Sunday, 10 May 2015

Work, Train, eat and sleep - a photo catch up of the exciting bits in between

Time flies and it been a long time since I've put anything on here. It’s basically been work, train, eat and sleep, so there hasn't been anything too exciting to write about up until recently. I've just got back from a great trip out to Chamonix and I’ll put something on here about that shortly.

Up till then it hasn't all been about work and squats with bag of cement in a rucksack on my back (improvising for the lack of weights!). I've had a couple of good weekends up in Scotland and a quick trip to the Alps back in February. So here’s a bit of a photo catch up from some of the highlights.

Jack Geldard's re-introduction to Scottish winter climbing happened in January.  He started thinking it was all a bit continental - blue skies, perfect water ice on Ben Nevis, just missing the Italian coffee

...and then remembering it isn't always blue skies in Scotland.  Jack, Dave and Ally walking into Coire an Lochan
Less of the perfect water ice.  Jack remembering how to climb snow covered rock on the Auricle, Coire an Lochan
....and discovering it's a long and slow process!
In February I managed to sneak a few days out in the Alps.  The weather was rubbish in the mountains but conditions on the awesome Breitwangfluh in Kandersteg were pretty good, especially on the classic ice line of Crack Baby WI6, 340m.  I haven't climbed any proper, pure steep water ice for a long, long time.  I find ice climbing such a head game and it takes me a while to get my head and confidence back into it.  I'm fine on ice in the mountains, cruddy rotten neve with little no gear, whatever but water ice just scares the sh*t out of me!  Non the less Nick Bullock was beyond psyched to tick Crack Baby after years or waiting to be in the right place at the right time and persuaded me to join.  He even promised me an easy day before to get my head back into it.  The easy warm up day didn't really happen as temps were too high when we got there so it was straight onto it...
Nick starting up the first pitch, which turned into a long 100m pitch to get to the start of the steep climbing up ice pillars above.

Nick on the first crux pitch, great climbing and I was quite happy to let Nick get on with the hard bits.
Nick topping out the final pitch.  We didn't do the final short WI4 pitch at the back of the snow bowl above this.  It was time to run away with the amount of snow falling and the snow bowl looked to be providing a nice, natural avalanche trap.  I'd already had a minor meltdown as a large spindrift/avalanche had poured over a neighboring line.

Happy chaps on top of Crack Baby.  Definitely had my ice head back on by the top of it!

Spot the line!  Back at the base after 4.5 hours up and down - Nick doesn't hang about when he's climbing ice.

There was a lot of snow about when we got back to Chamonix.  So to balance out the previous days ice climbing I took Bullock skiing for the day ;-)  Nick heading up to the Glacier du Mort, I think he even enjoyed it, in fact he was even heard to 'whoop' on multiple occasions, must have been good!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Christmas in Chamonix

I Can't believe it's a month since Christmas already but once again spending it out in Chamonix was, as ever, a lot of fun.  With a mix of climbing, the usual festivities but a lot less skiing than normal due to a distinct lack of snow this year, although a few weeks on now and it sounds like it has eventually arrived now.

Although I didn't actually climb anything I hadn't done before I got some great days out with some quality climbing.  First up was Scotch on the Rocks with Jon.  Not been able to ski down to the valley and a late first cable car meant we only had time to climb the first few pitches to the top of the crux before getting the lungs working and skinning back up to the Midi to get the last lift down.

Photo - Jon Griffith

Next up was a bit of cardio training with Jon again, this time a quick simul-solo up and over the Swiss Route on the Courtes with skis on the back to kick the legs and lungs into gear.  Conditions on the north faces in the Argentiere basin were looking great and we up it in just over 2 hours, forgoing the summit and making straight for the Col de la Tour des Courtes in the rapidly worsening weather.  Unfortunately the same couldn't be said for the conditions on the decent and we eventually made it back to Chamonix 5 hours later with some pretty battered looking skis.

Photo - Jon Griffith

After that it was back to the East Face of the Tacul again, this time with Ross for some more quality climbing on Pinocchio, just to the left of Scotch.  It really is a fun route stacked full of quality climbing.  Conditions were just about perfect, just enough ice to make it make it good fun and really entertaining climbing, not too hard but not too straightforward.  That’s the great thing about these sort of routes, you can do them numerous times in different conditions and have a different experience on them every time.  I’d say Pinocchio is probably one of the better, easy access day route in the valley.

Photo - Ross Hewitt

Photo - Ross Hewitt

I couldn't resist getting the skis out on the final day, so Ross, Betony and myself headed into the Argentiere basin for a little look around.  We ended up skiing a little couloir behind the Argentiere hut, which although it had been skied quite a bit and the snow wasn't amazing, gave a really good fun day out.  A great way finish off a fun trip before returning to the office - out in the mountains with good friends, that’s what it’s all about!