Friday, 20 December 2013

North face of the Grandes Charmoz

Jon and Myself had actually went for this face last year, but were unfortunately shut down on the first pitch due to poor conditions. Even though the face isn't steep, apart from the upper sections, you still want good conditions to climb the route fast and efficiently. As I said in a previous post. The Autumn hasn't been too good to us so everyone has been quite un sure what will be good to climb. Then Jon told me that some Italians had climbed the Charmoz.

First pitch from the bergshrund.

We heard that the Italians took a few days on the route, so we thought it might be safer to take a lightweight bivvy kit just in case. We also took a bigger rack than we needed. So the bags were a bit heavier than we would have liked. I got to give my Zamberlan Paine 3000 a good day out to see what they were like high up in the snow. They are probably a bit light for the winter but the temps are pretty warm just now and I knew we'd be moving the whole day. Also I used my favorite hard shell pants, Rab Polartec Neoshell, in a new yellow colour which looks great in the photos.

Fun runnel climbing.

Me heading into the second snowfield.

The route really lends itself to a huge round trip from town. Meaning start very early from Chamonix, hike up, climb the route, descend down the back and hike back down to town later that evening. Simples!

Me starting up the upper chimneys.

We left the Montenvers car park around 4.30am, and made our way up the 'James bond track' to the top station. We then dropped down the ladders onto the glacier, which feels horrible as you that you have to climb another big set to come off the glacier. The glacier had a  load of windblown snow which wasn't that nice to walk along, and ended up costing a wee bit of time. We reached the bergshrund around 9.30, which was about 2hrs behind our schedule.

Jon climbing out of the upper chimneys.

Jon starting up the last section.

The first pitch is meant to be the crux, which I suppose it could be as there isn't much gear in it, but the ice is really good. Which allowed us to simil climb the whole route. You could solo most of it but I personally wouldn't be keen on the upper chimneys where there's some loose blocks. We topped out into the sun around 3pm, and found ourselves this perfect place for a brew.

Last move of the route.

Happy chappies.

Brew stop before the descent.

Arty farty photo from Jon.  

The descent was ok down the back of the Charmoz. You have about 7 raps and a bit of down climbing, then you reach the Nantillon glacier, which we decided to go down on the left. A quick walk down a moraine ridge brings you to the huge big path (in the summer) where we probably should have headed either to Montenvers or the Midi mid station. Instead we took a direct line down through the forest. No matter how long you stay in Chamonix you'll always make these silly choices..

First of the raps.

Start of the descent down to Cham.

If you wanted to go for it a bit lighter, then just take about 5-6cams, small rack of wires, and bunch of extendables. It's also a really good route to take just one climbing rope and a tag line for the raps. I'd definitely take a stove to make water. I'm so glad we climbed this route in this style of single push from town. Really good training especially for the full on long days I'm expecting in Patagonia.

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