Autumn Thoughts

As the cold rain pitter patters outside my window, it’s snow at altitude, shutting down my current summer alpine dreams. My thoughts skim back over these past few days, weeks and into last year’s snows. It’s been a fun and relaxing summer with family, friends, and clients, new and old.

Fi and I mixed it up, climbing the Nadelhorn last week, then spending a wonderful day on the Jagihorn, cruising up delightful granit under a warm, blue sky.

Fiona near the summit of the Nadelhron

Fiona near the summit of the Nadelhorn

Hans Ahead

Yours truly nearing the summit of the Nadelhorn.

Fi climbing on the Jagihorn

Fi climbing high on the Jagihorn

I had some nice days with my two “kids” on local rock.

Anya climbing local rock

Anya climbing local rock

And a super week with Susan, preparing for the Matterhorn.

Susan Dennard on the top of the Matterhorn.

Susan Dennard on the top of the Matterhorn.

I’m preparing for another fun winter season, scheduling early winter avalanche courses and off-piste ski days. Contact me as soon as you know your winter schedule so we can share more fun adventures together. Maybe we’ll get another November start like last year’s!

Opening day Verbier- Winter 2015/16

Via Ferrata Loéche les Bains Gemmi-Daubenhorn

Have you ever done a Via Ferrata? Thanks to the Werlen bros. and many others, Switzerland has a huge one! I’ve climbed and ski toured many times in and around this valley and have always been impressed by this huge cliff towering above Leukerbad. It’s unimaginable that one would put a via ferrata up these 1000 meters of rough limestone. The amount of rock fall alone would make this project seemingly impossible. But the route is amazing. Calculate a solid 6 hours up and 2 hours down.

One starts by taking the lift from Loeche to the Gemmi pass. We got on the first ride up at 7:50 with the employees. A 30 minute walk down to the start of the via ferret got us going at 8:30. One starts with some horizontal hiking, high above Loeche. We flushed a couple of Ibex who knocked off some sizeable rocks, but below us. Then the fun begins with a few moves across a vertical wall, a couple of short ladders, then more hiking. It’s all a blur now, but passing through a natural tunnel in the wall, seriously gripped traversing a vertical section 100 long, seemingly 1000s of meters above the valley floor, (no photo taken here!), then onto the final ladder, too vertical on failing arms… Just a blur…

Arete Gallet Mont Dolent Traverse

“This is real mountaineering,” Ton says to me as we make our way up the final steep slope on the North Face of the Mont Dolent. I was at that moment reminding myself to make a good mental note of how fine our position looked. The fresh snow of last week was still perfectly white, unlike the older snows lower down, which have gotten brown and discoloured from weeks of summer weather. This white snow, now frozen and hard after a few days of melt/freeze, and with the tracks of a previous party, made while the snow was still soft, left us a perfect stairway, foot steps for relaxed feet, not having to front point or “French Technique pied plat.” Conditions like these are rare indeed, nobody else on the mountain, great mixed climbing (some snow and some rock), all contributing to a stimulating experience. The mountain is asking for different skills from the climber, our brain and ego constantly infatuated with the different movements required, as we go up and up, above the clouds on towards the summit.

We hiked to the Bivouac Dolent, “La Maye,” Tuesday, getting there in 2.5 hours. The steep path was a virtual stairway to heaven, gaining elevation immediately. The fields of La Fouly were quickly left far below, and we reached this odd looking bivouac in no time, a submarine like structure placed in the scree slope below the mountain.

Bivouac Dolent La Maye

Bivouac Dolent La Maye

It’s a cosy little place inside, with all the cutlery and crockery from an elderly lady’s kitchen. I’d brought a cook stove for our pasta and morning coffee.

Inside the Bivouac Dolent

Inside the Bivouac Dolent

Wednesday morning’s glacier was chaotic and convoluted, asking for creative route placement for the first couple of hours.

The convoluted Dolent Glacier

The convoluted Dolent Glacier

Reaching over the gaping bergschrund at 3250, we mixed it up, with our right foot on rock and left on snow.

All mixed up

All mixed up

After gaining the NE ridge, we found tiny holds for our crampons on the north side, then back onto the glacier, and back again onto the rocky ridge, then onto those pristine, final slopes, after yet another vertical bergshrund crossing.

Climbing rock in crampons

Climbing rock in crampons

 

Rock Snow Moon and clouds

Rock Snow Moon and clouds

Ton, near the top of the Mont Dolent

Ton, near the top of the Mont Dolent

 

Argentiere Basin, Chamonix Valley

Argentiere Basin, Chamonix Valley

Looking into the Chamonix valley, with it’s multitude of alpinists, we couldn’t help but feel super lucky to be completely alone on a supreme alpine route.

On the summit of the Mont Dolent

On the summit of the Mont Dolent

Thank you Ton! I’m always amazed, how you can come back here to Verbier, your little paradise away from home in Holland, working more than full time as a nephrologist/transplant physician, a research scientist on the cutting edge of new organ growth, and hospital manager in charge of thousands of employees, and climb so well with me to the top of all these peaks we have done together over the years.

Bravo!!!

Sailing Croatia

I’m back from three gorgeous weeks of sailing through the islands of Croatia. A nice jaunt to the top of Mt.Gele this morning will help me reacclimatise for upcoming trips into these beautiful hills around the Valais.

We experienced all kids of sailing weather this summer. The Bora hit hard for three days, forcing us to sit out 2 days in Rogoznica. Day 3, we headed out towards Vis, looking at a 6 hour sail. The winds had kicked up some large waves and it was still pushing 25 knots. So half way across, we jibed and sailed to the Island of Brac, dropping anchor in an idilic, protected bay with a typical tiny family run restaurant ashore. Another week of great winds blowing 10-20 knots sent us to Hvar, Vis, the Kornati Islands and many other tiny islands and bays. We revisited the little port of Zlatan Otok at Seta Nedilja and managed a few more fun sport climbs.

Cruising these islands of Croatia takes one to so many different settings. From isolated bay, each one a bit different, to big historical ports, each day seemed so varied. And the fun part was not knowing where the winds would blow us the following day. Sailing according to the winds was an analogy of going with the flow in life, easing downwind with the storm-force pressure on reefed sails, and upwinds when the pressure was agreeable.

I’ll be heading to Greece this fall to sail and climb, and am looking for company. The price will be around €1’300/person. Hope to see you on the water or in the hills.