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.
After an incredibly cool and wet spring, summer has arrived to these Alps. For the first time this year, steady daytime temperatures at 1500 meters are above 20 degrees. It warms the soul to see the look on everyone's face and feel the relaxed attitude as people sit outside socializing in the evening. Verbier is filling again with people as the Music Festival gets into full swing. After a 2 week rock climbing trip to the sea, I've had the opportunity to do some guiding on a few alpine routes and hikes. Vadim and I climbed the north face of the Tour Ronde between Chamonix and Courmeyeur before spending some time in Zermatt and Grindelwald. Then I did a mini Haute Route with the Summers over 3 days, alpine trecking from Mauvoisin to Chanrion, over the Pigne d'Arolla and down to Arolla. The conditions on the high glaciers are better then I have ever seen them in the 30+ years I have been here. Snow remains low on the glaciers and above 3000 meters, the skiing is still excellent! I will be in Verbier all summer offering introductory climbing camps to people of all ages, leading people on a number of Alpine Hikes around this and neighboring valleys, and of course guiding on the 4000ers. Please contact me for detailed information.