route is magnificent and a real must – 700 metres of climbing (25 pitches) on perfect granite, taking mostly impressive corners, cracks and some technical slabs! Cold bivy on the rocky ledge, starry sky above our heads and amazing sunrise over the Drus and Aguille Verte also made it unforgettable experience…
During our week of TMAC in Zinal, Cabane de Grand Mountet, just next to the Dent Blanche, there was this very interessting looking ridge of Grand Cornier. That’s where I decided that this was a ridge I would like to climb once.
So this weekend with a friend of mine we decided to go for it. So we started in Ferpecle on Saturday morning at around 10am. Walking up and up…always looking at the amazing Dent Blanche, I climbed last summer. On the way to the bivouc du col de la Dent Blanche we were stopping for a little rest and had a look on the map. That’s where we realized that we were acutally on the patch which was supposed to go from the valley directly to the summit. With some friends of ours, just walking behind us, we decided that we could go directly to the summit instead of going to the bivouc. So this was the plan…
Walking, climbing, scrambling, passing some huge crevasses…we were on the way to the summit. After around 2100 high meters, 7 hours from the bus station, with 4l of water and lunch for 2 days in the backpack we arrived finally very happy on the summit.
The descent was just nice, with the sunset on the glacier we arrived to the Cabane de Moiry. After some beverages we were hitting the last bit of the day direction down to the vally with our headtorches.
Traverse of Grand Cornier, SW-ridge up and NW-ridge down in 12 hours. What an amazing and unique mountain experience!
Thanks to Steffi and Janick, Michi, Fridli, Dominik, Ivo
After tasting the Chamonix-granit in our last week of the MAC, I wanted to get more of if. As Sang and Seb enthused about the Bonatti-Tabou rout on Chandelle du Tacul we went for it! And they were so right!!! 🙂
‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ they say. Well, here’s a small sample of my favourite black and white photos from last stage of Mountain Academy. Enjoy!
For the last two days of climbing in Cham I teamed up with our newbie Charlie 🙂 Initially we wanted to do a route on Dent du Geant and then famous Rochefort ridge on the next day. Unfortunately weather forecast wasn’t good – a very strong wind basically made any high altitude activity impossible. Climbing a needle as tall as Dent du Geant would be a bit of Patagonia experience. Feeling not so ready for this we decided to change our decision and we chose an area called Envers des Aiguilles. In French it means ‘the other side of the needles’ which is quite funny cause I always thought that Courmayeur was on the other side of Cham… 😉
after three days in a row of climbing we felt it was a good idea to pick some shorter and less demanding goals for day four. some journalists joined us and we wanted to show them how life and tmac is, so we chose the brevent area with some quality sport and trad lines. dave – chief editor of climber magazine – climbed with us and we had a chat about what we do at tmac while dave was taking a lot of action pictures.
Three, two, one, BASE! A jumper dives, shouts and flies his wingsuit all the way down to the valley. His buddy follows closely. Their diving board is situated on the very top of the Brévent in the Aiguilles Rouges. Our route called Ex Libris happened to be ending just underneath this diving board. It was pretty surprising and even a bit scary to suddenly hear and then see two men flying by, while negotiating the final pitches of medium quality rock. The first three pitches of the 150 m line were superb though: a beautiful corner crack – no bolts, no pegs (only bolted belay stations.) Manu was continuously teasing our man from Argentina; Milos and Isabel clearly enjoyed this trad style of rock climbing too.
coming down after a full day in the sun, the heat in the valley was immense! later in the afternoon some went for refreshing ice cream and then on to ohm – the mountain guide office – in the centre of chamonix where we were used all the available resources as guidebooks, maps, weather forecast etc. to make a plan for the next day (and maybe even overnight locations). stay tuned to see if our plans worked out.
so it cleared up overnight. finally. one could feel it before waking up in the tent – it was a bit crisper and most of all brighter than previous mornings. it was the weather window we all had been waiting for. charlie, our new team member based in the uk, wrote a story about his day.
“my introduction to alpine rock climbing could not have been better. isabel and i, along with our guide neil, did a route on the south face of the aiguille du midi called rebuffat. it’s an alpine classic and found why today. it starts just below the midi station, once you pass the narrow snow ridge it’s an easy walk to the base of the wall. the wall itself stands pround 200 metres from the base of the vallèe blanche and anyone walking past this point for the first time can’t help stopping and starring at it. i did that exact thing nearly three years ago. i stopped, stared, and thought…wow… i would love to climb that one day. now i have and it was fantastic. the climbing itself was very interesting, lots of cracks of all sizes, with some slabs to mix things up. the weather was glorious, warm but not too hot – just comfortable and the sky was very clear so views from the belays took us into switzerland and italy. isabel’s great attitude only added to the day’s fun and neil’s experience allowed me to focus on enjoying the day not worrying about safety. it was an incredible experience and something i will look back on with fond memories for a long time.”
we woke up in damp tents which felt very far away from 35°C the day before. the clouds had pulled in overnight but we headed up aiguille du midi, keen to get some time in on higher altitude – so some of us went for the petit charmoz traverse, which was originally climbed back in 1898! since the weather forecast was vague we decided to go for a short run close to the cable car station. although climbing was fairly easy and route finding seemed quite obvious we found some really tricky parts. you know how it is: with wet rock and mist all around even easy bits can get difficult! fortunately our tip-top guide seb taught us a very valuable lesson of ‘knee climbing’ and body jamming:) having learned these techniques we spent the rest of the climb on mastering our new skills.
the other two groups went up on the classic cosmique arête and cosmique spur. “i’ve always been told that the cosmique is very, very nice – now that I have climbed it all i can say is i ‘guess’ it’s very nice as we couldn’t see anything. it was a fight against rock climbing in these conditions” aude says. “we were hardly able to see our friends on the routes close to us so the experience was really interesting.”
aude’s buddy for the day, sang, continues by talking about his view from eperon des cosmiques (south face of the aiguille du midi). “although thick and very wet clouds shrouded the mountain all day, still the climbing on perfect granite was a lot of fun. Impressive to see how all the guides cruised up in their big mountain boots, while we happily changed to rock shoes. the guides also gave us some technical advice on glacier crossings, belay stations and efficient progress along a ridge of rock and snow.”
all in all, not bad for a rainy day really.
tomorrow looks like a clear day for once, the kind of days we’ve all been waiting for – let the adventures continue!