Thursday, 1 November 2012

A visit from Scotland.

Last week three friends of mine, Greg, Adam and Dougie came to Chamonix for a quick Alpine hit. We had a few ideas but things were warming up!

Leaving cham and heading for the Dru.

We had our sights set on the Dru Couloir Direct. I've always fancied the original route, but knowing Greg's capability's with the tools I thought this route would be more fitting. As the Montenvers train wasn't running we had to walk 6.5 hours from Chamonix to the bivvy site below the Dru. The foen wind was having a massive effect on the mountains. Warm air rushing around and melting a lot of snow and ice away. As we knew the temperatures were really warm for this time of year, we thought it'd be best to get up at 1am to give us the best chance of colder temps. Even at 1 in the morning it still wasn't that cold,  but still decided to go up and have a look for ourselves. Walking up the soft glacier to the start of the route we realised how warm it actually was. We went up to the bottom of the route and after getting dumped on by a big mass of snow and ice falling from the route, we quickly decided to head down. After a few hours sleep back at the bivvy sight we walked back down to Chamonix.

Wee mouse fancied a midnight snack.

After a lot of dithering about what to do next we decided it would be a safer bet to go up the Midi and climb something up there. I hadn't been up there for about 3 weeks so wasn't sure what would be in good condition. The best idea I could come up with was to take a small bivvy tent, that Rab kindly supplied me with, and head for the East face of the Tacul. If everything was in poor condition I thought a safe bet would be 'Scotch on the Rocks' or 'Vol du Nuit'. But as we neared the face we were greated with a lot more snow and ice than anticipated. To our delight 'Supercouloir' was looking really healthy, the main couloir was a nice colouir and also the direct looked quite fat. Greg and I had been wanting to climb this ultra classic alpine route for a few years so we were super excited to both be here and to have the place to ourselves. Not having much faith in how this warm weather was going to act the next day we agreed that it'd be best to climb at night! So we quickly and easily put up the tent and got some food in our bellies. Then off we went for a wee adventure!

Grabbing a bite.

Greg heading up to the Tacul.

As we approached the bottom of the route it was getting dark, but everything was still visible from the moon's glow. The temps were still quite warm but nothing compared to that on the Dru. Greg dispatched the direct pitches which consisted of a lot of ice not soundly bonded to the rock. The crux pitch before entering the couloir was amazing and probably felt around Scottish 8. Once in the couloir itself I took over to climb the superb ice pitches that lead to the final wall. Greg lead the final pitch which was a huge wall of ice and of amazing quality all the way. We topped out around 3am and after a quick pat on the backs we rappelled down the route on the bolt belays, which make things so much easier. It felt so nice to be able to walk down from the route and just climb into a sleeping bag in the tent. I was amazed and pleased with how quickly the tent heated up, and wasn't too bad for space for the two of us.

Gearing up at the bottom.

Greg starting the Crux pitch.

Greg pulling out left to finish the pitch.

Happy little chappy.

We woke up a few hours later and had a nice relaxing morning in the sun talking about every route in sight, before we packed up and headed back up for the midi. Normally this walk is horrible, which it still was, but this the conditions of the snow pack was brilliant  We were able to walk on top of the surface rather than breaking through which made life so much easier.

Room with a view.

The patio door!

Greg getting the morning brew on.

The next day Greg, Dougie and Adam were really keen to go check the main dry tooling venue near Chamonix. Seen as these boys live in their local cave in Scotland tooling away to there hearts content, I thought it'd be nice to take these animals to the Zoo! 

Adam McGuns.... crashing through the steep ground.

Adam flashing the Zebra.

Me on the start of the Zebra.

The last section of the Zebra.

Greg loving his first visit to the Zoo. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    We all warmed up on the Moose graded M6, which is the classic route of the crag, and the Giraffe giving M6+. We all then went and watched Greg onsight the Zebra M10. This route is really steep and has biggish moves between the holds. Adam then flashed it and Dougie was robbed from his flash attempt after falling off at the chains. These boys were pulling big moves and swinging around like apes. This got me worried as I've never been really good at tooling, as I find it hard to power through big moves. I got on the route and surprised myself by also managing to flash the route. Watching and climbing with these guys has got me really keen to work at getting strong on the tools. Especially for this winter and few big trips I've got planned for next year. I'm loving the Ice-mutant boots from Boreal. They are so good to use and feel really light on the feet, with amazing precision. Thanks guys for a great wee trip.

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