Directissima, Trident du Tacul

Sustained crack climbing after the easy intro pitch was the order of the day. A beautiful burly route on fantastic granite.

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Me on the 6b warm up pitch.

IMG_2087Gareth seconding the 6b warm up pitch

IMG_2091Gareth engaging the 6C P2

IMG_2100Burly laybacking approaching the belay

IMG_2101 2Bulgy with a gravelly mantel onto the belay ledge

IMG_2102 2My view as I weigh up the physical layback and foot smears that lie ahead

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And the view down from the belay

IMG_2103Gareth arriving at the belay after the crux 7A pitch

IMG_2119A German team behind starting off on the crux

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Pulling hard on finger locks here.

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Wooden wedges on the final traverse pitch

Indurain, Trident du Tacul

Indurain for me is the best of the Trident route with varied climbing on splitter, flakes, laybacks and grooves. So good!

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The Trident

0c390458-e87b-456d-b50b-230ae4cf96f1Me on the initial warm up 6b pitch with required a forceful approach with a toasted body from a hard days cragging the previous day.

IMG_2234Gareth on the diagonal crack

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Grovelling around in the offwidthIMG_2236Spanning out to the layback flake

IMG_2246Burly moves onto the belay ledge

IMG_2254Gareth departing on what I though was one of the finest crack pitches in the massif. A fine 6C hand crack heading up right.

IMG_2265Gareth fully engaged in the hand crack

IMG_2271Nearly there, on the steeper bulge at the top

669aff0e-1f42-44f9-924b-2c0db1d71130Me on the groove 3rd pitch

fb7f4317-8167-41f4-83c7-923067e4e0c0Me on the crux 4th layback pitch

IMG_2272Looking down the layback pitch, Gareth’s white helmet just visible

bd1deff5-3380-4a20-b482-dc82b4de6c7fThe top 5+ pitch, a bit gravelly but the final 6th pitch is worth doing and takes you above Bonne Ethique’s ab line.

Julbo Chamonix Sunglasses Review

Last month I received a pair of Julbo Chamonix glasses through the post to review.

Julbo was created by Jules Baud in 1888 and founded in the Jura Alps just North of Geneva in a response to requests by the Chamonix crystal hunters need for optical protection from the harsh radiation at altitude.

To this day Julbo has continued to design wicked sunglasses to protect mountain users while branching out into other sports such as sailing and mountain biking which have their own unique demands for protecting your priceless eyesight.

In the 1950s Julbo produced the Vermont glacier glasses and the design went on to become a classic adopted by rockstars and climbers, and a collectors item.

1970s heralded the dawn of professional mountaineers and by that I mean athletes doing routes rather than mountain guides. Yannick Seigneur was an engineer and a product of the grand ecoles. His parents disapproved of mountaineering and it wasnt until his mid 30s that he went full time into mountaineering with an incredible resume of 8000 m peaks in the Himalaya as well as a legacy of new routes around Chamonix.

To this day Julbo continues to be a small family run business with a big heart and passion for what they do. On any given day I might end up rubbing shoulders, ski a line or working with many of the Chamonix stars that are supported by this brand. Vivian Bruchez, Sam Favret, Valentine Favre, Glen Plake to name but a few. World Champions to powder whores like myself.

So when I opened the package I wasn’t surprised to find a timeless classic design glacier glass that has evolved from the original Vermont 1950 edition. Construction quality is to Julbo’s highest standards with metal frames and category 4 glass mirrored lenses to combat radiation up high. White leather baffles stop anything getting around the side.  Rubber nose pads and temple tip/earpieces so these babies will never slide down sweaty noses when you look down and spot your feet.

I took mine guiding to the roof of Europe, Mont Blanc. These sunnies are light despite the glass and I had no issues with soreness on the arch of the nose and after a long day on the mountain my eyes were free from the ache of overexposure to the sun. They are robust too, a wildly gesticulating Italian guide knocked mine for six straight off my head in the refuge – no problem!

So they do what they are supposed to but the thing I like the most is strip off the leather baffles and you basically have, dare I say it, a Ray Ban Aviator for looking cool round town or driving your car. I’ve fallen in love with these in a world where plastic frames and glasses have dominated for so long.

Traversing the Peigne, Pelerins, Deux Angles, Plan, to the Midi

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This was a marvellous adventure we did earlier this summer in search of all forms of terrain from splitter cracks, jenga stacks to north face snow and ice as we prepared for our guides test. Akin to the traverse of the Aiguilles, it avoided the dangers of a dry Nantillions Glacier and a descent that would take its toll on our legs invoking a rest day. My partners in crime were fellow aspirant James Clapham and Chamonix regular Andrew Wexler who was over from Canada to work the summer season.

It rained through the night so we elected to take an early bin to give the Carmichael cracks time to dry, leaving Plan de l’Aiguille at 0720 and arrived at the Aiguille du Plan at 2000 hrs after doing the route in guide mode with short roping etc and carrying bivi kit.

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The route highlighted above.

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Carmichael Route on the Pelerins

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Wexler on the Carmichael

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Myself and James at the junction with the Gruter Ridge on the Pelerins

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James on the penultimate pitch of the Gruter Ridge

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Myself and James on the summit of the Pelerins

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Traversing to Col des Pelerins

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Looking back to the Pelerins

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Me climbing up good rock after Col des Pelerins

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Unstable choss in the amphitheatre

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Wexler

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Lush granite on the Deux Angles

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Wex on the 5C pitches up the Deux Angle SW Spur

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James and myself seconding on one rope

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Happy days, on the North Face of the Plan

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Wex and James on the North Face with the Deux Angle behind

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8 pm, time to bivi to avoid the puddles on Midi Plan

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Time to get up and sort our shit on in the morning

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Enjoying the sunrise

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Midi-Plan, Mont Blanc and its outliers

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Mini pano of Dent de Geant to Cham Valley

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Absorbing some warmth from the sun

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Another pano with Grand Jo

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James climbing up the rognan

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A pano but Wex move so ended up with a tiny body

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Whats left of Grand Envers top pitch

My New Badge – Proud

Guides badge

Its been one hell of a summer preparing meticulously for my final guides exams. As with all things, not everything can go your way and there were some ups and downs in the lead up. First Michelle’s Father sadly passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. Being Chamonix based you are surrounded by death and loss, I would never go as far to say we are hardened to it but more that we are used to the strong emotional feelings of loss, sadness, stress. Its hard to comprehend the feeling of loss her Mum has after 50 plus years together.

After the dust started to settle I put my head back to the grindstone and was in the mountains training nearly every day practicing guiding techniques with peers. Then I caught a nasty D&V virus that had me feeling nauseous, weak and sleeping for hours after work. It seemed to go away after a week but after a Grand Paradiso and Mont Blanc week it made a return and I started to get nervous that I’d get my strength back in time. Another week went by before I felt better enough to try a 2 day alpine route. On the walk in I sharted, all was not good and that was a stinky couple of days.

With 10 days to go the viral fatigue disappeared and I started to eat properly again. Back on track. Then I took a call from my sister that started with ‘are you at home?’ and ended with the shocking news my Mum had died unexpectedly. The funeral couldn’t be delayed and I flew back to Scotland to be with my family on this sad occasion. With only a few days to go before the exam I needed to get back to Cham quickly, sort gear, prepare, acclimatise and gain some head space. On the way to the airport in Aberdeen I got a text from British Airways to announce they had cancelled my flight from London to Geneva. I couldn’t imagine anywhere more lonely than stuck in a airport hotel at heathrow on my own the night of my Mum’s funeral.

I made it back to Cham the next day and had to wait until the day before our exam briefing before there was weather to run up Tacul to acclimatise.  I carried quite a bit of emotional stress into the exam but after a couple of days my motivation returned and it was a good weak with a great bunch of people. Somehow I made it though it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

 

Winter Round Up

Its been a while since I posted a blog and thats mainly because after a few dry years it started snowing in Europe early December and kept snowing until the end of May. That meant it was a pretty full on 6 months with very little time to put ‘pen to paper’ so to speak.

I started the winter with a herniated L5-S1 disc which caused muscle wastage, power and recruitment speed in my leg. For example if I tried to stand on my tip toes my left leg would sink until my heal was on the floor.  Thanks to the Osteo/Pro-runner Carlton Rowlands I mannaged a fast comeback.  The recovery went from the lows of skiing down the Midi arete in December and taking my skis off midway, unable to handle the vibration without nerve pinching and having uncontrolled leg movement, to basically doing my stuff and not holding back.

Mid winter also included 2 months of ski guiding and the IFMGA ski guides test which I am happy to report went smoothly for me. 3 exams down and all thats left is the final alpine test this August which I’m now fully focused on.

With a lot of my ski partners injured or retired, I did a lot of solo missions and decided to leave my camera at home and take the gopro out for a change to capture a few of my powder turns. I’m a very impatient person so taking time to make good edits while getting ready to go out the following day is not my strong point but it gives a flavour of how good the skiing in Europe was this year. These are all edits from the high mountain and arguable the most fun skiing was in the trees early December with an incredible base over the spines and ridges before the Christmas and January rain.

Here’s a few of the memorable days:

Col de la Verte with Drew Tabke

 

Mallory with Tof Henry, Arthur Ghilini, Nate Wallace and Chris

 

Mallory with Tof Henry, Jacob Wester and Babs Charlet

 

Pain de Sucre with Dave Searle and Guillaume Mars

 

Midi North Face – Col du Plan with Jacob Wester, Bird Early and Andre Dalkarl

 

Midi North Face – Col du Plan with Miilet de Papy

 

West Couloir, Aiguille du Midi with Miilet de Papy

 

Oreilles de Lapin with Michelle Blaydon

 

Cosmiques Couloir with Jesper Petersson

 

Rocco with Tof Henry, Benjamin Carvallo, Raimundo de Andraca, Galo Viguera

 

Rond with Tof Henry, Benjamin Carvallo, Raimundo de Andraca, Galo Viguera

 

Para Face with Cedric Bernardini, Luca Martini, Jamie

 

Cosmiques Couloir with Jacob Wester, Andre Dalkarl and Michelle Blaydon

 

Droites SW Face, solo from first lift on Aiguille du Midi, -30C morning!

 

Cosmiques Couloir with Michelle Blaydon

 

Oreilles de Lapin with Erik Wallner

 

Aiguille de Mesure NE Face, Aiguilles Rouges, solo

 

Solo skiing from the bend of Couturier in flat light as the cloud rolled in, then an afternoon sun run on Z de Papy the same day

 

Early February powder run on Col de la Verte from where it got rocky mid height

 

Solo run finding the complex line on Z de Papy

 

Skyway, Rond and Para Face with Jesper Petersson and Guillaume Mars

 

Solo training on the an icy Rond early season with a loaded arete

 

South Face of Tour Ronde into Brenva Glacier before Christmas with Michelle Blaydon and Morgan Sahlen

 

Col des Courtes with Tof Henry and Andre Darlkarl

 

Shoulder of Aiguille du Tacul with Michelle Blaydon, probably the best top to bottom snow quality I’ve ever come across

 

Pre-Christmas Couloir Cache into the Brenva Glacier with Tom Coney

 

A solo mission hitching through to Skyway, under the cables, Marbree and then back to Chamonix via the Valley Blanche. Marbree was so sick until I hit a rock and broke my 2 day old ski under the foot. It happened to be my left leg that took the shock which was recovering from the disc herniation onto the sciatic nerve route for that leg. After more than a little worry I’d suffer a setback, I woke up fine the next day. Lucky, very lucky.