Monday 12 July 2010

Euro trip part 1

I’ve just got back from a few weeks of van life travelling around part of the Alps with Cat. With neither of us having explored the Ecrins before we thought that would be as good a place as any to start so after a slow and leisurely drive down through France we arrived in Briancon. With the forecast not looking too great we headed up to quiet village of Ailefroide to get a few days of slab climbing in between the showers.

Heading round to the other side of the Ecrins we found solid mountain granite on the Aiguille du Dibona. The Soreiller hut is a 2.5 hour walk up from the valley and situated directly below the South face of the Aiguille du Dibona. As well as only being, quite literally, a stone’s throw from the start of the climbing it is run by the two most welcoming and friendliest hut guardians I’ve ever met. Choosing the classic of the face we started up the Madier route following the main central weakness. Two thirds of the way up the route we arrived at the ‘Fissure Madier’, since the loss of a chock stone the guide books have given this pitch a fearsome reputation of unprotected 6b off width climbing. Although it was the crux of the route it didn’t (thankfully!) live up to its reputation, with ample gear and a couple of painful foot jams all that was needed to overcome the short off width section before more good holds came into reach. Cat was soon running up the easier ground and standing on the top before the quick decent down the normal route and back around to the hut and a wet walk back down to the valley as the heavens opened.

(photo - Cat Freeman)

(photo - Cat Freeman)

Unfortunately the heavens didn’t want to close after we got down so with the weather crapping out for the foreseeable future across the whole of the Alps it seemed like there were two options. Hang around in the rain or head to the Provence (via Orpierre) for some relaxed climbing in the sun and obligatory afternoons of wine tasting? Not a hard choice really....

Eventually we persuaded ourselves to leave the laid back atmosphere of the Provence and give the mountains a second chance. Arriving in Saas Grund only to find people hadn’t been exaggerating about how much snow there still was up high. Stepping off the Hohsaas lift with various plans we soon ended up at plan C and salvaged the day with a nice walk up the normal route on the Lagginhorn above a stunning cloud inversion in the valley below.

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