Tag Archives: Alpine Climbing

The Grand Jorasses

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!

Mont Dolent

We climbed this pretty summit on the Swiss, French and Italian border under a perfect blue sky. Though not technically difficult, fantastic views abound. We spent the night at the Fiorio bivouac to break the climb into a couple small chunks. It is a cute little hut, reminding me of what most of these alpine huts used to all be like. Take a cook stove, food and a couple of spoons to prepare your own food since this bivi is not guarded.

Matterhorn 4478- The Hornli Route

Catherine and I climbed the Hornli Route on the Matterhorn last week, taking advantage of the last good weather of the summer. As fall steps in, those light dustings of snow will begin to stick. But it’s not over yet!

We made it to the summit in a bit over 4 hours, proving how well acclimatized Catherine was. It was so nice that her brother Andrew was there at the same time. It is such a special peak, this one, evoking intense emotions after the colossal struggle to get to the summit. As the saying goes: No pain, no gain! And what a scene it is on this hill. The hut was full of guides and their clients. The sign read, “Breakfast at 4:30, depart for the summit at 4:49”! How’s that for precision? There were so many of us on the climb, but depending on where you were, you may have been alone or with others. Classic Matterhorn climbing!

The weather in the mountains this week has been mixed. It has really cooled off and the Bise was blowing. That made for a few really fine days of sailing on the lake!

Dent Blanche 4356m

Carla and I climbed the Dent Blanche in the Val d’Hérens yesterday under clear blue skies and a light SW breeze. This was Carla’s 2nd 4000er in 2 days! Bravo!

We climbed quickly to the hut in just over 4 hours Monday, and made the summit in just over 3 hours the next day. But it is still a long day, arriving back at the car at 3 that afternoon.

The climb is a real nice variety of tasks, involving crampon changes several times, as one goes from ice to rock. The route finding is real straight forward as it is getting very well worn. There is some very steep and exposed climbing on good rock, but all very well protected, with either new bolts or rock spurs. Though the climb is not very difficult, one needs good rope skills to make the climb safe. The views along the climb and at the top were phenomenal.

Ingrid, the hut warden, is an exceptionally nice women. I was so impressed with her easy going style, chatting nicely with most every one, even though she had a million and one things to do. A climb just to the hut itself is a worthy task!