All photo's are Copyright of Scott Swalling or the tagged Photographer. (Background photo Scott Swalling Photography).

About Me:

24Hr MTBike racer and general bike rider, climber and mountaineer. Good coffee drinker and cake eater (any cake, seriously, don't leave your cake laying around). Also, I like to try new things that challenge me.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

I love the alps, despite what they throw at you.

The alps: a winter  play ground for the rich and famous, for me it spells adventure.

Well keeping things short, a few of us headed for the alps in the first week of July. Expecting a mixed bag of conditions and weather and the alps delivered just this .

We hand planned to do an easy route to acclimatize, but several things conspired against to shuffle the plans.  A short discussion had us arrive at the decision of getting on the Forbes Arête, a long committing route.

The route runs left to right from the obvious snow slopes to the summit.

So Sunday saw Paul, Tommy and myself head off earlier than really required to head for a bivi spot on Le glacier de tour. We stopped at the Albert Premier refuge and decided to wait until late in the day to cross.  As I had been elected crevasse poodle I had the final say on when we would leave.

We crossed the glacier and found a good spot to bivi and set up camp, relaxed, soaked up the atmosphere and sorted some dinner.  Soon we would settle down for a restless night of sleep.

Paul and Tommy enjoying the sun at the bivi.

When we woke for whatever reason, we decided to stay put for a while. I noticed a team advancing on the route start, then another and another.  After a considerable amount of faff we were on our way, an hour late (mistake one, which concerned me a little).

With me once again elected point man we headed off, picking the best and safest lines up and across the route. After quite a bit of climbing we arrived at the ridge and started along it.

We had made steady pace with a few little rests and son caught two other groups, unfortunately in a position we could not climb past. This would also be the first belayed pitch. We moved on after 20 minutes or so.  Whilst exposed this pitch wasn't this difficult.

As we moved on, our momentum seem to ebb away, but the route was fun and the weather was great, if a little windy.

After a few interesting sections I noticed the weather changing and became more interested In our pace and how far we had left. With many gendarmes and false summits it was hard to see what was left.

Sat on a belay with the rope warlord around a block I was buffeted by the wind and noticed the weather was closing quickly and earlier than expected.  Tommy arrived at the belay and asked me if I wished to lead the next pitch. I pointed out I was part of the belay.

Tommy lead on across an exposed and icy face, soon Paul would have to start climbing, then I did as well. We had gear between us, but we weren't sure if Tommy had reached a belay. He had though.

I traversed next to Paul, giving him some ice climbing tips and cruising the pitch being in my element.  We soon arrived at Tommy's which was bomber and I headed on, we pitched a couple of pitches. Dealed with the second unexpected mid route abseil and then it was time to start moving as one.

I really wanted us to push on, the guys keep moving with me to a point where I would need to down climb and then traverse a sheet of ice, pretty much unprotected as I would be the third climber after lowering Tommy as far as I could to speed things up.

The weather was blowing clouds all around us playing havoc with the visibility. I arrived at the belay, grab a few bits of gear and pushed on, not stopping, and we moved as one again.  This time all the way to the summit, which we turned on the "wrong side".

With the weather swirling around us on the summit and feeling tired, spirits were a bit low. A couple of quick photo's and we headed down.

Down: we crossed the last bit of the  ridge to a col and started down, I backed marked as it was steep an soft snow. Tommy soon found an abseil point, as it was now snowing and murky, we opted to follow the abseils down as we knew they went to the lower col, which led to the glacier.

Tommy did a great job at following the abseils down and getting us to the col. After a break a chat an few phones calls to let people know we are ok but won't be off the mountain tonight and Paul certainly wouldn't make his flight, we set off again.

I was point again due to the crevasse fields and my pigeon senses. I set a pace and would maintain this to the glacier and then across the glacier. We were all tired, but we knew the glacier was soft from the high temps, darkness and rain threatened and we didn't want to be out for long if they beat us.

As we moved across the glacier I managed to roll my ankle heavily, but kept moving (I'd learn later I broke it in doing so). Sooner came to the moraine and knew we were close to the refuge and soon were.  Finding a fast flowing stream we got some water in as we faced dehydration and went to bed. In the morning we headed down to the valley to a well earnt breakfast and wished Tommy a happy birthday.

Whilst we had work well as a team and took our individual responsibilities well and Paul did remarkably well considering his experience. We made one mistake we changed our plan last minute.

Due to the break in the ankle the rest of the week would be a wash out for me and would curtail Tommy's trip as well.  Which I still feel bad about, only now as I finish this off can I say the ankle is nearly normal again.

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