Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Alpine Dispatches # 1

We made it, after a long slog through the night. So good to be here again though it was only February when I last made it out.

When we arrived it was hot, really hot and really humid. We felt somewhat jet lagged after the drive (lack of sleep rather than time difference), so Saturday was spent touring the climbing shops in Cham feeling like zombies. We did manage to muster the energy to find some bouldering close to the Col du… Great fun in the evening sunshine.

The campsite in Argentiere is also the nursery slope in the winter so is not the most level. Fortunately we got one of the few terraces on the site with plenty of room to set up the Parawing. This shelter was a godsend when the rain started on Sunday.

Sunday was spent on the Mer du Glace practicing belays, ice axe and crampon work etc. with the threat of thunderstorms fast approaching and a series of metal ladders to climb to get back to the lift station we made a hasty retreat early afternoon. It was a worthwhile outing though to sort the gear out and our technique!

Rain, rain a bit of snow and more rain. The following day saw a continuation of the bad weather. We sat at the Grand Montets lift station pondering whether to brave the conditions to attempt the Petit Aiguille Verte. Seeing another team going for it convinced us and before long we were on at the top lift station. As we stepped out into the driving snow there was a huge crack of thunder an all it suddenly seemed like a bad idea. A French Guide telling us we were crazy as he was backing off further reinforced this!

We waited 15 minutes whilst slowly gearing up. The snow seemed to be easing and there was no more thunder so we decided to start up the slopes, reassured by the easy retreat if it did come in again. Fortunately the snow stopped and the skys started to clear. By the time we reached the start of the ridge we passed three guided team that had all backed off due to the storm. They all seemed slightly frustrated with their decision given the improving situation.

So onward along the ridge with no one else in front reaching the summit in good time. The lift station had only open a few days previously and the weather had been too bad for anyone to go up before today. This meant (we think) that we were the first team to summit the Petit Aiguille Verte this season.

The weather came in again on the decent and by the time we got down we were soaked through. The weather in the valley was no better so kit drying was not an option.

Fortunately today the weather has improved and the sun has appeared again. Basecamp now looks like a Chinese laundry and were enjoying the heat on a terrace of a cafĂ© in Argentiere . The plan tonight is to head to the Torino hut to attempt the Dent du Geant tomorrow. The weather is forecast to hold for this then turn again Thursday/Friday. 

1 comment:

  1. You missed the Engineering Innovations Network South West launch event for THAT? Madness.

    Lovely images - is the shading/blurring available on camera or are you editing at basecamp?

    Cheers, Craig