Sunday, 11 August 2013

Ni dieu ni Maitre - Croix de Fer

 Every once in a while we all need to get away for the day and just have fun. Well for me going up to the Croix de Fer, above Sallanches, was just the place for that. There are so many huge limestone walls looming over the 'Valle de l'Arve'. Some of which have top notch mutli-pitch routes on them. From easier grades which take on some interesting features to major aid fest through some huge roofs. Others are quite poor rock but still really impressive. Croix de Fer is good rock and super impressive!

First view of the wall.

Morgan (Scout leader) Diaz.

Morgan gave me a shout a few days ago to see if I fancied going rock climbing. I was planning to do some long traverse in the mountains on my own, but knew I should go rock climbing as I haven't done much of it this summer. 

Well good mooooorning!

Approach to the cliff.

Morgan mentioned the Croix de Fer would be cool objective to go for. My original thought was that as it's south facing limestone I would suffer massively from the heat. Us Scots don't do so well in the sun. However after reading in the guidebook that it's a summer crag and best climbed in August. Well this is August, so let's go for it. Originally we planned to head up Friday night, camp at the bottom, then start early to climb as high before the heat of the day. Unfortunately Morgan ate some bad rice! So we left on Saturday morning instead.

Our route went up between the roofs just in the shade.

We left Les Houches around 6:30 and reached the car park for 7:15. You walk up for an hour on a 4x4 track in the trees before you get your first sight of this towering limestone wall. It always amazes me how if you just make the small effort to escape from the Chamonix valley and go see some other areas around here, you'll be rewarded with some spectacular sights. So after the first hour of the walk in you come to a beautiful little refuge. From there it doesn't look that far, and  it isn't, but you soon find out why it's a 2 - 2.5hr walk in. The cliff is like this big castle protected by these surrounding steep grassy slopes. Which at first glance don't look too bad but after you get involved it becomes quite tiring. Especially if you're not on the path! Once you're on the path it ain't that much easier, but thankfully there's some in-situ ropes around to hope out.

Morgan almost at the belay on pitch 1.

Morgan on pitch 2.

The phenomenal views just keep hitting you as you get closer and closer to the 300m wall of limestone. It has this huge arete that you walk around which complements to its beautiful shape.

Me on Pitch 3.

We reached the bottom our the route, which was called 'Ni dieu ni Maitre' and consists of 7 pitches from 6a-6c. I lead of first and my first thoughts was how sharp and grippy the rock was. I don't think many people come up here, which gives you that sense of properly being in the mountains. Not like the circus that can sometimes happen on a route in Chamonix.

Morgan on pitch 4.

Me seconding pitch 4.

Ni dieu ni Maitre - Croix de Fer   **** 6c (6b oblig) 250m, 2 x 50m ropes, 12 draws, small set of wires.
L1. 6a+, easy terrain to start, be careful of some loose rocks, then awkward move into a groove.
L2. 6a, climb into a ramp that leads right, then traverse out left under a roof on unerclings and jugs.
L3. 6b, really teachy move from the belay out left, be careful of a few loose blocs above the belayer! Tehn go around left and through a crack in a bulge of rock. Climb up on cracks & sidepulls, then finish on some blocs with a small traverse right to the belay. I'd say 6b+ for this pitch.
L4. 6c, awkward moves from the belay, leads to easier slab climbing where you come to a wall that make a rising traverse rightwards across the wall. Hard move to a hand rail (awkward clip). Then a few powerful moves to the belay.
L5. 6b+, technical wall and slab climbing. Interesting moves on some small flutings before the belay.
L6. 6b, Thin moves from the belay to a break, then traverse out left. Really fun moves take you up to the belay.
L7. 6a, first move from the belay is out there! Then steady until two stupidly placed bolts. I clip first, down climbed went into a groove on right then climbed out and up to belay. Careful of a huge bloc sitting there!

At the last belay you can do one final pitch up some grassy steps that brings you to the top of the tower, your then greeted with this phenomenal platform of grass with loads of cool wild flowers. Unfortunately we were in the clouds, so there wasn't much of a view. However it did give us  a feeling of the lost world, that someone or something else is watching you.

Morgan on pitch 6.

Last move to the belay.

You abseil back down the same route which makes things very quick and simple. We packed up, but we still had to go back down these super steep grass slopes, which was quite scary. Then on the way back past we stopped at the refuge for a glass of sirop from the lovely family than run the hut.

Nice camping spot up here!

Using the in-situ ropes to get back down.

No man's land...

Such a beautiful place to go, with great climbing at all grades all around here. Or if you don't fancy climbing going up for a hike and seeing this wild place is well worth it.

Gorgeous hut at the bottom of the wall.

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