The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Odd shots from the summer.

Traversing from the Dix Hut to the Vignettes Hut over the Pigne d'Arolla 

Andy Townsend with Nathalie & Ben summiting the Dent Blanche after climbing the South Ridge

A series of shots below of Mark Walker leading the 1st pitch on the South Ridge of the Cornettes des Bise, Portes du Soleil, France. A fantastic climb in a very quiet location with beautiful scenery close to Chatel in the Portes du Soleil. 

Looking back towards the Dix Hut & the Pas de Chevres behind, Arolla area.

The Dent Blanche seen from Col du Brenay heading up to the Pigne d'Arolla

A team heading across the Brenay Glacier towards the Pigne d'Arolla

A perfect rainbow seen from the Wiwanni Hut over the Baltschiedertal



My last week in the Alps we headed up on the Montenvers train, down the ladders and onto the Mer de Glace heading to the Couvercle Hut.

We walked up the fast melting Mer de Glace in searing heat stepping over small rivers in the ice to where the Leschaux Glacier meets the Mer de Glace & the ladders up the steep rock wall leading onto the Couvercle Hut.

Up the ladders we had fantastic views back across to the Envers des Aiguilles & up the Glacier de Geant and over to Mt Blanc itself.

A great view of the Grande Charmoz on the right, the Grepon, the Fou, the Plan & the Dent du Requin on the left.

L'Envers des Aiguilles with Mt Blanc behind

In very dry conditions & with very little snow or ice, we climbed the Moine ridge on the Aiguille Verte & summited the Aiguille Verte

A fantastic view from the summit of the Aiguille Verte

Descending mixed ground from the summit of the Aiguille Verte

We had a fantastic day on the Verte, it was a long day but totally worth it. It was made even more enjoyable, as on the way up I found some crystals in the gravel down by my feet. I ratched around some more with my axe & found 5 good quality crystals! All smoked quartz & a couple of really good clean examples. Bonus!

Once back down to Chamonix we then decided on a more relaxing day climbing in the Aiguille Rouge on the other side of the Chamonix Valley. The rock here is just fantastic & we had a great day up on the Brevent lift climbing one of the Classic long rock routes there.

The following day we headed up to the Torino. Next day we left early, heading towards the Tour Ronde and where greeted with the most amazing sunrise & full moon.

A fantastic sunrise & full moon above the col du Brenva in between Mt Maudit & Mt Blanc.

We traversed the Aiguille d'Entreves to the Col Freshfield & then continued up the SE Ridge of the Tour Ronde

Looking back at the Aiguille d'Entreves & the knife edge ridge we'd traversed with the Aiguille Verte (the highest summit) in background

Me on the summit of the Tour Ronde with Madonna!

Safe climbing


Tuesday, 27 September 2011

3 Peaks Cyclocross Race

Last Sunday was the 49th, 3 Peaks Cyclocross Race starting at Helwith Bridge nr Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Yorkshire.

The race takes in Simon Fell, Ingleborough, Bruntscar, Whernside, Blea Moor & Pen-y-Gent with 28km's of road, 33km's of unsurfaced track & around 8km's of unrideable terrain where you either carry or push your bike! Oh yeh and it's 5000ft of ascent!

You can get a flavour of what's billed as the toughest Cyclocross Race in Europe & some say the worlds by clicking the link below & watching a video from last year

Well the only difference was the weather, both leading up to the race which had been very wet & the weather on the day which again was wet to start with, with low cloud & mist on the tops! The weather did improve but the riding conditions didn't, it was super wet & boggy on Simon Fell & Ingleborough & very slippery on the rocks heading over Whernside & then again up and over Pen-y-Gent. It made for slower times throughout with a lot more carrying & running with the bike.

But still apart from the toughness & the challenges on the day it's got to be one of the best events I've ever done. I had a smile on my face when over 650 of us left the start & headed up the road to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, just to be part of something like this was special & then to finish in a good time, I couldn't have been happier.

Heading up Simon Fell last year

Me coming down off Pen-y-Gent on Sunday & enjoying the run down to the finish

It was so muddy & boggy up and over Ingleborough, I carried far more than I did last year & the sections which I rode were very tricky with the bike being thrown everywhere in the bogs & ruts. 

Coming down off Whernside and at the Ribblehead road junction

This was a hard very steep descent of Whernside down over wet slippery rocks & mud, over slabs of limestone & over steep rock drainage dyke's, loose rocks & slippery grass both on & off the bike! 

Congratulations to Nick Craig for a great win in difficult conditions & a big thanks to John Rawnsley for organising another great event.

I'm already looking forward to next year!

Safe biking!


Friday, 23 September 2011

A week of Alpine rock

We headed up to the Wiwanni Hut 2470m above the village of Ausserberg 10km from Visp in the Rhone Valley

After only an hour walking we could see the hut we had great views of the Wiwannihorn and the classic East Ridge which we'd planned to climb the following day.

The Wiwanni hut & the Wiwannihorn with the Classic East Ridge in profile on the right.

That afternoon we headed over to some smaller towers called the Klettergarten Schepfipfiler with some 3/5 pitch routes on them and had a great afternoon of climbing.

In perfect weather the following day we headed up the 17 pitches that make up the East Ridge on perfect granite to the summit the Wiwannihorn. 

Andy heading up the first pitch of the East Ridge of the Wiwannihorn

Andy heading up one of the many great pitches we found on the ridge

The following day we headed further up the Rhone Valley beyond Visp & Brig, to the Furka Pass.

Once we'd worked our way up the many switchbacks that makes up the road leading to the Furka Passed we parked up & walked in to climb the Gross Furkahorn. We wanted to climb the classic East South East Ridge.

A panorama of the Gross Furkahorn (the tall spire on the left), the Galenstock in the middle, the Gross Bielenhorn & the Chly Bielenhorn on the right. 

Beautiful granite low down on the Gross Furkahorn

Andy enjoying the climbing on the Gross Furkahorn

A fantastic steep wall & arete leading to the summit of the Gross Furkahorn

Enjoying the airy exposed summit of the Gross Furkahorn

We descended & stayed the night in the Sidelen Hutte in the centre of the main range as we wanted to also climb the Gross Bielenhorn the next day.

The Sidelen Hutte with the Gross Bielenhorn towering above & the granite pinicles making up the Klien & Gross Kamel's marking the Bielenlucke Pass

Me enjoying working the steep ground on the Gross Bielenhorn

Again just immaculate granite climbing on the Gross Bielenhorn

The Furka' just such a great place to climb - big long routes on perfect granite with super easy access in an Alpine environment - what more could you want!

We headed back down the Rhone Valley, towards Martigney and on back to Leysin. The last day we wanted to climb the classic Miroir D'Argentine. An amazing limestone cliff & summit close to Villars above the village of Solalex.

The huge face of the Miroir D'Argentine with the 2 classic routes marked
Red - Voie Normal, Green - Direct
Both routes are around 12/14 pitches long & moderate in grade.

Both routes finish at the col and then climb the steep & knife edge ridge left which then leads on up to the higher summit of the Argentine.

Looking down the slabs from a belay at the col. You can just see the top couple of pitches before the face steepens & drops away below.

A great view from the summit of the Argentine looking back across the summit ridge towards the col where many of the routes finish. You can see clearly the top couple of slab pitches leading to the col.

We had a fantastic week of weather & climbing and I can't wait to get back up to the Furka!

Safe climbing