dimanche 20 avril 2014

 Aiguilles Basic Linkup 

When the weather forecast showed a few days of good weather i imeediately tried to get to one of my main projects, then during the weekend the forecast changed into a bunch of days of very strong north winds. The only day who looked good was thursday not really enough to get anything done on big hard routes. Still was a good day to fill with Alpine climbing so together with Tomas Mueller we decided to fill it with a lot of climbing. The line we were thinking was a traverse of the aiguilles de Cham not by the ridgeline but by the northern aspects were are a number of excellent classic routes. A line we would appreciate everytime we look at the Aiguilles from the Elevation terrace. The idea was to start at night from Montenvers ,climb the Grands Charmoz north face then rappel down to the Nantillons climb up the Spencer rappel down to the hanging glacier underneath Aig. du Plan climb up Lagarde - De Segogne to then traverse till Aig.du Plan and finally Aig.du Midi. We took the last train up Montenvers we are not alone some fellow Spanish friend Martin, Unai and Eneko are going to spend the night there to do Gr.Charmoz as well.

note to self: next time bring a xbox

Weather was very good but it was still windy and cold, we were happy to have a tent. 
The alarm was set for 1:15 AM and some 45 mins later we took off, we left a bag with the tent and camp gear at the train station. We carried  a rack with 8 cams 4pitons and stoppers quite a heavy rack the idea was to have enough to set some rappel stations down the upper part of west couloir of brèche de Blaitière as we never heard of people either climbing either rapping down it. The approach was tedious fortunately we found some old tracks so it was not phisically demanding. Following tracks meant we could easily tackle the lower part of the route without getting lost in the dark something i was kind afraid of. On such long days with multiple climbs everything must go smoothly as it's easy to waste time. I made a schedule, i really hoped we would top out Grands Charmoz around midday finally it took us 4h40, an encouraging start 9h30 on top . The Grands Charmoz north face was first climbed by Ryan and Lochmatter by a very bold line on the right of the face. Consensus in Alpine History tends to tag Welzenbach and Merkl with the first real ascent of the north face. Before their epic ascent a solid attempt was made by Tezenas de Montcel and Paul Fallet until some 100mt from the summit. Nowadays the criteria people have to define a succesful ascent are really not that stricts, this is particularly the case for first ascents in Himalaya and Patagonia. The route on the Vallot was given an unimpressive D+ in French rating. The difficult of the climb has inflated to more appealing 4+ and M5 maybe because the couloirs got really leaner and steeper during the last decades or maybe because modern climbers tends to pretend they can climb D+ without struggles (after all the north face of Les Droites similar in difficulties was given a ED grade by Rebuffat now with modern gear should get a D+). I have nothing to bring into the grading concept only i can suggest people to do lots of D+ routes from the early 20th century if they want to be confortable on "ED" routes. Most of these Classics in the Vallot topo are kickass . 
Once on top of the route we faced a decision that only climbers doing linkups will have to take: why not going home now that we have climbed this route? i have to admit i didn't really paid attention to that particular scenario generally after i climb a route i just descend and go home, not this time. This time we stay to the mountain side for a "all you can eat" program. It is a particular moment who give you the feeling you're really going for it. I started feeling pain on my bad ankle on the rappels and i was a bit afraid it would have been a very tough day, and it did.

The Welzenbach Merkl is thin but very good

first rappel

Spencer couloir, Aig. du  Midi in the back 

Up Spencer

First Rappel down West Couloir Lagarde is the gully behind

Once on the Nantillons glacier we climbed up Spencer Couloir, which is lame because is the kind of staff people ski... fortunately nobody did skied down it that day , anyway it was too obvious to do like that and there where no others better options, top of the couloir at 12h45, we immediately started the rappels into the west couloir the only part of the all traverse who held some mistery as we had no information about it. It would actually give interesting ice and mixed climbing in the upper 100mt just it's quite long and tedious to get there...we reached the couloir after only 4 rappels and we downclimbed the couloir quicly before the high temperatures would made it unsafe. Once at the base we simply traversed 50mt into the Lagarde-De Segogne via a beautiful mixed ramp. 

Nice gully on Lagarde- De Ségogne

Traversing under the Crocodile

Ajouter une légende

The last bit of the journey
The Lagarde De Segogne is a pretty steep climb with ice and mixed up to 85 degrees i just can't imagine how these guys did it with a straight axe no frontpoints, no pitons, no icescrew, clearly a masterpiece. This climb ends at a brèche,still far from the top of Aiguille du Plan and miles away from the Midi. My ankle was hurting a lot by then we definetely slowed down trying not to do some stupid mistakes on the tricky traverse underneath Aiguille du Crocodile, it took us a while to finally step into Midi Plan ridge but we were still ahead of schedule. We both have climbed the last part of the ridge a few times and we were more then happy to do the most difficult part, the Rognon du Plan, by daylight. After 21 hours of climbing and walking we stepped into the cablecar station at the Midi. We spent the night in the toilets as it was the only warm place in the building, still better than outside! Big Thanks to Tomas for this excellent day

Gear: 1x 8.5mm  50mt rope                     Survival Bag
          1x 6mm 50mt kevlar rope              Jetboil Titanium 120ml gaz
          8 camalots from #0 to #2               Cordelette 
          4 screws   (quite useless)                V-Thread Hook 
          4 pitons  (for retreat)                      Knife
          6 stoppers
          5 quickdraws

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