Thursday, 7 July 2011

Dru-perb start to the season

leaving the Grandes Montes station

I had one more crucial thing to do before leaving the U.K and heading off to the Alps. The Big Shop!! Britain is awesome for good cheap food which I made sure I stocked up with, stuff like cereal bars that you get sick of after surviving on them for a couple of days in the mountains. Porridge is also very cheap in the U.K but really expensive in France and is a great thing to have for breakfast to keep you going for the long enduring days that will probably turn into epics!

Sweet dreams
 in the Grandes Montes toilets

Les Dru
I drove out to France in Greg Boswell’s people carrier which we managed to fill with gear, food and supplies to see us through our exploits. Driving down we were talking about what routes we wanted to climb and any other objectives we had in mind.

Glacier approach 

Getting warmed up properly and acclimatising well is a very crucial thing to do at the start of a Alpine trip, as you don’t want to get too trashed and feel crap to soon. So we thought the North Face of the Dru, a classic 800m pillar of mostly rock climbing but with some mixed ice climbing as well, would be an ideal thing to do first! To quote Greg, “It doesn’t matter what your first route is as your going to be breathing out your arse anyway, so it may as well be a good route!” The Dru, a huge tower that stands proud and up-right over looking the valley, must be one of the coolest features of the Mt Blanc massif and is also one of the famous six North faces of the European Alps.


Probably one of the great things about Chamonix and it’s mountain range is the fact it has cable cars and lift services that take you high up into the hills, to make a bit easier on people with puny wee legs like mine.
Greg enjoying some chimneys

With a quick weather check Greg and I decided to get the last lift up Grandes Montes and sleep in it’s luxuries toilet to give us an early start on the route. Both of us had a crappy night sleep but at 4:30 am we got up and left for the Dru. It took us about 2 hrs to get to the start of the route. The first sections of the climb felt fine and got through them in good time, but just below massive snow niche we managed to go off route which wasted a few hours correcting our mistake. A few  more pitches took us into the snow niche where we skirted up the side of and made our way onto the next rock section.

Me loving the crack climbing
that the Dru offered
Me leading some of the last pitches
to the summit

One thing that is quite awkward and takes a bit of getting used to in the Alps is route reading, especially if your not following big main features. The next section of climbing was climbing different cracks and chimneys to reach terraces and ledges, and trying to decide which is a ‘good ledge’ or a ‘good terrace’ is a bit confusing on route. Picking our way through the last sections of the face we topped out in the dark where we congratulated each other then had a look at the decent. After seeing that….. well we couldn’t see the descent route because it was Dark we thought it was best to bivvy and wait till morning to see what we were doing to get down safely.

Good Morning!

The descent was a load of abseils then down climbing to arrive at the Charpoua glacier and then onto the Charpoua hut where I managed to go to the toilet in a very uniquely positioned porta-loo. From the hut you walk down a nice path that leads to the famous Mer de Glace and then climb up the hellish ladders which sap every last bit of energy before you get the Montenvers train back down to Chamonix.

Summer Alpine climbing!!

What I like about these big routes is yeah, you make mistakes that cost you time maybe due to route finding errors or other factors, but you learn from them and hopefully don’t make them again allowing you to improve and climb bigger and hard routes. Super Psyched after ticking the first route of the season and am looking forward to the next episodes of what’s to come!

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