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Chamonix Update 17th July - another scorcher

Posted by Rob Wills Alpine Blog
Sunday 18th July 2010

Well sun worshipers it's been a hot week in the valley, not spotted any hosepipe bans yet but will keep you posted on that one. Before we get into this week's action, I'd just like you to spare a thought and sympathy for the friends and family of the folks we lost in the Mont Blanc range this week...

Ok here we go, Day one, Sunday was spent up on the Aiguilles Rouges, there is still loads of snow left up there, but none of it really now affecting the access to routes, more the descents especially off the Grand Floria. Looks like folks are still abbing down to their gear at the bottom. I was with Robert and Lars for the week getting them up to speed in the ancient art of alpinism.

See slideshow of all Chamonix Alpine Skills Week photos

Roping up - the Chardonnet behind us

 Roping up - the Chardonnet behind us

Day two Monday, we strolled up to the Albert Premier hut for the night. No real snow patches left on the access to the hut; it was another HOT day. The Tour glacier is in good condition, but with this heat it won't last. The Chardonnet had tracks leading up to the Forbes arête and from what Claude the guardian said, it had been done in the last few days; some interesting terrain to negotiate on the descent though. There are still a few snow patches on the approach to the glacier and most of the lower bivi spots are full of snow as well.

Lars and Robert below Albert Premier Hut

Lars and Robert below Albert Premier Hut 

Tuesday the boys led the way up to the Tete Blanche. A cloudy, very windy day, the snow for the most part was firm enough, and not too bad. Most of the teams in the hut were heading to L'Aiguille du Tour, which from the summit of the Tete Blanche looked very busy as it was getting attacked from the Trient Hut as well. Talking of which, Thierry the guardian there is soon to be leaving after many years of keeping us all fed and watered, I wish him luck. Both the cols from the Albert Premier side were being use to access the Trient plateau. But for the most part it was the usual Col Superior Du Tour that was being used, snow all the way to the rocks, again this can change very quickly.

Aiguille du Tour and Trient Glacier from Tete Blanche

 Aiguille du Tour and Trient Glacier from Tete Blanche

Wednesday, we headed back up to the Aiguilles Rouges to do the traverse of the Crochues, a few big snow patches on the approach, some with lots of stones sitting on the top, get your helmets on early and move quickly if in doubt. It's a bit of a stiff few minutes walk up to the col, which still has some snow at the top, but doesn't really present a problem, as you can quickly get onto the rock and under the chock stone for a spot of caving action, there were another 3 teams waaaaay ahead of us, it was surprisingly quiet up there, It's a great short ridge with a easy rock climb up an open book corner to access the ridge for real, the boys did super well on it especially Lars who was wearing plastic boots, well done young man.

 On the traverse of Aiguille de Crochues

 On the traverse of Aiguille de Crochues

As per usual it was over all too soon, you have to scramble down about 50 metres now to access the snow, which you then follow all the way to Lac Blanc, the snow pack does seem to be holding out really well up there given the amount of sun it has on it.

Thursday took us up to the Cosmiques Hut, Pyramid Du Tacul is looking a bit grey and bare now, but still teams going for it on the Chere couloir and Left Edge, and many many teams on the classic south face routes. There was some evidence of recent serac fall to the right of the approach to The Chere, be aware !!!! Also the big crevasse at the start of the Normal route up Mont Blanc du Tacul has now got a semi horizontal ladder over it, adding spice to the day and a real bottle neck potential for the Mont Blancers. Another super hot day, even up there.

Friday saw us on a 3 am start for Mont Blanc du Tacul which was a good call as the snow was quite firm, but not fully frozen, there were still Mont Blanc teams negotiating the ladder as we ate our breakfast.

We had a good ascent to the summit, strong winds hit us as we pulled over the shoulder on the Tacul, but an extra layer soon sorted that out. Now, according to a guide I chatted to on the way down, he said that the first 3 to 4 metres of the fixed rope going up to the shoulder of Mont Maudit were missing, be aware and careful if that's the case. It did look like a major traffic jam was going on from where we were on the summit of the Tacul. There are one or two other crevasses which need and will need care as they open up more on the normal route on the Tacul.

The descent from the summit went without a hitch the boys setting a good but safe pace back to the hut, we did one last session on crevasse rescue in the wind scoop below the hut, and headed for the what we called the sting in the tale, the grind back up the exposed ridge to the midi snow/ice cave.

 Crevasse rescue in wind scoop below Cosmiques Hut, Mont Blanc du Tacul in the background                          

Crevasse rescue in wind scoop below Cosmiques Hut, Mont Blanc du Tacul in the background

And all too soon another week was over. The boys did well and were good company. It's been another very hot week in the valley, we were expecting a disturbance passing over on Saturday which actually ended up coming in early friday evening with torrential downpours. It really did clear the air, but then it's forecast to return to hot conditions again next week. As you can imagine that doesn't bode well for the snow pack or those mixed routes.

So folks, not sure where I'm at next week, but will keep you posted. Stay safe, and have fun.

Read more blog entries by Rob Wills Alpine Blog

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