Mixed Climbing on Mont Blanc du Tacul – Pinnochio

Yesterday I had the pleasure of climbing with my good friend Andy Houseman on Pinnochio which lies on the East Face on Mont Blanc du Tacul. For some reason we haven’t climbed together for 4 years, I guess I’ve been concentrating on skiing while Andy has been doing expeditions. We had both climbed Pinnochio before in 2007 and this time round in was a lot thinner and more sporting but still amazing climbing, some of the best day hit modern mixed climbing I’ve done in Chamonix. It was a mild, windless day, absolutely perfect alpine conditions.  After we decided to ski down through the valley blanche for the first time this year which was sporting but ok.  Pinnochio-1 Pinnochio-3
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Grandes Jorasses North Face – Polish Michto Variation

Last weekend I got a chance to go back to the Jorasses for the first time in 7 years. I teamed up with Ben Tibbetts and we were joined by Misha Gopaul and Jeff Banks for a social day out. I had managed a day acclimatising up the Midi skiing earlier in the week so it wasn’t a straight from the office hit which Andy Houseman and myself had done the last time on Colton Macintyre. After the warmest bivi ever in the mountains at montenevers, we walked in during the early hours, therefore avoiding a bun fight at the overcrowded Leschaux hut. It was a beautiful starry night and Ben caught a fantastic shot of the face under the stars with several teams well established on the Colton Macintyre, Croz and Polish routes. As we arrived for first light the face was relatively quiet and we quickly got to work climbing neve for several hundred metres. A few goulottes of ice and neve followed with fun climbing that was never hard up to the summit ridge where we were treated with gorgeous autumnal milky light over the Peuterey Ridge and the Aosta Valley.

Big thanks to Ben (Misha and Jeff) for a memorable day and the photos!P1040425Jorasses-NF_michto_marked

The Polish Michto Variation on Grandes Jorasses North Face (2011 photo Ben Tibbetts)DSC_8951montenvers-bivi

Our comfy bivi at Montevers
DSC_8966jorasses-night-2 Climbers on the Desmaison, Colton Macintyre and Croz/Polish RoutesDSC_9004gearing-up (1) Gearing up to go DSC_9041rimaye-jorasses Steep Sugar Through the BergshrundDSC_9077ross-ben-jorasses-selfieA Happy TeamDSC_9117jorasses-ross

The First Goulotte SectionGrandes Jorasses Michto Ben Tibbets-1

Ben TibbettsGrandes Jorasses Michto Ben Tibbets-2Ben Climbing a Thinner Seam as We Catch a Spanish Team

Me Pulling Through a Steep SectionDSC_9296jorasses-ross

Typical North Face Icy Mixed Terrain Grandes Jorasses Michto Ben Tibbets-3

Ben Pulling Through onto the Summit SnowfieldsGrandes Jorasses Michto Ben Tibbets-4

Gorgeous Warm Day DSC_9478jorasses-exit2

Climbing into the Sun on the Summit Ridge Snowfields
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Ben Savouring the Summit Ridge ViewsGrandes Jorasses Michto Ben Tibbets-6

Pointe Marguerite – Named After the Queen of SavoieGrandes Jorasses Michto Ben Tibbets-7

Mont Blanc and the Peuterey RidgeGrandes Jorasses Michto Ben Tibbets-8


Martin Elias descending after an ascent of Directe de l’Amite with Korra PesceGrandes Jorasses Michto Ben Tibbets-9Ben Approaching the Reposoir at Sundown

Mixed Cragging

I teamed up with Rab athlete Ali Swinton for a second day at the Triangle, which is the easy access local mixed crag. Conditions are still on the lean side but good with blobs of neve dotted about  to make great climbing. This time of year is fantastic with the trees in a blaze of autumnal colours and the early morning mists carpeting the valleys creating those sublime silhouetted panoramic views. The day was much more relaxed due to it being about 20 degrees warmer without the biting wind we endured on our previous outing.

I was keen to climb a superb corner a couple of pitches up which I’d previously seen friends Mike and Jim climbing. Ali kicked off with beautiful cracked slab or golden granite which led towards the corner. Arriving in the corner things were getting thin from previous ascents and some sloppy torques led to better hooks. What appeared to be a bolt and hanger winking at me at the top of the corner under a roof turned out to be an ice screw hammered into a crack – someone must have been gripped!
















I’m Back!

I’m back. After an extended trip on a boat that stretched to almost 2 months, I was psyched to get back to the Valley for some autumnal mountain magic. That said, I was also filled with anxiety that I was out of shape, unacclimatised and out of tune with the mountains. The Youths were talking about Desmaisons and endurance link ups while I just need to get out an climb some pitches and get back into it.

Fresh snow lay waiting to be cleared on the Midi and it was a familiar feeling loosing a couple of hours of my life, standing in the tram queue, though still somewhat preferable to the standing in the tube with someone’s sweaty armpit in your face on route to a day of boredom.

Stepping out on the arête was somewhat disorientating with the snow blower being used to clear the platforms creating a localised blizzard. The transformation from the flat sea world to the alpine vertical playground  allowed gravity to make itself strongly felt as I took care going down the cham side of the arête. What would normally be a quick sprint to the Triangle was hard going as muscles pumped with lactic, a combination of the altitude and lack of use. Thoughts crept into my head of the mental battle ahead slogging back up to the Midi at the end of the day in the sun but there was fun to be had meantime.

James kicked off on the first pitch a quickly despatched a tasty pitch with grooves and flakes to wet the appetite. Dave then took up the challenge of a large open book corner. A tell tale sign of the battle ahead was the first metre of the walls coming out the corner had no lichen where a fat river of ice normally flows. James and myself got deep into conversation ignoring Youths continuous dialogue about how hard it was.  It all seemed fine seconding, that is if you are into laybacking of sloppy axe jams in a 3 inch verglassed offwide with crampons smeared on crystals. I have to concede to Dave that it probably felt right spicey out there on the lead and well done to that man! After the batism I was ready to get on the sharp end and enjoyed getting moving on a more straightforward pitch allowing me to enjoy the climbing without being terrified. I reckon this was my first adrenaline rush in 2 months and felt so good to be back in the playground, sharing the day with friends and soaking up the views.  It could have been a bit warmer though with a chilly wind making a nuisance of itself and making my glad I had my 6000s while the boys complained of cold feet. Romping back to the Midi didn’t feel that bad after all!