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Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Lagginhorn again

~ Tuesday 30th July 2013

 Plan A was to climb the South Ridge of the Lagginhorn but Monday's weather turned out worse than expected - windy and quite a bit of snow. We set off this morning full of optimism but soon accepted the inevitable - the route was out of condition. Mustering enthusiasm for a second start is never easy but we climbed the normal route instead - great climbing in the fresh snow and very different from last week. Even with the new snow the wind has scoured much of the upper slopes leaving hard snow instead of the deep track from last week. 

Fresh snow and rime on the south ridge. Compare this to the same view in the last blog!

La Maya d'Eison

~ Sunday 28th July 2013

High on the ridge above Eison sits la Maya - the obvious big tooth clearly visible as you drive up the valley. It's a scenic walk up from Eison through the woods but you can drive quite a lot higher if you find the right track. 

Then, some exposed and steep climbing in great positions leads to an airy summit, all bolted with typical lack of restraint (it would be easily protectable with a small rack) An excellent off-the-beaten-track objective

Saas Grund 4000m peaks

~ Friday 26th July 2013

 It's turned into a hot summer here in the Alps (37 degrees today in Sion!) but on the high peaks above Saas Grund conditions were still really good.  Walking up to the Alpmageller hut we took the suspension bridge path above Saas Almagell - which livens up a long hut walk. 

Yesterday on the Weissmies traverse - perfect conditions, plenty of snow low down but dry rock, and the descent to Hohsaas is in really good shape - not too steep, but quite crevassed on the glacier. 

Today after another early start we found the Lagginhorn in excellent conditions too - dry rock low down but the upper slopes all good snow. Ideal. 

Lagginhorn summit

Pigne d'Arolla

~ Monday 22nd July 2013

 Perfect conditions this weekend for the Pigne d'Arolla traverse - clear and still with well frozen snow. Not busy either, which was a surprise for a weekend - there were only 30 people in the Vignettes hut. We went from Vignettes to the summit, then descended the Dix side seeing no-one until we started the climb back up to the Col de Riedmatten. 

Descending the Mur de la Serpentine in good snow. 

 

Back on dry glacier below the Mont Blanc de Cheilon. 

Is this enough signs? There's space for a few more I think...

Equipped last year with a shiny new chain, the Dix side of the col is now a washed-out runnel. The chain forces you to ignore the old zig-zags and go up or down in a straight line next to the rock. 

Oberland Again

~ Wednesday 17th July 2013

 Back to the Oberland again this week with a perfect forecast. We weren't disappointed - conditions are still good and the weather was exceptional, good overnight freeze and still, warm days. It's not too busy either - on Monday after an early start from the Monchsjoch hut we outflanked 2 other teams in the dark and were soon alone on the Jungfrau. There's still enough snow to follow the ski route (which used to be the normal way before the glacier retreated) avoiding the little rock step and climbing straight onto the snow ridge. 

Early morning on the Jungfrau

 

View down the Jungfrau normal route from the summit. Don't slip now. 

The "Top of Europe" (except for all the higher bits) Europe's highest curry house, shopping centre and train station. High point of every Japanese/Indian/etc coach tour of Europe unless you count the (much higher) Aiguille du Midi and Klein Matterhorn. 

 

Yesterday we climbed the normal route on the Monch in quite different conditions to 2 weeks ago. With a big hut at the foot of the ridge this is one of the most accessible 4000m peaks in the Alps, as well as one of the most elegant summit ridges, yet amazingly there were only 2 other teams on it.

Rock on the Monch south ridge

Belgians on the summit ridge. Get in touch if this is you and you'd like a copy!

Oberland update

~ Wednesday 17th July 2013

 Here are a few missing pictures from the Oberland trip 3 weeks ago where we found great conditions on the Monch and Jungfrau. I've just been back there and things are still good but drying out fast - there's some rock on the Monch normal route now, and the metal belay spikes on the steep snow below the summit ridge have reappeared (An obvious measure of how much snow has gone, the metre high posts were completely buried 2 weeks ago!)

Crack of dawn on the Jungfrau

Jungfrau summit ridge

Jungfrau summit ridge

Looking up the Monch normal route

Monch summit ridge

Monch summit

Bishorn

~ Friday 12th July 2013

 Fresh from Mont Blanc (?) we set off for the Bishorn on Wednesday. After taking a roundabout route thanks to not knowing that the Vercorin-Pinsec shortcut road was still closed, we set off on the long haul to the Tracuit hut. The Bishorn is still referred to with traditional un-correctness as the "4000m Des Dames". Right next door sits the Diablon and it's slightly smaller neighbour the Diablon des Dames, so maybe it's a local thing. Anyway, there's nothing small about the walk to the hut - a straight 1600m of unrelenting zigzags, happily with stunning views as a distraction but the increasing threat of a thunderstorm adding tension. We arrived dry, and 10 minutes before the rain. Phew. 

The Tracuit hut of old has (almost) gone, replaced by an ultra modern construction. The old hut was pretty basic and looking its' age - drafty, creaky and cold with huge dorms and outdoor "long drop" toilets 100m away, it didn't really meet the expectations of the 21st century alpinist. It was apparently cheaper to build a new hut than to renovate the old one, so now there's a shiny space age CHF5.1 million replacement. Let's hope there's something in the budget to clean up the mess outside the new hut - where inside it's all shiny clean stainless steel, pine and bold colours, outside it's old-fashioned building site/rubbish dump. The remains of the old hut are to be turned into a terrace but meanwhile the wind has spread construction debris across the hillside. The architect's publicity brochure explains how the 3 shiny metal sides of the exterior blend with the ice and snow of the mountains, whilst the west side of the building - all dark solar panels and tinted glass - reflect the rock face below the hut. Frankly it doesn't work at the moment - it looks like an office block in a rubbish dump, all set in a beautiful high mountain environment, and actually made me nostalgic for the simplicity of the old hut (except for the toilets)

Anyway, we weren't there for architectural criticism, we were there to climb the Bishorn. The morning dawned clear and cold with a good freeze - perfect conditions. Quick, firm going and great views make the Bishorn a pleasure. The final steep slope to the top has stunning views across the Mischabel group and the Weisshorn and the summit is spacious. Excellent. 

Dominic reminded us regularly that he is 68 (his boots and crampons even older) This was his first 4000m summit, but a working life chasing smugglers as a Border Guard and a retirement chasing cows around the hillsides of the Val d'Hérens meant he made it look easy. 

Happy on top

And then it was all down, down and more down...2400m in total. We found the car (parked in the forest in another futile attempt to make up time lost in the first shortcut) and went for a well-earned lunch at the excellent Relais de la Tzoucdana by the car park at the end of the valley. This place is well worth a visit - great food in a lovely setting as well as accommodation, camping, ducks, rabbits, goats, and donkey rides! 

Mont Blanc

~ Tuesday 9th July 2013

 Another succes on Mont Blanc in very different conditions to 2 weeks ago - warm and clear, and much less snow. The usual summer pattern of afternoon thunderstorms is developing and we made a rapid descent, just reaching the hut in the dry...

crazy Russians crossing the Grand couloir

Crazy Russians crossing the Couloir. Increasingly, Mont Blanc resembles Elbrus, but with more Russians. 

Oberland

~ Thursday 4th July 2013

 A few pictures here from a brilliant trip to the Oberland. Walking in from Fiesch (a long way!) there were no tracks and we were the only people at Konkordia hut. Good for us, not so good for the hut guardian.

Vastness of the Aletsch glacier

Konkordia Cats

 

Next day we set off on perfect hard frozen snow for the Grunegghorn. None of the usual rubble on the glacier, just perfect cramponning snow all the way. No tracks, no-one around, and an exciting corniced summit ridge. We finished off the day (and our legs) with a hot slog over the Grunegglucke to Finsteraarhorn hut. 

Grunegghorn summit

The Finsteraarhorn ascent usually starts up a path behind the hut - not at the moment! Crampons straight from the hut, and up more perfect frozen snow to the Hugisattel at 4000m. 1000m of careful cramponning after breakfast! The summit ridge is (not surprisingly) very snowy, good to climb but quite serious compared to usual conditions. With no-one else on the mountain and some clouds adding atmosphere we had a great day. 

Finsteraarhorn summit

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