Friday 19 July 2019

France 2019: Notes

Practical information
Albert Premier (Aiguille du Tour; Tete Blanche, Petite Fourche)
Chamonix: rest day
Couvercle and Pointe Isabella
Mt Blanc: Tete Rousse / Gouter
Cosmiques / Rif Torino

Off topic: Yugoslavia, 1989.

fb pix.

Also: Mustelid: Alpine climbing routes crumble as climate crisis continues.

7/26 Friday: attempt on Pointe Isabella. Tldr: fail but close. Up 4:30 b'fast leave 5:30 down where I explored y'day to col on morraine down along yellow poles then we're on our own and after the usual brief flailing we're onto ice then snow then gear up. Brief screeching over scoured flattish rocks the pure snow up up. But it's a long way and we shed 150 m going down. Over some big mostly bridged but still quite disturbing crevasses: progress carefully well spread out. Thence up towards the first snow ridge where the guardienne had warned of "glace" - from someone who had done the route a week ago and we've seen little traces - and yes there's about 15m of 50 deg ice so pitch it cut some steps and put in an ice screw all quite exciting really. Takes an hour and effort though.

Sun on ridge. Up to rock ridge up that second snow ridge the rock again and we're on the summit slopes but late. Stop at noon maybe 100m short but f'cast is storms pm and we want to be below difficulties by then.

Down. Crampons off for longer rock but as usual hard to be sure it is worth it. Carefully down ice me last E "falls" once D not and thankfully me not. Down carefully crevasses then snow some uncertainty as to track nearly miss path over scrapey rock. Rain then hard hail kicks in as we're leaving morraine - again track on rock marked with square but recommended track over morraine not marked. Hut, whew.

Add complaint re party here.

7/27 Saturday: up with alarm 7. Feckless hut folk are unsurprisingly late getting b'fast so pack a bit and look outside waiting. Pano. Let M handle conversation. Head down 8:30 and it takes 4+ hours: could be done faster but it is a long but interesting way. Wonder if going via glacier might be better. Don't stop to play on ice cos E's f'cast says rain later and indeed when we get to Montenvers it does start. Cafe then train down. Car still there - run through rain - up to Arg to get keys to appt Les Neutered and settle in. Soir: local pizza.

7/28 Sunday: down in Chamonix - actually Argentiere - after a week mostly up, except one rest day. That was good but hard and I feel well used and stretched. Today - Sunday the 28th - was a day of rain which was fine. Up 9ish b'fast slowly on what we super-u'd y'day and MED went out for croissants etc. Outside medium rain continues and most shrouds the trees.

Note: pix with some captions on fb.

Our appt in the Rez Grand Roc proves adequate to our first night. We get the double, E the single upstairs with us and D the sofa which he doesn't bother xform into a bed. It's nice to get on well enough with each other for this not to rub. 12:30 go out to buy stuff for lunch but discover super has just shut so get at marche: E15 of olive pate - a slight overbuy perhaps - carrots tomato sliced ham saucisson sec a goat cheese and a big block of Time for only E5. And a flute from the breadman.

14:30: coffee and prevarication done so head out to Martigny to see the tower cos I've passed it by too often. And it's a trip of about the right size. More cloud higher up (return to get passports; comedy trying to leave appt car park) Montets Forclaz border no guards Martigny park walk up to tower. Abeilles on way up. It's only about ten mins. No entry formalities or staff and we can climb right up. Bare stone wood stairs views good. Inside D and I puzzle over odd two storey room in tower side before realising it is a fireplace. Back via paths. Walk to river old wooden arched bridge church small ex voto. Back.

Soir: decide to eat in. Just enough bread. Quiet reading.

7/29 Monday: up at the unearthly hour of 8:30 though actually I also got up at 4:30 as my phone alarm was set and downstairs. B'fast sit then to shops for bread coffee etc. Also looking for Cham crags guide. Bureau des guides not open till 5 and tourist not useful but total-liquidation has a (sadly undiscounted) copy for E27. Back more food off about 11 I think head up to Col Des Montets then back a little park and track just opposite. There's a cluster of boulders we pick Le Transat whick book says is most pop N face is in shade some Spaniards there. Have a play... E does 3c r2 I do 4c r3 D does a harder 4c. Put toprope on and E and I do the slightly longer central 4c and I think D does the 5b r7. Go round to W face lovely by little stream bucolic as book says. 3c r1 to R I do and E does with a little push on her bottom. 4c r7 to L then D fights up the 5c r4 central. Time for coffee. Up to Aig Rouge accuiel who do drinks and ice creams and a choc bar and a nice terrasse for cards for an hour or so. Wx is fine: sun but coolish with wind and evap of last night's rain.

Down other side not far - not as far as le Buet - to railway tunnel boulder park by road hard 3c nice also hard 4c toprope and toprope D on several attempts at 6a. Home and the out to Pet'te Better v good esp E's Perigoudian (gizzard!) and D's summer salad - smoked salmon.

7/30 Tuesday: again 8:30 slow b'fast sun outside.

Richer de Saix: 85m 4c good quite scary as lead and DE's first real multi-pitch.

Soir: galettes / crepes.

7/31 Wednesday: light day. Up to Col de Forclaz for little walk nearly level to the buvette. Cool mostly in shade alongside the bisse. Panels tell us the glacier was formerly exploited for ice but it has retreated a lot since the and the tongue pants easy up above. Pines, running stream, shade and a vin rouge while we play cards. And we share two pieces of apricot tart.

Back to col for cafe and M has E30 salad forgetting sf is 1-1 with Euro but it is good. More cards: I think I just edge ahead of  D.

Down to Tete Noire and finally stop for it's advertised "gorges mysteriueses". Or rather the top thereof: the path goes down down and we don't though I'd like to some time.

Soir: laR  Good but pricey prob worth it.

8/1 Thursday: up 7:30 to get croissants bread b'fast and then packing and cleaning and finding and sorting. Off 9:45.

8/3 Saturday: backfill diary: glorious sunset last night bed upthen up for wee pix E against afterglow v still. English off at midnight seems early to me. 1:50 alarm groan fumble around; cold; faint rime on tent door slow b'fast in hut. Off 2:45 in the darkness lights of valley below Gouter lights above pinprick headtorch lights in strings heading up. As we do. Everything weird in darkness but find path fine cross grand couloir fine up rocks fine. Good time to Gouter 4:40. I was in thin yellow top fleece green Rab raincoat tracksters; swap t'sters for w'proof trous. Rest 30 mins drink eat little choc; pickup stashed kit rope and water. Only boot room is open; salle closed; maybe could access toilets in dortoir.

And up to new ground. We have crampons and a ski stick each but axe on packs. And after some thought roped up. Spoiler: I'd have been happy to solo it as the conditions turned out but there are some well bridged crevasses and lots of the ridges are moderately thin and steep and would have been harder but for the expected track. We're pleased with our speed up to Gouter so press on with faith: previously we'd all been pretty doubtful we'd make it.

Higher the wind starts to cold us and we start longing for the sun. But when we break into sun the wind picks up and we stay cold. Perhaps we're slow to react and protect. Grateful to reach Vallot abri 4360 and respite shiver inside under blankets. E off to toilet returns amused and shocked by their appalling state. Some others come in who have come up from Italian side even colder. Swap fleece for new down and lend D my spare thermal top but E must continue in leggings there is a lesson for us in carrying spares. My hands btw were a little cold in down mitts plus outer mitts but didn't feel the wind.

We have about 400 m to go how hard can that be? Above views glorious and to sides and below if only the wind would let us rest. It's snow ridge all the way except one brief col and looks infinite. Up!

200 m to go: now near certain we will make it and in decent time. But tired. Axes on packs cos can't be bothered to extract a bit dodgy meh the exposures are in general fine.

Note: although many other parties the mountain is so hugeous we're usually alone.

And so the top. 10:30 I think. Group hug. Happy. Brief rest brief selfie and pix it is v windy off down. Get out axe.

Vallot: brief discussion but rest outside in sun wind less here sheltered by hut. Some choc but hard to eat when it doesn't melt in mouth really we should have eaten and drunk more.

Gouter 1:30 realise we can make last train so rest most of 1 h I practically sleep off 2:25 I make camp de base 3:55 pack and clear by the time D then E arrive off 4:20? last train 6:30 E assures me we took 1:30 up so can beat that down well actually no but close and we get the train with 30 mins margin.

Pick hotel on train down - the wonders of our modern world - in les Houches nothing special 3 befs one room; shower gratefully face tender; late pizza dinner.

8/4 Sunday: day off. B'fast 8 then check out then walk 200m to center aka t-junction slow cafe-n-cards in shade its a sunny day then off uphill back to Cx. Biollay full so go bit further to lift parking also crowded - midday sunday high season whodaguessed - but find space to center cafe hotel Pointe Isabella good stay for lunch good must stay here next time. 3 to hotel le Cx checkin - recognised. I have double 3rd floor nice balcony.

All of us are feeling well used let us say esp feet and faces and misc scrapes so not intent to do anything. Oh except phone Cosmiques.

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