Combe Maudit….

On December 30, 2014 by Tim Neill
"Gregory ou Theophile" on Pointe Adolphe Rey

“Gregory ou Theophile” on Pointe Adolphe Rey

Arriving back in Chamonix around mid December to a distinct lack of winter snow allowed a little climbing up in the mountains…fortunately, as there seemed to be little or no cascade ice or reasonble skiing without travelling much further.

After a sociable, but stationary, weekend of meetings, courses and our AGM with the British Mountain Guides I made a break for the hills with Nick who’d just arrived for the winter season. From the Helbronner lift from La Palud we took a short ski tour around Combe Maudit to see what was going on, then climbed the splitter couloir in the photo above.

Nice ice with periodic spindrift showers...

Nice ice with periodic spindrift showers…

A great line...for a relatively unknown route, it gives a lot better climbing than many more of its more famous neighbours...

A great line…for a relatively unknown route, it gives a lot better climbing than many more of its more famous neighbours…

Nick dispatched some brilliant mixed climbing above the good ice and we arrived at the breche to inspiring views accross the east face of the Tacul. A few abseils landed us back at our skis. Some spicy skinning roped up through a maze of huge crevasses got us back to the Torino hut and a restless night of bounding pulse rates and shortness of breath…oh to be permanently acclimatised!

Next time up high saw a little ski mission with James and Nick further into the back of Maudit to assess some ice routes. Then one of those enthusiastic, early season ski decisions that hurts more or less depending on how new your skis are..and your ability to turn through snow with a thick icy crust! The fun skiing at the top of the Toule glacier turned into a fairly agricultural excercise towards the bottom…

Skinning towards the Toule descent in a stiff tail wind...

Skinning towards the Toule descent in a stiff tail wind…

Inspiring scenery and conditions...

Inspiring scenery and conditions…

Nick had his eye on a steep mixed line next on the west face of the Tour Ronde. After a couple of fun and quick mixed pitches to the start of the real climbing, Nick made a really impressive lead up a long vertical corner. After a lengthy belay I grovelled my way to join him only to lose all dignity at the point where I got my weight on my feet just below the stance and warmed blood made it back into my poor hands…nausea, tears, wailing etc…Nick did well not to fall of laughing…

Nick getting rid of some snow...

Nick getting rid of some snow…

Anyway, the day was getting on and a strong wind sent us down. Meanwhile our friends Jon and Matt had finished a good looking new line over to our left…. http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=69390

The last trip before Christmas saw us arriving below the famous Fantasia Per a Ghiacciatore on Mt Maudit’s east side as the dawn arrived.

Perfect line and conditions..

Perfect line and conditions..

Windy up high creating plenty of spindrift...

Windy up high creating plenty of spindrift…

Every pitch was perfect and half of it was in the sun before the final 4 cold and windy pitches landed us on Col Maudit…pretty wild for the few minutes we were there….super windy and cold…we squinted our way to the top of a route called Fil d’Ariane and abseiled out of the maelstrom and down to the now familiar ski descent…

Summit bound..

Summit bound..

East face of Maudit...Fantasia is the obvious pencil line on the Rhand buttress

East face of Maudit…Fantasia is the obvious pencil line on the Rhand buttress

The picture above shows the abundant ice conditions here just before Christmas….every line in perfect condition pre snowfall…

Then it snowed… as it really needed to do to get the skiing off to at least a start…this lasted for a couple of days. Ice is now building fast in the valleys…

Only thing to do if it snows...photo James Thacker

Only thing to do if it snows…photo James Thacker

 

A Long Dry Autumn..

On December 6, 2014 by Tim Neill
Reade's Route, Crib Goch on an MIA assesment. Photo Rob Johnson

Reade’s Route, Crib Goch on an MIA assessment.
Photo Rob Johnson

So, from just after mid September ’til now, on balance,  it’s been a good autumn here in N Wales. Bar a week or so, the weather has been mild and mostly dry and by early December the crags that’ve been warm enough to climb are still really dry. Until a couple of weeks ago it’s all been MIA courses at work for me after a week or so on the BMG Rock tests … everything from classic extremes at South Stack to mountain routes like the one in the photo above.

Last of the Summer Wine, Red Walls. Photo Tom Grant

Last of the Summer Wine, Red Walls.
Photo Tom Grant

And in the course of re visiting these old classics I was reminded of some of the routes I hadn’t yet done … like the ones above and below. The Maze in particular is a true Ed Drummond totally unhinged classic adventure!

The Maze, Red Walls girdle

The Maze, Red Walls girdle

Rudders on Ramshaw Crack, Staffs Nose attempt

Rudders on Ramshaw Crack, Staffs Nose attempt

A quick visit to the Staffordshire edges to attempt to climb all the Joe Brown and Don Whillans routes was thwarted by drizzle and green rock but Dave and I managed 2/3rds on a short winters day… so we’ll have to go back in the spring.

Lou posing her way up a little new E4 in the quarries

Lou posing her way up a little new E4 in the quarries

John catching sun in the depths of Mordor quarry

John catching sun in the depths of Mordor quarry

After our extravagant weekend up the Matterhorn I’ve been attempting to offset a little by climbing as much as possible near home .. the short days and cold sunny days have pushed us into the quarries and towards Tremadog … trying to climb a few tricky things with varying degrees of success and managing a few new lines too! A couple of small highlights were the less travelled “Listening and the Dancing”… a testing E5 6b/c … AKA “Trev’s Wall” near the mighty Rainbow Slab….and the scrittly “Yukan II”…a classic E6 at the very inspiring sandstone quarry of Nesscliffe.

December at Tremadog on Cadiac Arete

December at Tremadog on Cadiac Arete

John swinging out on Gritstone Gorilla

John swinging out on Gritstone Gorilla

Bouldering at a newly developed beach on the Lleyn

Bouldering at a newly developed beach on the Lleyn

Fluking my way up the Nesscliffe classic...Yukan11

Fluking my way up the Nesscliffe classic…Yukan11

Soon I’ll be back in the Alps briefly and by late January up North in Scotland for a long winter .. it’s all looking busy and it’s started snowing … so fingers crossed.

Esme enjoying December sun near home

Esme enjoying December sun near home

Matterhorn N Face Classic Route

On November 4, 2014 by Tim Neill
A fairly unmistakable mountain.....

A fairly unmistakeable mountain…..

A little while back Dave Rudkin and I had a weekend back in the Alps. After a month back in Wales, mostly climbing above or in sight of the sea, we thought we’d take 4500 metres by suprise and try and climb the Schmidt Route in a long weekend.

Checking out the route the evening before ......

Checking out the route the evening before ……

I’ve always liked the look of it and for Dave, it’d be his last of the 6 classic Alpine N Faces … so motivation was high. We walked in to the Hornli hut with our friends Kev and Dave … they’d tried earlier in the week, but lots of fresh snow and fairly bleak conditions had turned them round. On the walk in, it was clear that everything had settled down with the recent rain and wind and things looked primo. We took a little walk out to the foot of the route in the late afternoon to make an easy to follow trail early doors…

At the top of the Ramp and starting a series of Rwards traverses...

At the top of the Ramp and starting a series of Rwards traverses…

Finest Swiss Valais rock ....

Finest Swiss Valais rock ….

We left 3 30 ish and made quick work to the foot of the ramp feature for first light, and with perfect conditions made good progress linking a series of rightward and upward traverses to join the Zmutt ridge just a couple of pitches below the summit. By 1 30 or so we topped out to crystal clear views of, what seemed like, all of the Alps ….. pretty cool. The only time I’d been there before was a pretty “Scottish” day of wind, rain then snow, but no views!

Obligatory summit snap ... amazing panorama of all the Alps ....

Obligatory summit snap … amazing panorama of all the Alps ….

The satisfaction of having put in a track up the face after the recent stormy weather was now tempered by finding the most efficient way down a fairly snowy Hornli ridge…

By finding, then digging out the fixed ropes at the top of the shoulder we were soon on our way ploughing down towards the Solvay hut. Reaching here about 5 ish, we’d had enough of that for the day. Some brew, a little food and a scratchy blanket for the night seemed a good idea. First light saw us front pointing down the good early morning snow and a bit of sunbathing on the decks outside the Hornli before a longish walk back to Zermatt.

Autumnal stroll back to Zermatt ....

Autumnal stroll back to Zermatt ….

We made it back home to Wales later that evening, and so back to Tremadog for an MIA assessment the next morning….the routes seemed quite short and relaxing there.

Thanks to Dave for, as ever, another brilliant alpine climb….super efficient, great conditions

Grandes Jorasses…Colton MacIntyre

On September 23, 2014 by Tim Neill
Long time coming...

Long time coming…

With a few days free early Sept I arranged to climb with Pete Graham. We’d met in Patagonia last season and had climbed Super Domo on the same day with our respective partners. Pete had stayed on there and amongst plenty of good attempts at lots of routes had made the summit of the mighty Fitzroy…well deserved! Pete had previously climbed the Walker and Croz spurs on the GJ and the less travelled East Face Gervasutti route and over the previous week had been soloing a number of classics around Chamonix like the Frendo and the Swiss route on the Courtes. Even though we’d never tied in together, I couldn’t have had a better partner.

So we walked in, bivied a little below the rimaye (to try and be ahead of folk from the hut), got up at 1 and set off…into the heavy rain! It felt like we’d missed the boat…the route had been climbed a lot earlier in the week. With an unsettled forecast, we went back to our bivi and went through the options. We decided to go to the hut and wait for a forecast….nothing to loose, everything to gain. After a day of rain Chloe the hut gardien announced “clearing skies at the end of the evening and a cold clear morning, freezing at 3100m…”

Sunrise at the top of the first runnels

Sunrise at the top of the first runnels

We left a little later than normal next morning to garantee a better freeze. The rimayes were how they had been described and got the adrenalin going. The first ice field flew by and we caught some new friends up at the first steep pitches…got a good spindrift pummeling. The crux pitch was! Not as steep as the pitch below, but no gear and very insecure steep snow. Another ice field and we took the Extreme Dream pitches through the top of the Walker Spur on incredible ice to the summit of Point Walker. Conditions were once in a lifetime.

Another team arriving post crux..

Another team arriving post crux..

Exetreme Dream exit pitches

Exetreme Dream exit pitches

I’ve wanted to climb this mountain since I saw it on my first alpine trip….it was everything I hoped it would be and a real  privilege to climb it by this route…I’m sure one of the very best ice routes in the Alps. I can’t wait to return.

Joraases summit

Jorasses summit

We set of into Italy and wound our way down towards the Boccalatte hut, made a brew and carried on, and on down to the road. It’s a long way.  Some friends took us back through to Chamonix and so we made it to our own beds after a well deserved beer.

The chapter in this great new book about the first ascent is fantastic….http://v-publishing.co.uk/books/categories/biographies/one-day-as-a-tiger.html

Thanks Pete for an amazing climb.

 

Tacul and Midi shorts…

On September 23, 2014 by Tim Neill
Keith at top of Ligne Cache

Keith at top of Ligne Cache

So in between all this guiding and the occasional big face route the mixed weather allowed plenty of routes up and around the lift access at the Aig du Midi…and lots of choices for ice and mixed or sunny rock. Climbing with Keith often involves the shade and wintery stuff….

Highlights included a neat route beside the popular classic Vent du Dragon…this one called La Ligne Cache involving some good ice and meaty mixed up to M6..put up the previous season by friends Jon Bracey and Matt Heliker…

Low down on LC

Low down on LC

Another couple of routes were bagged on the Tacul Triangle face…and after some really cold snowy weather were a good warm up for the Ben this winter hopefully. The Perroux gully had a load of fairly well protected thin ice climbing over its full length and the Temps est Assasin really good too.

Perroux

Perroux

Good ice and pefect cracks for gear too

Good ice and pefect cracks for gear too

We hooked up with Phil for a top outing in the sun too. Well recomended comes the Super Dupont on the Midi S Face…a great day out and brilliant banter. This routes has tough grades compared to other climbs like it around the range, especially if you’ve got the old guidebook…excellent.

Super Dupont undercling pitch

Super Dupont undercling pitch

Phil cranking like a good un

Phil cranking like a good un

Italy, mostly…

On September 22, 2014 by Tim Neill
Great views from Tour Ronde of the best ridge in the Alps...Peuterey Integral

Great views from Tour Ronde of the best ridge in the Alps…Peuterey Integral

For my last few weeks of August I was guiding for Alpine Guides ( http://www.alpine-guides.com/mountaineering/index.htm ) and climbing with Tim for 5 days then Phil for just 3. The conditions were still snowy and fairly mixed weather so we did our best to sycnh in with it.

Tim and I started our trip with an traverse of the ever popular Aiguille d’Entreves and the little north face of the Toule then a night at the Torino hut.

A little snowy on the Entreves

A little snowy on the Entreves

Next day we set out by head lamp to climb the Rebuffat Couloir on the Tour Ronde. This excellent icy gully is on the steepest and most shaded part of the north side and gave a load of excellent and varied pitches (with bolt belays) with some fairly steep climbing. We arrived at the the summit (having collected our Batoux points..) in snowy and cloudy weather, soaked it up and trundled back to the hut and home to Chamonix…Tim rightly chuffed with his first proper multi pitch climb!

Tim climbing up to a cool ice cave somewhere in the Rebuffat couloir

Tim climbing up to a cool ice cave somewhere in the Rebuffat couloir

The following day was awful on the French side of the range and on driving back through the tunnel to Italy…the same. The rivers washed out the bridges in Val Veny closing access to the Monzino hut for the season. It was tolerable further down the valley and we built on our multi pitch experience by climbing the classic Bucche d’Arancia (9 pitches up to 5c+) at the big walls of Machaby follwed by a lovely walk back through the woods and past the monastery.

Our last 2 days and Tim chose the mighty Kuffner ridge (aka Frontier ridge) on Mt Maudit. We walked over from col Midi to the Torino again and then breakfasted at 2 am. Conditions were amazing up onto the ridge and sunrise caught us up somewhere high on the really narrow corniced crests high up that the route is famous for. Some really delicate sections up and down meant for some concentrated action for both of us and finally we crested the mountain and a view back down to the Chamonix valley. This was a superb effort from Tim due to the length, altitude and commitment required (there was no helpful track in the snow) and we were a bit tired heading back through a deserted, windy and bleak col Maudit and finally a tiresome (not to mention bullet hard and icy) descent of the Tacul back to the Midi lift. An excellent effort from Tim and well beyond any of his previous horizons!

We said cheerio and then hi to Phil. Our goal of a Matterhorn summit was re calibrated and with the brief of some good climbing and some summits, maybe a 4000m one. Strong northerly winds blew me back up the Tour Ronde…this time via the classic Gervasutti Couloir which is often impossible to access after early summer due to a usual gargantuan rimaye…no probs this season. This gully has got great atmoshere, really deep and a constant angle.

In the Gervasutti..

In the Gervasutti..

The wild cold wind was ripping over the summit and we got a little shelter in its lee before the now familiar descent. After a sociable evening back at the hut we left early for the Dent du Geant, making rapid progress with the excellent conditions on the approach. The cold wind had luckily dropped as we grabbed the big ropes and swung our way to the Madonna and a very peaceful summit.

Ahhh...the sun...

Ahhh…the sun…

Phil enjoying the panorama..

Phil enjoying the panorama..

Next day we concluded our short trip by climbing the famous Rebuffat route up the south face of the Aig du Midi. Mega classic granite climbing and nice and quite all the way to the summit piton.

Golden perfect granite..

Golden perfect granite..

Thanks to Tim and Phil for there excellent company and amazing go for it style! Again thanks to Rich and Al for lining it all up….

Droites NF …

On August 25, 2014 by Tim Neill

So Keith had to go to work leaving Nick and me to climb one more route before the end of our little trip. With a work deadline for me we took the (quicker/logistically easier than the Jorrasses) option of climbing from the Argentiere basin over the Droites North Face.

We had an urge to climb a route called The Richard Cranium Memorial route on the right side of the face probably due to reading about its first ascent in Mark Twight’s “Kiss or Kill”….one of Nick’s fav books.

The face from the easiest walk in ever....

The face from the easiest walk in ever….

We strolled to an ace bivi below the face and settled in. Then grossly early we shambled and post holed up to an epic ‘shrund then soloed for a small eternity to high on the face where the climbing proper started….and what a treat…amazing grooves and runnels of mega neve and bomber ice screws in a succession of long pitches to the sunny summit ridge.

Last bit of soloing at sunrise...

Last bit of soloing at sunrise…

Front pointing galore...

Front pointing galore…

10m 'til sunshine on the South side...

10m ’til sunshine on the South side…

A really great morning on a great alpine face…just me and Nick. The windy ridge didn’t invite a picnic and we set our belays diagonally down the steep S side to reach the in situ anchors on the S side of the breche couloir then carefully picked our way through some big crevasses towards the Couvercle hut.

We found a perfect flat slab with a small stream, brewed up a slept the rest of the day content. A “longer than I remember”walk back to the tram at Montenvers concluded a great Alpine holiday and a hasty repack for guiding the next day…

One of the best bivi views in the world....

One of the best bivi views in the world….

 

 

 

Grand Pilier d’Angle

On August 18, 2014 by Tim Neill
The Grand Pilier d'Angle

The Grand Pilier d’Angle

Over the last 3 days Nick, Keith and I have enjoyed a fantastic journey up Mt Blanc from Italy…..

Upper part of Peuterey ridge from Col Forche...GPA centre stage

Upper part of Peuterey ridge from Col Forche…GPA centre stage

We’d read about good snow ice on the GPA from a couple of weeks before and with the recent stormy weather and forecast clear spell thought it had to be worth the walk…

Settled in at the spooky Col Moore..

Settled in at the spooky Col Moore..

We travelled over to Col Moore and dug in for some kip…alarms set for 12..

Amazing place to climb ice....

Amazing place to climb ice….

We left at 1ish and literally ran to the bottom due to the threat of serac fall…the major down side of this wonderful place….found ourselves squeaking up the Bouchard route then finishing up the awesome Boivin/Vallencant route to the summit of the GPA itself…with Nick guiding us to a 5 star bivi that he’d been to 17yrs ago with Jules Cartwright…an awesome bloke…

Summit bound...

Summit bound…

We lazed the afternoon and left early doors for a dig up the snowy Peuterey ridge and a shocker on the summit of Mt Blanc…quite windy and super cold….too cold to roll out the picnic blanket anyway….and so off down the Gouter ridge and back to the real world again.

An amazing climb with great friends and not a soul for a couple of days……

 

Tournier

On August 12, 2014 by Tim Neill
Tournier is spur just R of central col and hanging glacier

Tournier is spur just R of central col and hanging glacier

My friends Nick and Keith have arrived for a little climbing holiday. We had a little leg stretch this morning on the Tournier Spur on the Aig du Midi. It’s a bit of an old school outing winding around the crest from one side to another, climbing on every type of terrain and with a bit of abseiling too. Topped out by just after midday….not bad for a first outing in a small window of nice weather..

Nick loving the choss....

Nick loving the choss….

Topping out brought great views all around but not for long as the weather socked in….the boys stayed up there as late as poss to get some thin air in prep for the next trip……

Nice snow climbing and atmospheric glacier shapes...

Nice snow climbing and atmospheric glacier shapes…

The dudes...

The dudes…

Pages:«1234567...12»