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Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Dent Blanche attempt

~ Friday 25th July 2014

The South Ridge of the Dent Blanche is well known for being a good option in snowy conditions...or so we thought! A long and wet walk to the hut dampened spirits a bit - where was the forecast sunny afternoon? Sitting in huts watching the snow fall is becoming a familiar feeling this summer. At midnight it was still snowing, but we woke at 3am to find stars and clear skies. Phew.

The climbing starts straight from the hut. Usually it's a dry-rock warm-up, but this morning it was knee deep from the terrace. The airy arete was quite delicate, leading to some more sustained wallowing up ever-deeper snow. The "easy" rock ridge that follows was snow all the way with almost no rock visible.

Strangely crampons were balling up despite deep, fresh, cold snow - a sure sign of something "not right" with the snowpack! Sure enough, arm-deep and hidden below fresh windblown snow we found a saturated wet layer over 30cm deep - decided enough was enough.

A rare summer snowpit! Wet layer obvious about 50-60cm down

Point de Mourti-Dent de Rosses

~ Wednesday 23rd July 2014

The traverse from the Point de Mourti to Dent de Rosses is an excellent and technical AD climb. Starting with a character-building slog through breaking crust (the second time breaking trail to the Point de Mourti this year) the ridge was climbed quickly, with a huge team of French climbers on our tail. (It wasn't a race but we won) Over-heating on the summit, ropework caused much confusion.

A quick abseil lands you on the linking ridge. There's an obvious gendarme which you can walk round on the the right or climb over, which is exposed, harder and needs an abseil off the other end, so we went over...

So that's what the little flaps are for!

Good rock and nice climbing up to the Dent de Rosses.


Jegihorn Rock Climbing

~ Saturday 19th July 2014

Hot, sunny rock climbing on the Jegihorn above Saas Grund yesterday, a very enjoyable finish to a varied week. It was a bit of a change of scene after a week of deserted mountains in the Val d'Hérens - lift access, and there were 3 other teams on the cliff! Still, we had "Panorama" to ourselves. Good rock, great views and 10 pitches of sustained and interesting climbing with a fine finish.

You get good views of the Via Ferrata from here too. If this is you and you'd like a copy, send me an e-mail!

Pigne-Cheilon traverse

~ Friday 18th July 2014

Fine conditions yesterday on the Pigne d'Arolla-Mont Blanc de Cheilon traverse. Starting from Vignettes instead of Dix means you get an extra summit for no extra ascent - a bargain. Early start is essential with the usual mid-summer temperatures turning the snow to mush by midday!

A fine dawn skyline silhouette


Sun, snow and cornices on the Cheilon


Just after the abseil and before starting the "horns"


Great mixed conditions on the final arete


Team on the ridge after passing the horns. This section is often dry by mid-summer.

The final ridge


Aiguille de la Tsa

~ Tuesday 15th July 2014

Walking to the Bertol hut in the rain yesterday was a familiar feeling, but it cleared a little and we climbed the little point above the hut in the afternoon.

Happily the forecast was right and the night was properly clear, dawn bringing well-frozen, crunchy snow - something of a novelty after last week.

We made quick progress round to the Tsa with fine views and no-one else about, the 5 other teams in the hut all having set off for Zermatt on the long last day of the Haute Route.

The Tsa normal route is south facing and was completely dry, warm rock and a pleasure to climb.

Tsa shadow over Arolla

BMG guide Euan Whittaker reaches the top.

Descending on good snow from the Col de la Tsa

Weather in the Alps!

~ Friday 11th July 2014

There's been plenty of it! Last week was changeable and cold but there were a couple of good days. This week has seen the worst spell of summer weather I can remember. Sunday was OK for our approach to the Vignettes hut, but Monday dawned stormy and wet. We left the hut "for a look" and were rewarded with a few hours of clear skies, just enough to get up the Pigne and back - the first alpine summit for a keen group from Bloxham School.

Tuesday was really awful and a visit to the climbing wall was easy to justify.

Wednesday was a little better and gave us a great day of via ferrata action while it snowed in the mountains. A warm-up on the Nax route in the morning, then a strenuous afternoon on the excellent Via Farinetta at Saillon. This is one of the harder and more scenic routes around, with huge atmosphere in the narrow gorge behind Saillon.

Airy bridge at Nax

Very airy bridge at Saillon (Name the mountain guide?)

Low down on the Saillon route

Tunnel on a via ferrata?

Starting the steep final section

Back into the hills on Thursday with a wet and snowy approach to the Moiry hut. Our attempt on the Pointe de Mourti today found 40-50cm of fresh snow and very poor visibility. Not ideal! Finding the foot of the ridge was enough of a challenge, and with conditions looking poor even by Scottish winter standards we beat a hasty retreat.

Alphubel South Ridge

~ Thursday 3rd July 2014

It's been a challenging week with very changeable weather. We started with a real "cairngorm" battle on Mont Vélan.

More bad weather made for a damp - but happily short - walk to the Tasch hut and a nervous wait to see if the clouds would clear. They did, and left a perfect day. The other 6 people in the hut all went to the Rimpfischorn leaving us alone on an eerily deserted Alphubel.

Ghostly Matterhorn in the distance.

Arriving at the Alphubeljoch

Our track on the South Ridge

Top of the steep bit.

And the summit! The huge wooden summit cross is completely buried.

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