jeudi 31 janvier 2013

Ice and Mixed Climbing

This winter is not quite a good one for winter Alpinism. Weather is crap and skiers are happy.
There was some good ice conditions building while i was in the opposite side of the world, by christmas everything disappeared because of unusual warm temperatures.
Little did i know two important things saved my season so far
my car and my Ergos. Not quite the best way to prevent pollution though.
First trip around new years at Fressinières 4h drive i was back the same day. Way too warm.
With Jonathan Joly we tried  to climb the Route Cimetère des Elephants a rad route placed
a little aside of famed Gramusat wall

Cimetière des Elephants.Our highpoint is atop of L6 at the begin of a 6b traverse to the left
We started climbing while it was still enough cold, so that we avoided to climb the exposed lower part in dangerous conditions
We made good progress but the temperature were rising quickly by midday, fortunately we were already on the steeper more sheltered mixed pitches out on the right end of the waterfall.

The huge icicle threatening the route was intimidating . We witnessed ice falls, rock fall, and the collapse of a part of one of the pitches above us. It was time to bail. This sort of routes require a combination of good conditions that materialized quite seldom.
The process of try and eventually fail in the eye of the obvious lack of conditions is always interesting, but on a structure that might actually partially collapse, the climber have to rationalize and wonder if the situation is really under control or if the control of situation is just an illusion.
We also witnessed a special display of absolute lack of competence and a minimum of attachment to the life, when some climbers randomly choosed to start climbing around midday,with no idea of the risk involved. I tried to discourage them by throwing small pieces of ice while they were on the
ground. Unfurtunately they were Italians and seemed willing to accept their fate and started climb
The Cimetière des elephants (elephant's graveyard) at 12h.
Twenty minutes later a big rock detached from the upper wall . I watched mesmerized the rock narrowly missing the belayer at the base. The belayer took off his atc and started running all i could
hear was a fadingly lament of "Vaffanculooooo". The climber was left on the waterfall preparing his own retreat. In a half an hour of winter Alpinism they took more risk than me in a couple of years, i could only imagine their feeling goin back to the car. Killer mountain?? no...mountains if are really
to have a soul, have a also a better karma than Mother Théresa of Calcutta,helping often people in taking the right decision before they got high enough on the climb to hurt themselves fallin down.
But we were not watching this from the road. we were on the route, sheltered,yes but yet to escape up or down. We choosed to go down more because it seemed disrespectful to complete a route like this by bad conditions, but also because of the various little negatives things we witnessed on our party, and around us, the amount of those things had a weight on the balance that finally matched
my building enthousiasm for the approaching summit, and the difficult pitches we passed.
4 hours drive alone to get back home helped thinking...
Cold weather was back in the second half on January , Jeff also was back from a succesful trip in the US . Jeff,the Ergo swinging,RedBull sipping,T-Shirts of Alpine Celebrities ripping,mixed climbers abusing, was stoked as usual so we tried to scope something interesting to climb.
A new mixed route in Cogne became our choice. "Dio li fa e poi li accoppia"

    I am happy to see that curiously this kind of mostly trad climbing is becoming quite popular.
Not a new concept off course ,but the "bolt everything that has less than perfect rock" attitude is changing in "why not leave it trad" which makes more sense in my opinion since this winter climbing is supposed to be part of Alpinism. The route is interesting for all people that wants to get more experience on this sort of climbing.
 By midday we were again thinking about what else to do. The neighbor waterfall,
Di fronte al Tradimento became our target. This route is longer but easier than expected.

It was a proud test for the efficiency of my GoreTex new Adidas Jacket

On the way down we decided to give a look at Kandersteg were we knew the routes on the Breitwanfluhe to be in conditions.
Once again the start at 4h was painful. The drive, the tunnel were we put the car on a train, an
approach with other people that tried to be the first on the uber classic Crack Baby, and finally

 we were at the base of today target,the wall left of the above mentioned route.
We choosed to start withe the route that looked in best conditions, Elementarteilchen.
 The route is the main line in the middle of the left half of the picture.
Jeff started on L1 then i took L2 to the base of the mixed part. Here Jeff on L3
 Here aside me following L3 a M7 bolted of very nice compact rock.
This route is amazing and seems to form quite often.
The wall is visible from Mitholz downwalley from
Kandersteg. Wherever you live on planet earth you should consider to visit this place one day. It's home to some the best ice and mixed routes in Europe.
 Breitwangfluhe is some 350 mt tall
it looks like the Stanley Headwall in Canada.
Happy to see it formed on this strange winter
I couldn't onsight this route mainly because of tricky move
on the begin of the fourth pitch M8.
It's the equivalent of a boulder move ( it seems
ridicoulous to talk about boulder moves when
holding always the same things on the hand).

L4 M8


A nice pillar 
A long route definetely worth a go

Back to the car and then back to work. Not quite the best way to reduce CO2 pollution,but the
only way for me not to reduce the amount of climbing days in the sake of stacking money as a mountain guide . I always heard about Guides saying "You'll see when you'll become a Guide your climbing will be over" i always said "Fuck That" and so far it works.
A few days later i managed to convince my good friend Andrea that there's nothing better to start his climbing season than climbing Les Larmes de Merlin a very nice route in the Montriond area.
Montriond lake is home to famous routes like La Dame du Lac or ILynxx.
An hour drive from Chamonix this area is not always in good conditions but "Les larmes" are often

Larmes de Merlin climb the right icicle and end on a not visible pitch of WI 4 atop of the hill

L1 M8+ is very demanding

L3 can be climbed on this icicle or the choss aside
I generally try to avoid posting only pics of me climbing, but Andrea's choice of clothing doesn't
match the standard of this blog. This also explain the lack of summit pics.

Breitwangfluhe Part II
Flying Circus
Many people me included would be in awe in front of the list of Ice Routes climbed by the OldMan Jeff,even more amazing is the fact that climbed must of them multiple times. He already climbed this route and we were adamant in doin rather Mach 3 but some people were already there.
So we walked to the base of Flying Circus.
Jeff climbed a not so formed L1 we heard about people recently preferring a start on the left.
The original went with a very physical little section. Behind us a real legend materialized in the person of Robert Jasper who climbed this rad route in 98 of last century. It was the year i started climbing and this route was simply the ultimate step i could ever reach back then it was the hardest mixed route in the Alps. In awe and stressed about the amount of the living legends around me,and the legendary pitch 2 above my head, my attempt of onsight the pitch smelled the FAIL as  Shaquille stepping on the Free throw line . I must say that i really wasn't lucky having a bomber placement fall apart by some strange reason. So let's talk the pictures.

Jeff on L1


L2 requires a bunch of small or medium cams and 3to 6 icescrews 

Foot are well marked since 98 and some more holds appeared with the rock
getting tooled by many climbers

On this kind of traversing pitch one can imagine how much it's cooler to climb with leashless

A bit more of ice will be welcome for natural rest like that

This kind of pictures is a answer to why people is paid big money to get good shots
LOL 5minutes non belayed for this...were's my homie Griffith?? 

A ,new Petzl's SAMA harness, butt photo The pitch was rad

L3 ends on this big icicle

Same as for all of the routes on Breitwangfluhe, most times  a climber must cope with avalanche danger .Beware!
Disclaimer: I have sometimes question from people that make me think about when as a kid i tried to learn something by simply studying pictures of other climbers. On many pictures our reluctance in clipping Both twins ropes is more than a evidence.I definitely recommend to clip both even more in less than vertical terrain or simply use bigger ropes. If i don't do it every-time ,as i should, it doesn't mean is a good thing to do.