Monday, 14 April 2014

Naia - Aiguille Verte

Photo; Jon Griffith

After a week's work... I know right! A whole week's work. Probably my first full week in 3 years. Please don't hate me! Jon phoned me up to see if I'd be keen for a quick hit on Naia. I was heading back to Scotland for my Sister's wedding in three days time. So I hadn't really planned for any climbing trips into the hills. After a quick discussion I realised I could do the route, have a nights sleep then fly home. Which is exactly what happened.

Approaching the hut.

It's a route I had known for a few years, but just never really got around to actually doing it. It's a hidden couloir/gully line on the Aiguille Verte, that is situated at the back of the Charpoua basin next to the more familiar Y Couloir.. It's an ideal rote to do as a big single push in winter, as you can climb it with skis on your back. Allowing you a much faster approach and descent.


Not cheating... Honest!
Photo; Jon Griffith

We headed up to the Chapeau hut on the Sunday. I'd only been at this hut when I walked past it years after climbing the Dru. So was cool to actually come and stay in this very pleasant hut. Apparently the Guardian is meant to be a real gem... (little pun there for anyone who knows the dude)

Morning brewing.

We set the alarms for 4am. Then after some food and warm drinks we set off on our skis to the base of the route. Annoyingly the snow pack was really hard, so the skins were slipping a lot. We tried to boot pack a few times, but the hard layer wasn't enough to hold body weight. So it took us a bit longer than we hoped to get to the start of the route. Nevertheless we got to there and swapped the skis for crampons.

Swapping from skis to crampons.

Crossing the bergshrund.
Photo; Jon Griffith

I set off first over the bergshrund and then continuing up the first few ice bulges. Some of the ice was good, but the majority was quite brittle and detached in places. Which was a sharp wake up call first thing in the morning.

Myself on the first main pitch after the bergshrund.
Photo; Jon Griffith

Jon starting up the main part of the Couloir, after the first ice pitches. 

After the first ice bulges you turn the corner and have a lot of easy ground up to the upper ice pitches. So we took the rope off and made our way up. Each of us taking turns at breaking trail and also getting some shots of each other.

Photo; Jon Griffith

Such an atmospheric place.
Photo; Jon Griffith

Jon nearing the end of the gully before the ice pitches.

''Steck-ing it''  I wish!!
Photo; Jon Griffth

Photo; Jon Griffth

At the end of the gully there is two ice pitches to climb. We were surprised to find that these pitches weren't in great conditions. There wasn't much ice around and what was there, was very black and brittle. We only took a small rack of 4 screws and 3 cams. This seemed to be enough for the route. Jon led both of the pitches, which I was more than happy about as I got to just hook and pull into his axe placements.

Jon on the first of the upper two crux pitches.

Not in the best of conditions but still great fun.

Exiting the first chimney pitch.
Photo: Jon Griffith

Jon got cranky at his skis here... 

the second pitch of the two is probably the crux pitch. It isn't too bad though. More awkward than anything else. There is a chimney of ice at the start then an upper bulge. The chimney was a bit awkward with the skis on the back.

So he ditched them!

There is then a few more snow slopes after the two ice pitches. But you can easily and safely climb together on these. Unfortunately by the time i was climbing the upper slopes where it reaches a col, the sun had started to soften the snow. So this made for some slow progress.

Myself starting up the exit slopes. 

Once at the col the views were pretty spectacular. Our idea at the start was to try and make it back to Montenvers for the last train down, but at this point we knew that wasn't happening. So all we could do was just take our time and enjoy this amazing situation we  were in.

At the end of the main line. Now just the ridge up to the Verte.

From the col there is a few sections of gendarmes. Some of these were a bit of a pain with the skis on the back. Once on the upper snow arete of the Sans Nom,  you have to go over Pointe Croux. There is a small abseil point at the end of it. Then from there you just have to finish up the large snow ridge to the summit of the Verte.

Photo; Jon Griffth

Photo; Jon Griffith

Last slopes to the Verte's summit. 

The Verte must be one of the best summits in the Massiff.
Photo: Jon Griffith

Photo; Jon Griffith

The Aguille Verte is probably my favorite summit in the Mt Blanc massiff. It's a big proper mountain that has to be climbed by a big route, which ever way you go, to get to the top of it. This was my 3rd time up there and I'm sure I'll be up again a few more times.

Summit shot.
Photo; Jon Griffith

 We descended down via the Whymper couloir. It was pretty hot whilst in the Whyper, so we down climbed as quick as we could to get off there. Once at the bottom we clipped back into our skis and made our way back to Chamonix. Just before skiining down the james bond track, I got a call from a worried Sister who had been trying to get in touch with me regards to flying home. I told her everything was cool, and that I'll make it to the wedding. Awesome day out, and would love to do a few more of these trips.

And down we go.
Photo; Jon Griffith

Here's a link to Jon's site on the same story. A few different pics. ;

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