Thursday, 21 July 2011

Back to the Dru

I ain't climbing up that again!

The clouds finally lifted off the hills around Chamonix to reveal wet rock and fresh snow on the faces high up which scuppered plans of doing the Traverse of the Chamonix Aiguilles, the next big route that was on the agenda.

Greg at the base of the Dru.

Greg and me at our Bivvy cave.

Sweet dreams!
Greg and I thought that a quick day hit on the south face of Aiguille du Midi for some easy access rock climbs would be a good plan, but as we arrived at the station for the lift to take us up we were welcomed with the mass of tourists queuing for their turn on the Midi. I love how as climbers we feel that we are superior than the crowds of multi nationalities, bumbling around always looking surprised and shocked at anything they see. Some of these tourists get a bit braver and will ask for a photo taken with you in your ‘climbing outfit’, but I feel I must warn you that once you let one of them have a photo then you get the whole tour
group asking, they come in a sort of
package deal!

So we decided to give the Midi a miss and pop over to ‘Footworks’, climbing shop opposite the station, to see Mr Colin ‘T-Bird’ Thornton and ask what’s going on. After a wee discussion in the shop we came up with the idea of heading back up to the Dru in the afternoon from Montenvers to bivvy at the base and climb the mega classic American Direct the following day.

 Too much litter in the hills.
Small amount that I removed from
bivvy site. 

How can you get mad
 at a face like this?!
The access to the bottom of the Dru from Montenvers was a lot easier than from Grandes Montes, which was the way Greg and I went the previous week when we went for the North face route. Now that I have seen that the approach isn’t too bad from Montenvers I’m definitely keen to go back up there for other routes on the face.

Sunset over Aiguille Rouges.

I knew about this good bivvy site at the top of the Dru Rognon, a rock island at the base of the Dru, from a friend of mine who had been there before. So when we found the spot we got the ‘poly bags’ out for sleeping in! When we were READY & STEADY we COOKed some fine cous-cous, by Ainsley ‘food guru’ Harriott. for diner and watched the classic 'Alpey Glow’ take over the surrounding rock faces before trying to get some sleep.

Morning view.

The full moon’s glow lit up the area, one more thing that you really appreciate when sleeping in the hills, as we set off on our early rise start leaving bivvy gear and mountain boots behind.

45m Diedre at the start.

Greg on the starting pitches.

The route has a fairly easy start that takes you to the Socle, pretty much a massive terrace, where we saw two guys bivying the night before and managed to catch them up on the first main pitch, a 45m lay-backing Deidre. They were British and kind enough to let us go in front of them, but for some reason they kept trying to keep up by the leader of their team going in front of the second of our team. This just made things more awkward, but a few pitches later we managed to break free from the faff and started making good progress up the wall. The climbing on this uber classic rock climb was just what Alpine climbing in the Massif is all about, with perfect jams from fingers to fists!! Lay-backs, and also some sketchy teetering over scarily loose blocks the size of fridges!

Bridging my way up the huge diedre. 

Greg on the top Diedre

All this climbing brought us to the ‘Jammed Blocks’, where most parties stop if not completing the route to the summit. As Greg and I climbed the North Face route to the summit we thought we’d just climb to here and abb down, but above the blocks there is a huge grade VII corner that had to be climbed. It has so much fixed gear in it that all you really need is a load of quickdraws! After we finished the corner, the process of abseiling on our new ‘tag-line’ system began. It went quite smoothly and we arrived back to the bivvy site for about 6 o’clock. It was too late to head down for the Montenvers train, so we decided to bivvy again and walk out in the down pour the next day, not before having a ‘cuppa soup’ and three oatcakes before another cold sleep!

Just a few bits of gear!

Like I said earlier, I’m well psyched to head back up to the Dru for more, so there might be future posts to come from this area.  

Down we go!


  1. Nice one Ally.
    You getting ready for me coming out in Sept?
    Off to Ladakh on Monday for some nice big clean hills.

    ps you need to take better care of your pa


  2. Ainsley's "Moroccan Medley" cous-cous - a veritable, hill food for heroes. With that in the evenings and Tangfastics during the day, anything becomes possible. Well done.