I am currently doing a block of work in the UK and it gives me little time to get out in the mountains so I’m playing the weekend warrior game. I was really motivated to have a proper adventure and craved the solitude of the big mountains so Philippe Gatta and myself made plans to climb Banana Republic on the Aiguille de La Republic or “Soleil” on the Grepon.
After walking into the Envers hut we sat on the terrace discussing plans in a remarkably chilly autumnal wind. In the end we decided to go for Soleil as we would be able to move faster in the cold and stay warm. The only thing was Philippe was mad for the traverse of the Grepon so we would carry crampons, axe and big boots up 25 pitches in order to descend the Nantillions Glacier.
After a noisy nearly sleepless night at the refuge we got up at 430 and started climbing at 6 though the second 6a+ slab pitch had us waiting for a little more light to see the crystals in the rock. The morning dawned with low cloud that had locked in some warmth and we moved quickly despatching 5 pitches in a hour. Then we climbed into the mist and tricky route finding slowed us. As we climbed higher I put on my light down jacket then my heavier one as the temperatures steadily dropped. After pitch ten I got my first dose of screaming barfies as the touch of cold and sometime wet rock made itself felt. We still hoped the weather would break but it seemed to be getting darker and on pitch 18 we started to find ice in the cracks. Then on pitch 19 lots of snow barred the way with only 6 pitches to go. Frustratingly it was time to bail and leave the summit of Grepon for a glorious sunny day. We didn’t make the summit but we climbed some fantastic pitches and I got the adventure and solitude I was looking for in the austere surroundings created by the poor weather.
On the walk down to Chamonix we passed the Montenvers Hotel and stopped by for some food. If you havent been in there I highly recommend it with its beautiful panelled wood interior and similar prices to the refuges.