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Via Chamonix summer sunshine

On the Tete Blanche in the early morning light

We have had a great couple of weeks in the Alps on holiday. Always nice to head back to the Chamonix valley a place full of possibilities and objectives. We had great weather with the odd big storm passing through. This time around we opted for camping up above the valley in Le Buet which was a great choice tucked out the way, I would highly recommend this as a spot to stay. Perhaps also the best pizza van in the Alps parked in situ just at the entrance which makes it difficult not to pass it on the way in and think perhaps just one more this evening and then we shall start cooking tomorrow.

We had a mix of mountains and crags through the trip. It's certainly very visible now that the summer season is dominated by heat to all levels. This makes some of the traditional summer Alpine routes melted out and glaciers too chaotic by the end of July. Spring would now be the time for classic snow and ice dependent routes.

We started the trip with a mountain journey heading up to the Tour basin and a nights bivvy above the Albert Premier hut. A busy spot as it was Bastille weekend so there where a lot of people out. The night was very hot, a change from the nights out I was used to in the past where a freeze would occur, there was also the sound of rockfall nearly all night. Mainly coming from the Chardonet. Some teams where out on the Forbes arête a route I had done many years ago and looked very different to the a July morning nearly twenty years ago when I did it. Routes like the Migot Spur to the right had an almost constant stream of rockfall coming down it. Within a few days a conditions page reported the descent from the Chardonet was too dangerous for the season and deemed out of condition. We though had a glacier journey to the Tete Blanche on the Franco Swiss Border over looking over the Trient basin. It was great to be back up in the area and we where certainly not alone numerous teams all over the hills.

Ice Climbing on the Mer Du Glace

We also had a day on the Mer Du Glace which certainly gives you a stark contrast of what’s happening and melting. We joined the throng heading up there on the first train and hopped over the barrier in search of ice. You now need to walk a good kilometre to find the exposed ice. I have posted a couple of shots below of heading down this time compared to heading down in July 2003 en route to the Aiguille Du Moine. Makes you think what have we done. There is some huge construction going on to move the access cablecar from the original bubbles which go no where near the glacier anymore to one that does. Its being done at a cost of 53 million Euros. There are a few different opinions as to how long the ice will last for the new construction making it perhaps a bit pointless in some ways. We did have plenty of fun though climbing in and out of Moulins and crevasses. Quite intimidating heading into a dark hole with deep water running below. Seem to be quite the in thing at the moment ice climbing deep in the bowels of the glacier. Given the recent news that more and more bodies are appearing out the retreating glaciers it makes you double check you're knots before going to deep.

We enjoyed plenty of valley rock to. As the scene changes in the high mountains there are various other climbing options in place such as the Via Cordas. A great addition, I am not so sure how old they are and I may have just missed them in the past We went to the one at Les Mottets. Utilising the slabs and ground left behind from the retreating glacier a series of bolts and belays lead up 650 metres of fun climbing and scrambling to the nicely portioned Mottets Buvet. There are a few different ones of different grades but all lean towards the easier grades. Great fun, I wonder whether something like that would work in the Highlands or people would get too much in a bind about bolts. This sort of thing seems very common in the Alps and very inclusive but frowned on a bit in the Highlands.

The slabs at Vallorcine

We had some crags up near us at Vallorcine and Barberine which also made for good slab climbing and wrapped up the trip at Les Contamines staying with friends near by. Hopefully back again soon. We where off the plane and straight to it. Jo was out the following morning for a trip around Tower Ridge and down Ledge Route. I headed to Kinlochleven for a weeks work. A change in temperature although I think the Highlands has escaped what looks to be terrible weather further south. We have quite a few things on before any autumnal weather kicks in and fingers crossed for an ‘Indian Summer’ to end things.

Till next time

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