A bit of a mixed up day.

The vie down the Valee Blanch towards
the Grandes Jorrases

After a poor weather day on Wednesday, yesterday Ally and I decided to make the most of the small good weather window that was forecast up high in the mountains.
Gearing up at the foot of the Triangle du Tacul
poised and ready!
We headed up early in the Midi bin and then walked over to the Triangle du Tacul which is situated on the North Face of Mont Blanc du Tacul. We had heard from some friends that there were some good Alpine mixed routes in condition on this face, and we were both pretty psyched to check out what this venue had to offer.
Whilst on the approach over the Vallee Blanche glacier, we could see a number of perfectly formed snow/ice runnels dotted all over the face, and once at the bottom we decided to head for the route “Le Temps est Assassin”.

Me on the crux flake

What a view!

I started off up the first pitch, and not wanting too much of a relaxed day, decided to take a more direct and steeper start to the right of the original line to reach the snowy basin and the bottom of the first ice runnel. The pitch started up a small icy chimney, then onto steeper cracked wall to reach a huge hanging flake that had some cruddy ice chocked behind it. This flake pitch formed the crux of the day and went at around Scottish VI/6.
After the first techy pitch, it was back onto the main route which followed a fairly direct line up the snow/ice runnels for two pitches. These runnels where awesome fun to climb, as you had to be super delicate with the ice as some sections where very fairly thin and brittle.
One of the awesome ice runnels 

High on the 3rd pitch

 Once Ally and I had finished the main line of “Les Temps est Assassin”, we traversed hard right to join the last hard pitch of “Perroux Gully”. This pitch takes a lightly iced up slab traversing right to gain another hanging snow/ice runnel that leads into the mega classic “Chere Gully”. After reaching the gully, we rapped back down to our bags and trotted off back across the glacier in the backing heat to reach the Midi snow arête and up to the lift station.

Me seconding the the first runnel pitch
Me reaching the belay after the 2nd pitch

One Man And His Axes.

The “Frendo Spur” (left hand obvious ridge line)

This morning as Ally was out with his Mum and Aunt for the last day of their trip to Cham, I headed up on to the Plan de L’Aiguille ready and psyched for my chosen objective.
A bit of snow never hurt anyone.
As the weather forecast for today was so good, I decided to go and solo the uber classic “Frendo Spur” on the Aiguille du Midi North Face. This is a line that I have wanted to do for a while and thankfully it didn’t disappoint!
The view below me from mid crux
When I left the station at the Plan de L’Aiguille I started the timer on my watch, as I was interested to see what sort of time it would take me to ascend this 1200m mixed route. I then passed two parties on the approach and another just before the bergschrund, after that I was on my own for pretty much all of the route. Apart from one last party that had bivied at halfway and they let me past just before I started the last third (rock crux). 
Another little crux section
Approaching the snow arete
The line was very enjoyable with a good selection of interesting rock pitches and some cool slabby crack sections. The rock crux was pretty straight forward, and after that you move up and onto the immaculate snow arête that is such a distinctive feature on the Midi North Face. After a short while moving up the arête, I decided to take the left hand ice variation around the rock buttress, which involves a short ice pitch that I found pretty enjoyable. This little ice pitch got me mega psyched for the swiftly approaching winter season!
One man and his axe!
The beautiful upper section!
After the ice pitch it was up a snowy face and then you pull onto the base of the Midi arête. As I pulled over onto the arête, I startled two Italian climbers that where sorting their gear after a couple of days in the Vallee Blanche area and after a quick chat, one of them offered to take a couple of photos for me, then is was off up the Arete and Into the famous midi ice cave.
My shadow while on the Arete
Progress progress

Things Don’t Always Go To Plan.

Cloud inversion in the Chamonix valley 

 Yesterday morning Ally and I headed up to Plan de Aigulle on the first lift, eager and psyched to be back in the mountains after the bad weather spell that Chamonix had been having recently.

Approaching the off-width on the Petits Charmoz
The tricky off-width on the Petits Charmoz
 Our objective was to do the traverse of the Chamonix Aiguilles from Aig de L’M to Aig du Midi. But due to the amount of snow and wet rock that was still around from the recent stormy weather over the past two weeks, things where a lot more time consuming than usual. We decided to stop after doing the Aig de L’M, Petits Charmoz and the Grands Charmoz.
Even though we did not do the full intended traverse, the route we did on the Grands Charmoz (NW Ridge) was fantastic and home to some very interesting and varied climbing, from footless hand traverse pitches for 10m where you had to swing a heel up level with your head and rock over (in big boots and a rucksack), to long pendulum swings to get past the featureless walls and back into the icy (meant to be dry rock) diedres. The route was full of character and the guide book description says it all “A long and serious route in a fine and exposed situation that does not appear to have gained the popularity that it deserves.” 

Moving up the wall to gain the awesome
hand traverse

Sorting the gear after looking round the
corner and spying the hand traverse

Getting ready to charge

We soloed the first two routes of the day, the N-NE ridge of the Aig de L’M and the SE ridge of the Petits Charmoz and the first half of the NW ridge of the Grands Charmoz. The upper section of the NW ridge is where it really starts to get interesting and the second last pitch forms the crux. This pitch (crux) has a interesting guide book description which didn’t make me overly psyched to get stuck in. “Using a rurp or a shoulder to start, climb boldly up and over a smooth bulge until a terrace is reached after 12m
A rurp is a piece of aiding equipment that is hammered into very shallow thin cracks on near featureless walls. Unfortunately we didn’t have a rurp, but thankfully someone had placed a high skinny peg just over the bulge, so the aid access to the start wasn’t too bad. The top of the pitch however was a very bold slab which was completely running with water (terrifying), but I managed to squirm my way up this and onto the terrace with a fair bit of grunting and groaning, Just!
This grade III groove was made pretty
tricky and time consuming due to the snow/ice!
No rurp but still got stuck in!
After the crux pitch, it was an easy 40m to the top of the summit tower and then a bunch of abseils down to the Nantillons glacier under an awesome setting sun. Once on the glacier it was the tedious task of avoiding the mine field of seracs and crevasses in the pitch dark. This is never fun, especially when you’ve just done a

It always sunny in Ceuse.

What to have…?

On the 22nd Ally and I decided that we had had enough of sitting in the flat in Chamonix, waiting for the weather to get better. There had been a load of snow fall in the mountains for the past four days. So even if had cleared up, we would have had to have waited for the routes to come back into condition (drier rock, less ice/verglass).
Our humble abode for the week
So on the Thursday (21st) we decided that we would head down south to sunny Ceuse, which is one of the world’s best sport climbing venues and happened to be only a few hours’ drive from Chamonix.
We had a week of on-sighting and projecting some amazing limestone routes until on Thursday when we checked the weather and noticed that it was forecast to clear up in Cham over the weekend (30-31st). So… back in the car we jumped and then headed north again on Friday evening psyched to get up high in the mountains over the weekend.

chilling with Ceuse in the background