Mt Blanc

On September 21, 2013 by Tim Neill

For the first week of September the objective was to summit Mt Blanc with a team of six great guys from back home in Northern Ireland. With Dave Hollinger again we took the team through to Val Savarenche and all summited the Gran Paradiso with a couple of nights either side in the VE hut as our acclimation plan (with a cruisy ascent and summit picnic making the most of the thinner air).

Andy Nelson kindly joined us for our days on Mt Blanc and after putting aside some apprehensions the crew strolled up to the Tete Rousse hut and attempted some shut eye ready for the early start. With unbelievably perfect weather we all set off around 2 30 am and soon split up all finding our own team pace. Everyone did super well on the intimidating climb up to the Gouter in the pitch black and as the sun rose we were treated to a perfect alpine dawn with an amazing shadow of our summit being cast over the low cloud out west.

By digging deep the whole team summited and were treated with warm and calm (relatively) summit conditions….enough for another picnic!! A few other friends were there too, all enjoying an immense panorama.

After a pep talk about concentrating and suitably rested we all trundled down and eventually reached the hut again for a few beers, a great feed and a well earned sleep.

Six great friends, two other superb Mountain guides, a fantastic week of weather and mountain conditions all aligned to make the week one of the most rewarding of the summer for me, especially as I hadn’t guided Mt Blanc for 11 or so years!

 

Rock

On August 29, 2013 by Tim Neill

The last 2 days have been enjoying some local rock on both sides of the Chamonix valley. Yesterday Kevin and I did the Frison Roche route on the S Face of the Aiguille Brevent. Slightly dubious rock, but very well protected with bolts, lead to a great finale up a classic corner pitch. It felt a bit like a day on a Welsh mountain crag with swirling mist and Ravens. As the clouds came and went we got some amazing views of the range across the way…sometimes you see more of something when you’re not amongst it.

The clouds were our companions to start today…so much so we nearly went somewhere else. As we got out the Midi lift there was a little rime on the rocks around the Passerelle bridge and a bitter North wind froze our ears as we dropped down to the col du Midi. We located the foot of the Midi South face and swapped crampons for rock shoes then set off up the classic Baquet/Rebuffat. I hadn’t climbed this since 1991 so was possibly the most psyched of the team. After the crux the sun came out and stayed as we followed a French team all the way to the summit piton and abseiled onto the tourist balcony. We stopped for a brew at the Plan de L’Aiguille on the way down. Met Cristophe Profit again…this time got his autograph and had a great chat about climbing. Made up!

Variety

On August 27, 2013 by Tim Neill

 

Over the last week I’ve been guiding a number of varied routes working for High Mountain Guides (http://www.highmountainguides.com/ ). We started with the Tour Ronde from the Courmayeur lift, then after a night in the Torino hut we quickly climbed the Aiguille Marbrees then in the afternoon, re located to the Vittorio Emanuelle hut above the Val Saveranche. This busy and fun hut services trekkers and climbers hoping to climb the Gran Paradiso. We did this next morning enjoying the luxury of a quiet summit (rare as it’s super popular). The view of Mt Viso and the Ecrins, the Mt Blanc range and then to Matterhorn and Mt Rosa is unbroken and captivating.

Next day we traversed the highly recommended Dents des Perrons from Emosson. It’s really good with a great wild feel to the whole round trip. With a poor afternoon forecast next day we scooted up a newish 12 pitch rock climb above Barbourine before the biblical deluge arrived.

This plastered the high mountains in fresh snow and as the storm waned we made fresh tracks along the classic Midi Plan traverse in the Chamonix Aiguilles. Narrow snow crests and snowy granite with a distinctly Autumnal feel!

Contrasts

On August 18, 2013 by Tim Neill

After climbing with Keith and Cal I was back guiding for Alpine Guides ( http://www.alpine-guides.com/index.htm ), looking after Phil and Ben for 5 days of techy alpine climbing. The great forecast continued and allowed us a busy little trip.

We warmed up in the Aig Rouge climbing the classic Chapelle de Gliere. With a bit of rock mileage we were set next day for an ascent of the Aig du Peigne with a mix of the Voie Normale and the Lepiney route on the upper SW ridge to the very sharp and spectacular summit. I’d always hoped to stand on this top as we used to climb a lot on this peak when we first visited Chamonix, but it’s a long way from the top of its great little rock climbs to the summit proper….

We abseiled and scrambled down to stay in the comfy and welcoming hut at the Plan de l’Aiguille for a prompt start next morning. A really lovely place, great cuisine and a menagerie of pets including a couple of Donkeys!

Next day we romped up the popular Chere Couloir on Mt Blanc du Tacul on squeaky ice. Ben’s first time ice climbing….his calf muscles got a good seeing to. Good effort.

Through to Italy on Thursday had us clinging along the traverse of the Aig Entreves and a picnic lunch on top of the Aig Toule after linking its still shady little snow face. This quite little summit enjoys an amazing vista of the south side of Monte Bianco and Combe Maudit. Our evening in the Torino hut couldn’t have been more different from the previous hut night….wire bunk beds, plastic bag rustlers, cafeteria queing, but at least nice coffee.

We took an early start and enjoyed an ascent of the Dent du Geant to ourselves. Spectacular climbing aided by enormous ships ropes to one of the sharpest summits around. We by passed the hordes now arriving and enjoyed a mellow scramble back down to the glacier and strolled content back home, wrapping our 5 different days up with coffee and paninis down in la Palud.

Granite Musketeering

On August 9, 2013 by Tim Neill

For the last bit of our weeks climbing trip Keith and I were joined by the irrepressible Calum Muskett. At 19yrs old he’s accomplished more climbing than most ever will. Read and weep……………. http://muskettmountaineering.co.uk/blog/blog-list.aspx

He’s out in the Alps for 6 weeks and was at a loose end for a week as his partner had failed to connect flights. He didn’t seem to mind putting up with a couple of old guys for a bit of climbing.

We headed round to Courmayeur and managed to get on the 4th lift up to the Torino and so, as quickly as we could, to the foot of the Grand Capucin. Our chosen route, Capucines Direct had a couple of teams already stuck in. We were planning to camp after, so with no time pressure followed on. The relaxed pace of climbing and waiting was fine until we were waiting in the shade later…bbrrrrr!! Luckily the other teams finished up the Bonatti route which let us crack on up the last part of our line to the summit. The route was amazing with stupendous climbing all the way (even the wet and cold bit on the N Face right at the end) to a very definite summit.

A very rapid descent down a route called Echo des Alpage (defo on the list now) had us back on the glacier in no time. We camped at the foot of the Chandelle on some nice flatish ledges, so didn’t have to walk too far.

Next morning Calum jumped out of his pit into his rock shoes ( Keith and I creaked) and we set off up another amazing route called Linea Blanche. It gets rave revues and has an inspiring photo in the Mt Blanc Supercrack guidebook. Highlights were an amazing arête pitch and a never ending hand crack (Indian Creek style) up high.

The weather looked fairly threatening all the time and broke big style (as forecast) when we reached the valley. By that stage we were on our 2nd round of coffee and paninis.

Thanks to Cal for reminding me how amazing the Grand Cap is, and giving me some great new ideas. Good luck for all the big projects. And of course cheers to Keith for another quietly understated but highly productive climbing trip.

 

Ratti Vitali, Aiguille Noire de Peuterey

On August 4, 2013 by Tim Neill

With acclimatisation in place Keith and I headed to the Monzino hut on the south side of Mt Blanc and recced the approach to the Freney glacier through the Col de L’Innominata towards the West face of the Noire. The evening in the hut was great and shared the diiner table with Cristophe Profit (total alpine legend).

In the weary hours of the morning we traversed the col (steep snow then steep abseiling) and dawn arrived on the chaotic Freney glacier….an amazing and suddenly remote place. the Ratti Vitali route up the West face can best be described as an old school classic with an abundance of type 2 situations. It gets rave revues in both Rebuffats and Batoux’s 100 finest selections…but with a slight warning in the latter. The reality is quite different from the topo, but of course the overall experience is very rewarding. Lots of “thinky” climbing on mediocre rock slows down as the top half gets steep and some aid finally gives access to open walls and the summit Madonna (3rd time in consecutive summers….   http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=4415 ).

We trundled down the long and winding east ridge as quickly as possible to the Borelli hut, sank a few litres of water and headed on down the trail to a now dark Val Veny. The final pull back up to the head of the valley where the van was parked felt like a lonnggg way! And relax…..for a day or 2.

 

 

Aiguille de Mesure and Adolphe Rey

On August 1, 2013 by Tim Neill

Having a mini break with my mate Keith. He’s on his annual summer alpine binge before a spell of work in Switzerland. The great spell of weather ended temporarily in a dramatic 24hr downpour which filled the streets with puddles and the high mountains with fresh snow. So plan A was shelved again and a few new objectives found to help acclimate and let the hills clear.

An early start from Col du Montets saw 2hrs of zig zagging to the foot of the Aiguille de Mesure and a great looking route called Moby Dick. 9 pitches up to 7a/b on steep rock reminiscent of Crafnant back home in Wales (if you’ve been you can appreciate the emotions) brought a new pointy summit. The view into the back of the Argentiere cirque and towards the Jorrasses was of super plastered snowy rock. Confirmation! Cool day though and nice to be in a place a lot less travelled. Saw just one hiker making their way up to the Col de l’Encrenaz (busy with ski toures in springtime).

Next morning we headed through the tunnel to Courmayeur and up the lift to the Torino hut. A quick tramp over the glacier to the foot of the Pic Adolphe Rey and an eye catching route called Le Corsair. Perfect granite and very spicy climbing for its grade. One pitch in particular (pictured) was pretty runout and traversy, so was plenty exciting for both of us. A great, memourable climb and fairly different to the well protected cracks hereabouts…like climbing on the Rainbow slab back in Wales but prettier rock and view!

Cux pitch on Le Corsair....Welsh slate style on Granite!

Cux pitch on Le Corsair….Welsh slate style on Granite!

4000m and …..

On July 29, 2013 by Tim Neill

Working alongside Dave Hollinger for Alpine Guides (http://www.alpine-guides.com/), we’ve spent the week climbing with their regular clients Lewis and Jane helping them with their quest to complete the 4000m peaks of the alps. With an awesome forecast for the week we managed to bag some new summits for all of us via some great routes.

We warmed up with the Lepiney route on the Trident du Tacul, then early next morning traversed the Rochefort arête to the Aig de Rochefort and continuing past Mont Mallet to the summit of the Dome de Rochefort. Pretty amazing scenery all morning.

Next up was a trip to Switzerland for the mighty Weisshorn. This is a big undertaking by European alp standards with no uplift to ease the substantial climb from Randa to the Weisshorn hut and so to the summit and back. We gained the peak via its classic East ridge and descended the same way aided by great conditions throughout.

Next morning we were nursing our tired legs as we strolled to the Cabane de Valsorey below the Grand Combin. Another 2 o’clock start saw us gaining the col du Meitin and so the adventurous Meitin (West ridge) of the Combin, traversing the Combin de Valsorey to the main summit of the Combin de Grafeneire. We descended quickly down the Couloir du Gardien and returned back over the Meitin col and down to the hut in the good time  of 6.5 hrs round trip. A testament to climbing with ultra trail runners!

Finally on the last day we enjoyed some long granite rockclimbing above Barbourine after a well deserved lie in. Thanks to Lewis and Jane for their amazing efforts during the week and all the best with reducing the list….not too many now!

 

Bonatti/Tabou on the Chandelle

On July 24, 2013 by Tim Neill

The granite spires around the Grand Capucin are all inspirational summits. The remaining one for me was the Chandelle du Tacul. Dave H and I climbed the Bonatti/Tabou combination (highlighted in the Batoux 100 classics….more points of course!).

The route is undeniably perfect with really safe crack climbing all the way to a dream summit without a duff move or poor rock anywhere! Highly recommended! We had great fun sharing the climb with our mate Dougal Taverner ( http://dougaltavener.com/index_d.php ) and his friend Stephanie, so lots of banter and gossip up the climb. Dougal agreed this was easily one of the best routes of its grade in the massif. Go do it!