Wild Times in the French Alps (Part 1)

Posted by Tim Emmett
Tuesday 13th January 2009

Just before Christmas I moved to Chamonix, and due to various logistical challenges with language, internet and mobiles I have been somewhat out of contact with the normal world. Actually to be honest, I have been climbing my socks off, rather than writing about it! It has been a rollercoaster ride to say the least, with some many up and downs. I'm sure many of you have read about several accidents in the Chamonix area over the last couple of weeks, some a bit to close for comfort, and my condolences go to friends and family of those involved. The mountains are wild and beautiful places that give many of us memories that last a lifetime good or bad.


Just before Christmas I teamed up with the photographer John Griffiths, to check out Mont Blanc de Tacul. I had never been up there before, and skiing around with a big rucksack was often more scary than the climbing it self! First off we climbed Pinochio 240M M6+ and stunning corner system to the left of Scotch on the Rocks. The quality of climbing and rock was some of the best I have ever experienced, with some exciting moments in very lean conditions sometimes on ice just a few inches wide and a centimetre thick. Keen to get down the Valley Blanche before nightfall we climbed the first 5 pitches to easy ground and then abseiled from there (although the last pitch is supposed to be pretty testing too).

I teamed up with Nick Bullock and Jon Bracey to check out Kenton Cools local crag at Mnt Saxonnay. A brilliant 1-2 pitch ice and mixed venue with vertical and overhanging rock often of very technical nature. We did a M7 with was the hardest M7 I have ever been on in my life and then an excellent M9 on the steep wall on the right side. I have no idea how I managed to stay on the finishing racy moves at the top but made it on my second go.

A few days later Nick and I headed over to the Cirque at Sixt A Cheval to try La Lyre 550M VI WI 7, a very famous route and once the hardest ice route in the World when it was first climbed in 1992 by Thiere Renault (a total ice climbing God, that really inspired me when I saw a photo of him on La Dame Du Lac about 12 years ago). Leaving Chamonix at 4.30am we finally got to the base of the route at about 10am. The first WI 5+ pitch was a great way to start, then I set off up the next 300M of WI 3-4 moving together to get to base of the 3 pitch finale. Wow, I was pretty goosed at this point, but fortunately the last three pitches WI 7,6+,6 were off to the right of the neighbouring route which started collapsing as the sun hit the upper wall bombarding the 350M of climbing we had just done! Fortunately we topped out as it got dark and the ice started to stabilise allowing our abseil descent to go unscathed. We got back to the car at 11pm, a big day out indeed. To be honest it's a pretty dangerous route and not recommended if the temperature is remotely warm. Yesterday two climbers were killed on the route from falling ice and even though it was -15 C when they left the car by the afternoon it went up to 0 C, then with the sun on the face too, it must have got even warmer. Take care.

Since then I have just got back from Fressiniere, near Argentiere L'Besse where I have been climbing with the Mountain Hardwear Academy and making a film for TRAD with cameraman - Charlie Chambers. The week was a blitz of ice and mixed climbing which finished in the wildest ice climbing experience of my life. More to come shortly!

Read more blog entries by Tim Emmett

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