It rained at my house here in Verbier @1600m all day and turned to snow early this morning. 20cm of wet snow lays around me now, and looking at the data for Attelas @2700m with 45cm of new snow, leads me to believe winter has arrived. Yeehaw! Avalanche Courses, Off-Piste around Verbier and neighboring little resorts, to Ski Safaris, Haute Route and Greenland Heliskiing, there will be lots of opportunity to share and learn from each other. Next summer's planning is well under way for fun alpine climbs up and down this Alpine Chain. Send me an email or give me a call to book a private trip or join a group with myself or one of the fine guides working with me.The forecast is calling for real cool temperatures over the next few days. Precipitation should peter out through the weekend, with another front from the NW passing through Wednesday. I'm guessing Televerbier will open next weekend. This autumn in the Alps gave us a fine, extended, indian summer, providing lots of opportunities to bike, climb, sail and hike. I hope you were able to profit from it, enjoying that fine feeling of contact with Mama Nature through movement and touch. My rehab gave me lots of excuses to work on strength and flexibility through sport. The knee is feeling great, ready for more fun in the snow. Wanna go for a skin this morning? There's lots planned for this coming winter and next summer. I hope I get a chance to share some of these experiences with you. From
Autumn is in the air with snow forecasted to 1800 meters Wednesday. I feel lucky to have squeezed in two superb alpine climbs this past week with Jason and Joe. ISM asked me to take this week for them, and I was super happy to work for this long time guide's office. The first route we did was the Arete de Salion, running up the west side of this big ridge, separating the Arolla valley from the Ferpecle basin in the Val d'Herens. Danielle has made the private Tsa hut quite cosy, giving one the feeling of being lodged in her own home. We left the hut at a leisurely 7:30AM to allow the rock to warm a little before touching it with our bare hands. What followed, was one of the finest climbs I have done, high on an alpine ridge, in these Pennine Alps. One normally "short-ropes" long sections of easy scrambling. But on this Arete de Salion, we climbed and climbed and climbed on great rock. I "pitched out" almost every 30 meters with my 37 meter long rope. Placing a few nuts and cams helped secure any of the moderate moves, with a handful of well placed bolts helping me "French Free" the most difficult moves. The bonus of this wonderful climb was the walk right off the top, onto a flat glacier, eventually leading to the Berthol hut, and another woman guardian's touch to a homey atmosphere and great lasagna! Our second route was the South Ridge on the Grand Cornier. We decided to traverse this not-quite-4000er. Packing a few edibles from the valley floor, we climbed 5 hours to the supremely isolated Bivouac de Dent Blanche at the foot of the monster Dent Blanche. What a fine evening we had, all alone in a high col, surrounded by some of the most majestic mountains around. We set off at 6:30AM the next morning, greeted with fresh surface hoar on all the westerly facing rocks on the ridge! Foot placement after fine inspection was a great idea to keep from slipping off. Half way along this 1 kilometer, alpine ridge, the sun was finally warming nooks and crannies, allowing us the fine moves to the dihedral on the fore summit. Finishing off the north ridge, we descended through perfectly white snow, still coated with last night's surface hoar, down to the immense Moiry Hut. Yvan, with whom I finished my guide's courses, is the guardian of this mountain hotel, catering to the heavy day traffic this hut sees, with his wife and two kids, home schooled by his wife Lidia. What fantastic views this hut has onto the wild Moiry Glacier. A leisurely start the next day, took us over the Col de Couronne and down to Forclaz, where Ramond was nice enough to give me a lift back to my car at Ferpecle. Merci Ramond, for the lift, your awesome croute au fromage, and good stories of climbing with friends on the Douves Blanches.
Looking up from Chamonix to the Aiguille du Midi, Vadim asks, "Is there a route up there we can do together Hans?" Of course I immediately thought about the Frendo Spur, number 62 in the "100 best of" by Gaston Rébuffat. Anyone out there collecting points from this classic guide to the Mont Blanc Group? Without even looking at it beforehand, I realized we did 3 this week- 23, 42, and 62! We took the second lift of the morning from Chamonix, arriving at the mid station of Plan de l'Aiguille at 7AM. From here, it's about 45 minutes to the base of the route. The neve steepens, and one wants to traverse right to stay out of the line of fire from the seracs above, to the left of the Frendo spur. There was still good, hard snow on the two initial ramps, allowing us rapid progress up. At some point, as the second ramp steepens, one goes right, up some steep blocks and chimneys over something called the râteau de chévre. I never did find it, instead settling on the excellent Hawaiian Variant. A couple of moves on hands and knees near the end of this fine variant, and we were in the sun on the other side of the spur. From here, we climbed quickly together on super mellow terrain. It was fun to scramble rapidly up, gaining lots of height with each step. When the rock steepend, we scooted left again and found more good scrambling and a few nice moves of 3+ - 4. The key passage at the tiny col was a quite obvious dihedral blocked by a little overhang on its left. Three pitons allowed us to French Free this is fine style. Then we pitched out 4-6 rope lengths on super nice rock. A super hard aid move to get over a silly block, of which no guide book ever mentioned, got us on a line to get around even further left and within view of the final snow and ice pitches. Putting crampons on again, we climbed together up the steep knife ridge. As it steepened and the ice became more apparent under the snow, I slapped in a screw and started running out pitches again. The ice was superb! It felt like the finest icy desert to an already fine meal of rock. My Nomics were happy to sink their teeth into some alpine ice after months sleeping under Anya's bed. We stepped over the top, into another world. Climbers all over the place, heading up to the Midi lift, heading down to the Cosmique hut, people talking, carabiners clinking, full-on sun... and the lift to take us back down to Chamonix for beer and a Chinese meal! And all this just to save on the lift pass from the mid-station to the top!!!
Descending into in the Larch forests filling the valley floor, I'm aware of the dwindling roar of the cascading waters from the Freney and Brouillard glaciers and conscious of the birds, the trickling water and soft sounds of my feet on the pine needles of the forest bed. Spending a few days high in these hills, and sleeping in these friendly Italian huts, provides one with such a fine feeling of alpine environments. It's not until you return to the valley floor that you become fully conscience of the sights and sounds that have been with you. Vadim is back with more intriguing stories of Moscow, Russia, and trips to South America and more. He is so interested in peoples of other cultures, how they prepare their food, the plants they use, and how they cope with different situations. It's a luxury for me to spend time with him. We climbed the Ottoz route on the Aiguille Croux from the Refugio Menzino, a 13 pitch, pure rock route, to get acclimatized for our 4000er, the Grand Jorasses. With a maximum move of 6a, this route has an alpine feel to it, yet with only and hour and a half approach from the hut. Armando, the guardian, is super nice, and has great tips for doing many great climbs from here, including some of the wild routes to the top of the Mont Blanc. Conditions on the Jorasses were excellent. The huge area of seracs, which discourages many from heading this way, did not look too menacing. And I'd spotted a line from our previous outing that took us left of the main group of seracs. We climbed to the unguarded hut of Bocalatte in three hours the first day. What a pleasure it was to be completely alone in this part of the Alps. While climbers are scrambling all over themselves on the popular routes, we were all alone in this hut. A tiny MSR stove and a bit of pasta kept us satisfied, eating our dinner looking over the glacial ice tumbling down beneath our feet. We got going the next day at a leisurely 5 AM, with dawn fully cracked. The snow on the glacier was nicely crampon-able, and the rock on the Rocher du Reposoir was warm and dry. A few moves of 3+ got us up and over towards flatter terrain and then onto a snowy ridge. A little serac blocked our traverse to the second rock rib descending from the Whymper, so I was happy to have my "piolet traction" to help me up this little vertical step. The rest of the route to the top was real straight forward. It was magnificent to look own into France, with all her glaciers winding away. Thanks for the trip Vadim!