The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

Saturday, 30 June 2012

My thoughts on the new Scarpa Crux

Back in the Lakes this week & my new Scarpa ‘Crux’ approach shoes have just arrived, which is great as I’ve had a couple of days guiding/climbing booked in & have being looking for a replacement shoe for some time now.
I’d been looking to replace my Five10 Tennies since before Christmas, but up until now haven’t found anything that was both comfy, supportive but also great to climb in. Up until now I’ve had a couple of pairs of the Five10 Tennies which I’ve been very happy climbing in as they’re super lightweight & have an awesome sticky sole which I‘ve been happy climbing/guiding in up to HVS in, but they’re so lightweight & soft in the mid-sole that I find them really hard on my feet during the walk-in’s, approaches & long days on the hill.
Early January I bought a replacement in the form of the Sportiva Ganda’s. They’re a much heavier shoe but gave great support & cushioning to the foot when approaching & walking into the crags. They also have a great lacing system which tightened the shoe right down to the toes for extra performance when climbing added to which the super sticky sole made for a great climbing/approach shoe, they even performed great on wet rock. Unfortunately though the sticky sole didn’t last a couple of weeks before it started peeling off from the main sole unit & I had to re-stick it down with super glue. This continued to be a problem on the other shoe & then also in different places around the edges & the toe area which was frustrating. Also the weight of the shoe became more & more annoying, it felt like one Ganda shoe was the same weight as both my Five10 Tennies put together!

I spend a lot of time walking, climbing & guiding so it makes a real difference & the shoe needs to be absolutely right.
I’d heard good reports about the new Scarpa Crux’s so I thought that I’d give them a run out. The Lakes this week was a real test for the Crux’s as the weather’s been absolutely awful, heavy rain, flooding in places, strong gale force winds, thunder, lightning & super wet grimy rock!
The Crux’s are slightly heavier than the Five10’s but much, much lighter than the Sportiva Ganda’s. Comfort wise & the feeling of supportiveness around the foot walking in & climbing all day in, they are comparable to the Sportiva Ganda’s but lighter & easier on the foot as the Ganda's & not as hard or uncomfortable after a long day out climbing/guiding as the Five10 Tennies.
The Scarpa’s felt very sure footed on the approaches to the crags, comfortable & supportive & didn’t feel like slipping once on the wet rocks or boulders approaching the climbs/routes. At the end of the day my feet didn’t feel like they’d had a hammering which I couldn’t say after a day climbing/guiding in the Five10’s.
Climbing wise I was a little sceptical & it took me a while to trust the Scarpa’s on small wet footholds, but the rubber & sole was awesome. The Crux’s stiffer sole unit gave the foot more support & comfort than the Five10’s when edging & the rubber was fantastic on the wet rock climbing around VS/HVS standard. Later on during the second day the wind had started to dry the rock out and I enjoyed patches of dry rock where the Crux’s really came into their own with great friction & security when I needed it & comfort/support throughout the pitch/route.
It’ll be interesting to see how they last out…………….. but really enjoying them at the moment – a great shoe for approaches, scrambling & climbing up to VS/HVS being also very comfortable & supportive during long days out.
Very impressed & they look great as well!
Safe Climbing

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Miroir d'Argentine

The Miroir d'Argentine sits high on the hillside above the small hamlet of Solalex situated on the outskirts of Villars in Vaud, Western Switzerland about an hour from Leysin. It's a beautiful valley which terminates at a couple of farm buildings & the Giocomini Refuge. To the north the huge south face of Les Diablerets rises in a mass of broken rock up to it's snowy summit. To the south the summit & long jaggedy limestone ridge of L'Argentine rims the opposite side of the valley.

The view from the summit looking back along the main ridge of L'Argentine & the top few slab pitches of Le Miroir in the bottom right of the picture.

The Miroir as it's known is a huge 500m limestone slab & wall which rises up from the valley floor to the ridge & summit of L'Argentine. It's an amazing limestone feature offering many classic routes of all grades climbing slabs, faces, cracks & chimneys. I believe it got it's name from when this huge face becomes a mirror, when during the summer a heavy  burst of rain soaks the slab & the sun immediately comes out & is reflected back off the wet limestone surface. 

The amazing face of L'Miroir d'Argentine, Solalex nr Villars.

The routes are all bolted but may feel run out in places so I reckon take a light rack if your not climbing well within your grade. It's about an hour steep walk-in to the base of all the routes. Don't carry in to much, maybe a spare base layer, warm top, windproof, water & a little food as any more is just extra weight & you'll carry that weight all the way up the 12 pitches & over the summit!
It's about a 6 to 7 hour round trip & make sure you have a good weather forecast as you don't want to be abseiling back down the face in the eye of a storm.
The face is also north facing, so an early start in the summer will see most of the pitches climbed in the shade which is great.
Be careful very early season as there are sometimes snow patches left dotted about high on the face, which in the sun will eventually release down the face. There were a couple last week, high on the left side of the face but we never had to climb under any of them.
With a good weather forecast I normally climb the routes on a single 50m rope but if there is a chance they you'll need to bail for any reason 2 half ropes would be the way to go, but the speed of managing just the one single rope..................

Two of the easier classic routes on the face
The orange line is the classic 'Y' route finishing at the col, grade mild severe (MS)
The green line is the super classic Directe also finishing at the col, graded mild very severe (MVS)
The routes don't finish at the col, you still have an amazing, steep & exposed knife edge ridge to cross on the way to the summit of L'Argentine marked by the yellow line.

Paul Cassey having an awesome time face climbing on the Directe, Miroir d'Argentine

Me enjoying the climbing on the Directe heading up towards the col & summit headwalls

Paul enjoying one of the many great pitches high up on the Directe, Miroir d'Argentine
We had the whole face to ourselves, as we were the only team climbing, which is amazing considering the accessibility, quality of the routes & fantastic views.

Me having a great time climbing the Directe on the Miroir d'Argentine

Paul enjoying an awesome crack pitch on the Directe

A fantastic day out alpine rock climbing.

Safe climbing


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Grand Jorasse

The Montenvers train pulled steeply out of the valley, leaving the heat & chaos of Chamonix behind for the quieter mountains that lay ahead. The train slowly grinded its way up through the dense evergreen forests covering the hillside which every now & then would clear giving great views back down into Chamonix & villages beyond. Tunnels cut through the hillside & steep cog track stitched the train’s journey together to where it terminated overlooking the Mer du Glace 100m below.

Fantastic views down onto the glacier & its jumbled mass of ice, crevasses, rocks & moraine & of the surrounding peaks like the Aiguille Vert, Les Dru, Les Moine, the Grand & Petit Jorasse, The Dent Du Geant & the Grand Charmoz – amazing!
From the station we headed down the ever increasing ladders onto the Mer du Glace & headed south towards the Leschaux glacier & then up more ladders which climbed steep rocks leading to the Couvercle Hut under the south face of L’Aiguille du Moine.

Paul climbing the steep ladders leading to the Couvercle Hut

How steep!

The Couvercle Hut

You couldn’t help but be blown away by the views from the hut, with the centre piece being the classic & iconic North Face of the Grand Jorasse, one of the six classic north faces in the Alps. It’s many an alpinist’s dream to climb one of the routes on this classic north face & it was totally inspiring just looking across at the many lines weaving their way up through the rock & ice to the summits of this huge face.

The beautiful North Face of the Grand Jorasse

1 The Shroud – FA, R.Desmaison & R.Flematty 1968
2 The Walker Spur – FA, R. Cassin, L. Esposito & U. Tizzoni
3 The British Route (also known as the MacIntyre Colton) FA, A. MacIntyre & N. Colton 1976
4 The Croz Spur – FA, M. Meier & R.Roberts 1935 – This was the first route to be climbed on the North Face. A little further right is the Croz Spur Direct a variation to the start of the original route avoiding much stonefall found low down.

We left the Couvercle & headed up the Glacier Telefre under the South Face of the Vert to climb  the Whymper Couloir…………

Safe climbing


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

N Face Gran Paradiso

All the rain & cold weather was coming down from the North, so we headed south of the Mt Blanc range in the hunt for some sunshine. Leaving the Mt Blanc tunnel behind us, sunshine beamed in through the car windows & we continued down through Aosta to Arnad a small Italian village surrounded by vineyards & crags - what more could you want!

Welcome to Arnad!

Arnad's a great venue to head towards if the high mountains are blown out with bad weather as it's far enough south to generally get dry, warm, sunny weather. The climbing here is fantastic from single pitch routes through to the longer 12 pitch routes such as those on Il Paretone. 

The classic Il Paretone, Arnad, Aosta Valley
There are over 40 routes on this huge dome of a crag from 4a to 7a in grade with many of the routes in the 5c & 6a range. The rock is a fantastic gneiss giving steep face & slab climbing with great friction.

Sagi seconding the 2nd pitch of Bucce D'Arancia, Il Paretone, Arnad

A team on Diretta Al Banano, Il Paretone, Arnad

Great views down the Aosta Valley from Il Paretone, Arnad

Our fantastic B&B in Arnad, Aosta Valley

From Arnad we headed to the Gran Paradiso & into the mountains - we wanted to climb the North Face of the Gran Paradiso which I thought would be in great condition given the snow conditions & being this early in the season. We headed up to the Refugio Chabod which gave us great views of the face,

Views from the Refugio Chabod in the Gran Paradiso.
Left -Il Becca Di Montandayne
Middle - Piccolo Gran Paradiso
Right - Gran Paradiso with the line of the North Face route

The classic North Face of the Gran Paradiso

Sagi enjoying some great climbing on the long & classic North face, Gran Paradiso

Sagi enjoying the summit ridge of the Gran Paradiso with the North Face down & left

We traversed the Gran Paradiso & headed back down the normal route & via the Vittorio Emanuele before heading back down the valley to Pont & then back to Chamonix

a very snowy view from Brevent in the Aiguille Rouge across to Mt Blanc on the right in the cloud, L'Aiguille du Midi in the centre & L'Aiguille du Plan on the left.

Another view from Brevent but a little further left showing the Chamonix Aiguilles on the right, the Mur du Glace flowing down the valley in the middle & the Aiguille Vert being the obvious big peak on the left.

Enjoying some fantastic granite climbing in the Aiguille Rouge

A great week's climbing, considering the weather that was when I first arrived in Chamonix

Safe climbing


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A night in Chamonix

I’m lying awake, listening to the rain banging a random tune on the copper roof next door. The broken down pipe doesn’t do anything to soften the din but just adds more accompaniment & more frustration as it’s 4am in the morning & I’m still awake! Or was it the after meal coffee over at Bruce’s this evening which is still buzzing around my head, I knew I should have said no! Coffee is definitely a weakness! Bruce spent yesterday wading through 30cms of fresh snow up on the Cosmiques Arete although had the maturity & experience to stop & sort the ropes while a keen Aspirant guide ploughed through & made life a little more pleasant! Still raining. I get back on the computer & run over this evening’s meeting again, a Conference Skype call between the Training Committee of the BMG – 7 new applications to get on the BMG scheme, all many pages of experience long in all aspects of climbing & skiing so you can guess it wasn’t a short call and one which was still floating around in my sub-conscience. Skype call – ‘fancy a chat?’ Dean over in OZ is up & about & saw that I was on-line which is a rarely at this time of day unless I’m plodding up a frozen glacier somewhere.

How’s it going Ade as Dean reclines in the office chair with the sun beaming in through the window to one side. We chew the fat for an hour - the new Lakes winter guide coming out & our new routes, discussions about Birkett’s new route up on East Buttress & Brian’s stance on it, what climbing we’d both been up to, Woody not working the Epi Centre anymore & their loss, outdoor shops in general & Leo saying that the Berghaus Extrem range only making up for 3% of the overall sales, what it all means, ice tools & rock shoes, future trips & talking through dates, Norway, Slovenija.... families…………….I need to get some sleep, see you in July & we signed off. I shut the lid of the laptop & rolled over & fell asleep.

Marko Prezelj inspiring me with some of his Norway Photo's - fantastic shots

Still raining, still accompanied by the broken down pipe & now hovering next door, aarrggghh…..I shower & head down for a tea, breakfast finished 2 hours ago, so I raid the kitchen for a couple of yoghurts & a banana. It’s a great spot Chalet Whymper, super close & walking distance from Chamonix centre, cheap……My text goes off & it’s Leo back from Corsica ‘you around for climbing today, it’s sunny!’ – great I thought looking out the window. The text pings again, it’s Woody ‘round 2 with the Phoenix yesterday & I nailed it’ – good on ya mate, great effort, sorry Leo hanging out in Chamonix at the moment, catch up when I get back. Ping, you around for a brew today or bike ride? No Nigel catch up when  I get back. It’s stopped raining so I check the weather – more to come & tomorrow as well, getting better Thursday & Friday. Paul over on Saturday, hope the weather chirps up & snow settles down. The mobile pings again I’m downstairs where are you? I pick up my rock shoes & harness & head down the indoor wall.

Safe climbing