Thursday, 16 December 2010

Bowfell Buttress

Before last week’s thaw set in I was starting to quite enjoy my day hits to the Lakes (well the whole two I managed to get in) for some winter climbing, wake up at six, jump in the car, a full day on the hill, good pub grub and back home by nine. None of those long caffeine fuelled drives north on a Friday evening and arriving back home in the wee hours of Monday morning a few hours before work.

A couple of weekends ago Leanne and I decided to head for the classic mixed route of the Lakes, Bowfell Buttress. Once again the weather was amazing and we walked up Bowfell looking across an alpine Lake District. Looking across at a very white looking Gimmer Crag we had a slight niggling feeling that maybe we should be over there. Given Kevin Avery’s report from that day and had we know how rare it is for the crag to be in winter condition maybe we should have... But we couldn’t complain, four pitches of classic mixed climbing with a bit of everything thrown in showed us why this is one the classic buttress routes of the Lakes.

Looking back at Gimmer Crag and down Langdale

2nd pitch

3rd pitch (going a bit wrong and coming up this grove instead of stepping on to the slab to the right... i think?)

4th pitch

The last couple of weekends in the Lakes, as i said above, have been amazing crisp alpine days, meaning the Gore Tex hasn't been out once. So clothing vise I've been using the following:

Atlus LS Zip T

Couloir Hooded Jacket

Shield Jacket

Fitzroy Jacket

G2 Ultimate Mountain Pants
(with thin thermal bottoms underneath)

Randonee Gloves
(I've used these in Alaska, Nepal, the Alps and Scotland, they just seem to work every where!)
Couloir Gloves

Powerstretch beanie

I've be taking my new Scarpa Phantom Guides out for the first time the last couple of weeks and so far I've been very impressed with them. Not as rigid as the previous model this makes the walk in/out a lot more comfy, which lets face it is a big part of winter climbing in the UK, but put a decent crampon on and they give ample support for technical climbing as well as being very light for their warmth.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Winter sun in the Lakes

Cat and I got out last Sunday for our first experience of Lakes winter climbing and were treated to a beautiful crisp alpine day on Helvellyn (is it like this all the time??). After a slightly later than planned start we drove over from Yorkshire and eventually wandered into Red Tarn a bit after midday. With teams everywhere we decided just to head up the central gully to the very busy summit and take in the amazing snow covered panorama of the Lake District.

Quite content just savouring the views out of the wind in the sun we eventually decided after a few cups of tea that we should probably head back down and do something else. After a few false starts trying to find a route with no one on it we eventually end up on Blade Runner which gave a great pitch up a turf filled grove before finishing the day off coming down Striding edge in just stunning evening sun.

The snow started again just as we got to the top of Kirkstone pass and after an ‘interesting’ drive down to Windermere and a failed attempt to get back across the A65 I made it into work only a little late on Monday morning. Needless to say the snow tyres are now on the car rather than sat useless at the back of workshop! Big thanks to
Ewen and Clare for putting us up at the last minute in Kendal.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

It wasn't to be

Amazing views from the south summit of Mera Peak, 5 of the 14 8000m peaks visible

You win some and you loose some, and unfortunately we were definitely beaten by the mountain this time, but we’re both back safe and sound which at the end of the day is a good result for any trip. The disappointment as you’ve might have guess is that we didn’t get to stand on the top of Kyashar, for me its not just because we didn't get up the route and stand on the summit but more that we didn’t get to give it a good go, no one’s fault, just the way it works out sometimes.

The local youths!

Sorting kit and food at base camp below Kyashar

After savouring the views on the south summit of Mera peak, sorting the gear in base camp and a brief winter snow storm we set off up the face on the 3rd November. Steep grassy slopes and broken slabs led to our high point of a recce a few days ago and at 4890m we changed into rock boots for the first actual climbing.

The start of the climbing at 4890m, soloing up the initial slabs (photo - Tony Stone)

Dirty lichen covered slabs lead for 50m to more broken ground leading us higher into the complex rock buttress. Easy scrambling interspersed with the odd tricky step accessed a ramp feature we’d spotted when scoping the face. It was very Eiger reminiscent, loose scree covered terraces surrounded on all sides by steep, clean granite walls. More through good luck than anything else we were getting high on the buttress without any technical difficulties, the ropes still coiled round us. Higher the ramp turned into a steeper gully and we got the ropes out for three long pitches of Cilan style loose rock, the final one feeling quite ‘exciting’ but giving way to easy ground and the top of the buttress.

One of the many loose terraces between the steeper steps

Finding a way through the choss on the final pitch of the initial buttress (photo - Tony Stone)

On the rock wall leading to the glacier (photo - Tony Stone)

Where next? This is one of the things I love about trying new routes, the unknowns. We could see where we wanted to get to, the small glacier glinting in the evening sun, tempting us up to catch the final rays, but a steep wall looked to block easy access. Coming round into a massive boulder strewn bay we’d expected to be cramming our toes back into rock boots but were happy to find a fault line leading easily up through the rock wall that brought us to a five star bivi at the base of the glacier. The following morning after a leisurely start savouring the warming rays of the sun (the joys of a south face) we were breaking trail up the glacier to reach the snow crest that lead to the base of the upper pillar.

Savouring the morning sun

Heading up towards the main face

How your body will adapt, no matter how fit you are, to altitude is anyone’s guess and there’s only one way to find out – by getting on with it. This was Tony’s first trip to altitude and he’d been struggling with it since the start, having to descend from the high camp on Mera Peak with signs of server AMS (acute mountain sickness). But still with having spent a night at 5500m on Mera it wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately the altitude was still playing havoc with Tony and we made the safe call to bail before getting committed any higher on the pillar where altitude illness would have led to a serious situation.

Retracing our steps

Descending the big bay below the glacier, the fault line we'd followed through he rock wall isn't visible but starts just behind Tony's back and went diagonally up right to the glacier just visible

There are still lots of unknowns on this route, but it gave me a sneak preview and a few of the answers, but more importantly temptation and psyche to be back. And anyway the failures keep you on your toes make those successes all the more special.

The boys that help make it all possible

Many thanks to Mountain Equipment, Black Diamond, Scarpa, Tendon Ropes, Lorpen Socks, SIS and Adidas Eyewear for their continued support and our agent Loben Expeditions for another first class service. The expedition was funded with help from The BMC and the Alpine Club Climbing Fund.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Chang Himal Piolet d'Or slide show

I've being meaning to post this for a bit now and with a bit of time on my hands I've eventually got round to it.

Last year Nick and I were nominated for the Piolet d'Or 2010 for our first ascent of the north face of Chang Himal in Nepal. This is the film/slide show that the organisers put together for the event.

Looking semi hopeful for flying to Lukla tomorrow, now we just need a couple of weeks of weather like we had last year, fingers crossed!

Monday, 18 October 2010

The waiting game....

This afternoon we should have being wandering into the village of Tangnag, sitting under the south face of Kyashar, our base camp for the expedition. Instead we find ourselves wandering down to Himalayan Java for our ritual coffee session and brief escape from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, the constant beeping of car and bike horns, the sound track of the city, reminding us where we are.

The first attempt at flying to Lukla, only 75kg of excess, let the bartering commence!

Lukla, the small mountain airport we fly to for the start our trek, is quite literally perched on the side of a mountain, 40 minutes of beautiful Himalayan panorama ending with a very ‘exciting’ landing on the short runway with a 12% gradient. With no radar they need very good weather to operate and the heavy rain and snow over the last few days means only a small handful of flights have left. Leaving a massive backlog of trekkers and climbers at both ends, frustration showing on everyone’s face.

We’ve packed and un-packed all our kit three times now for different scenarios trying to beat the system and jump the queue. The only option other than flying is a 9 hour bus ride to Jiri, the start of all expeditions before the airport was built and then an eight day trek to Tangnag. We chose Kyashar because of its ease of access from Kathmandu, three days should have seen us at base camp, the long approach trek isn’t too appealing and already three days behind schedule we’d arrive at Tangnag nearly two weeks later than planned but with all flights fully booked for the week options were running out.

Last night over a beer with Loben ( we came up with a plan, a bit of a gamble but hopefully it pays off. This morning Phalden our ‘guide’ got the early bus to Jiri with most of our kit and will start the trek to Tangnag tomorrow. We’ve kept one bag with us, just about enough kit to try and acclimatize on Mera Peak. The idea being we can get a flight in the next couple of days which will be much easier with just the two of us and only one bag, grab a porter in Lukla and arrive in base camp quite a bit in front of Phalden and start acclimatizing. It’s never a good idea going separating from your bags but knowing Phalden he’ll look after them like his own and won’t let them out of his sight, they’re in safe hands!

Friday, 15 October 2010


Landing in Kathmandu on Wednesday after a brief stop in Dakar things seemed to be going unusually smooth until after an hour staring at the baggage conveyor there was still no sign of our 4 bags and 90kg of kit. Leaving Tony at the airport for a nervous wait to see if our bags would turn up on the next flight from Dakar I headed straight to the Ministry of Tourism with our agent, Loben, to meet our Liaison Officer and get the permit for Kyashar.

Tony with our 90Kg of kit at Heathrow

Amazingly, thanks to Lobens efficiency I had the permit in my hand within 2 hours of landing in the country! Things got even better when we drove back to the airport to find Tony with all four of our bags and a big grin as his bottle of 15 year old Glenlivet had arrived intact inside his boots (I’m not too sure which he was more worried about, the climbing kit turning up or the whiskey bottle!).

Sorting the paper work for the permit at the Ministry

Weather permitting we fly to Lukla tomorrow (Saturday) morning then we’ve got a four day trek to our base camp at the village of Tangnag. Since landing we’ve spent a couple of days just chilling out, catching up with friends and last minute shopping in Kathmandu. Our flight back to the UK is booked for the 19th November so all being well we’ll be back in Kathmandu a couple of days before that...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Kyashar Expedition

Due to one reason and another a month ago I was pretty sure this years trip out to Nepal was going to have to be cancelled after a few months of its on, its off, its back on again, then it was off again. I was actually quite looking forward to a quick Autumn hit to the alps instead but after randomly bumping into a mate, the young and talented Tony Stone, down in North Wales, suddenly it was all happening again! We got the flights confirmed for the 12th October last week and with some extra support from the Alpine Club on top of the BMC grant we already had the psyche was back again.

Tony Stone (Moonflower Buttress, Alaska)

Kyashar stands proud at 6769m guarding over the village of Tangnag in the Hinku valley, Nepal and caught both Nick and my eye when we were in the area two years ago. First climbed back in 2003 via the West ridge and West face (probably our decent route IF we get up the thing) we hope to have an attempt on the 2000m+ South Pillar (centre of the face in the photo below) which a Czech team tried last year. Unfortunately they had to retreat at around half height but reported climbing up to WI6 and M7 to where they got, ummm...

The 2000+m face of Kyashar

Kyashar emerging from the morning clouds above the Hinku Valley

Many thanks for their support on this expedition to the BMC, The Alpine Club, Mountain Equipment, Scarpa, Black Diamond, Tendon Ropes, Lorpen Socks, Adidas Eyewear

Monday, 4 October 2010

British mountain Guides summer test

Back in June the end of September and the first assessment on my guides training seemed ages away, loads of time I thought... As expected it all came around a bit too fast but in the end I got a good chunk of time out in the hills, not as much as I’d have liked but come the start of the assessment I felt I’d put as much effort into getting ready for it as I could have. Even though it rained for 90% of the time and we didn’t get any proper cragging in we had some really good days out just covering lots of easy ground and climbing lots of the classic routes in the mountains.

A rare respite from the rain on the top of Glyder Fach

The six days of assessment was hard, both physically and mentally. The last time I was properly assessed on anything was for my HGV driving tests and that was bad enough having someone watching your every move for 50 minutes, this was going to be six days of someone constantly look over your shoulder! The first two days of personal climbing and the problem/improvised rescue went really well with a couple of days in the sun at Gogarth and Tremadog.

Paul enjoying the sun at Gogarth on the personal climbing day

Unfortunately the Welsh monsoon returned for Wednesday and the start of the two day expedition part of the assessment. Over these two days you cover lots of mountaineering ground using all the different guiding techniques, show you can climb up to VS in big boots with all your bivi kit on your back and lots of night navigation thrown into the mix. The first day eventually ended coming down the Parsons Nose at about 2.00am (after a failed attempt to find the start of Reade’s Route on Crib Goch... opps!) and a final few night navigation legs brought us back down to the Climbers Club hut soaked to the skin at 4.00am. Finding ourselves locked out of the hut with all our sleeping bags inside (the decision not to bivi due to the weather had been made at the start of the day) we got the best result and drove back home for a few hours sleep. We finished off the final day of the expedition on and around the Idwal slabs and Sub Cneifon Rib in, surprise surprise, the rain again.

For the final two days we each had a proper client and an assessor to look after with the first day being a pure guiding day getting as much climbing done as possible and the second a teaching day. My client, Sky, was a super psyched Australian and luckily having lived in the UK for a few years had got used to the rain. We headed over to the Moelwyn’s and up to Clogwyn yr Oen for the first day where the really rough rock gives good positive and enjoyable climbing in the rain. We got ten pitches of climbing in, had the whole place to ourselves and even managed to take the waterproofs off by the end of the day. Chatting about the teaching day on the way back Sky was pretty keen to start looking at gear placements and belay building so with the sun forecast we made a plan to head to Tremadog the next day.

I’ve never done any teaching in my life so to say I was a bit apprehensive going into the final day of the assessment was an understatement. Although I didn’t feel confident by how the day went, I could tell my teaching skills were lacking that little bit of something, by the end of the day Sky had gone from never having seconded VS to cleanly following me up three routes of that grade and building her own bomber belays, but more importantly for me she enjoyed the two days (I think!).

So to the results... well I was really pleased to get a provisional pass, just being asked to observe a couple of days teaching to help give me a better idea on that side of things before I got an official pass. I was fortunate enough to be able to join Chris Ensoll ( in the Lakes this weekend to get the required days done and my summer assessment signed off.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Euro trip part 2

The amount of snow up high all looked a bit too much like hard work to be honest and the idea of climbing sunny, snow free rock was way more appealing, well we were on holiday after all! Coming off the Lagginhorn in the afternoon we picked up the bivi gear we’d stashed when we got off the lift that morning and headed back down the lift to Saas Grund and drove over to Andermatt with a borrowed guide book to the Salbitschijen.
Six years ago Andy Turner and I had gone up to try the long West Ridge. Unfortunately the weather got the better of us that time but I think the quality of the climbing we did do must have erased the memories of the approach. Either that or the old approach to the bivouac hut has got a lot worse over the last few years and scrambling up a very loose gully with lots of rock fall debris in it we were wishing I’d remembered about it. For future reference, although probably 1.5 hours longer I’d definitely approach the bivouac hut via the Salbit hut and the new bridge (which is pretty cool in its own right).

Approaching the Bivouac hut with the South Ridge in profile (photo - Cat Freeman)

GCK, one of the classics on the 2nd tower of the West ridge wasn’t the pure crack climb we had anticipated, instead following a number of bolted slabs between the cracks, but gave 10 pitches of really good quality 3 star climbing none the less. The next day we walked over the new suspension bridge and around to the 600m South ridge which gave pitch after pitch of endless fun climbing on solid sunny granite ending at the very pointy summit of the Salbitschijen.
Final pitch of GKC

On the South Ridge
Looking back down the South Ridge

With Cat busy working in Saas Grund for the next couple of days I hitched over to Chamonix to get one last day of climbing in with Max and Zoe before a few days of catching up with friends in the valley and driving back to the UK. Looking at the number of cars at the lift station and not quite managing to get up in time for the first cable car we headed over to the Red Pillar on the Blatiere hoping the sun drenched warm rock on the South face of the Aiguille du Midi would have drawn most of the crowds.
The shady, and pretty chilly, west facing rock of the Blatiere was virtually deserted so we racked up below L'Eau Rance d'Arabie. The initial slab felt desperate with numb hands and feet, virtually impossible to feel if the rubber of my boots was sticking to the granite smears. Gradually it warmed up and the climbing got better and better the higher we got. Pitch after pitch of perfect cracks. Max led the final off width pitch in light drizzle with rumbles of thunder echoing off all the walls around us. A rapid abseil decent back down the route deposited us back on the ground just before the full afternoon summer storm started.
Zoe on L'Eau Rance d'Arabie

Max on the penulitmate pitch of L'Eau Rance d'Arabie

Monday, 12 July 2010

Euro trip part 1

I’ve just got back from a few weeks of van life travelling around part of the Alps with Cat. With neither of us having explored the Ecrins before we thought that would be as good a place as any to start so after a slow and leisurely drive down through France we arrived in Briancon. With the forecast not looking too great we headed up to quiet village of Ailefroide to get a few days of slab climbing in between the showers.

Heading round to the other side of the Ecrins we found solid mountain granite on the Aiguille du Dibona. The Soreiller hut is a 2.5 hour walk up from the valley and situated directly below the South face of the Aiguille du Dibona. As well as only being, quite literally, a stone’s throw from the start of the climbing it is run by the two most welcoming and friendliest hut guardians I’ve ever met. Choosing the classic of the face we started up the Madier route following the main central weakness. Two thirds of the way up the route we arrived at the ‘Fissure Madier’, since the loss of a chock stone the guide books have given this pitch a fearsome reputation of unprotected 6b off width climbing. Although it was the crux of the route it didn’t (thankfully!) live up to its reputation, with ample gear and a couple of painful foot jams all that was needed to overcome the short off width section before more good holds came into reach. Cat was soon running up the easier ground and standing on the top before the quick decent down the normal route and back around to the hut and a wet walk back down to the valley as the heavens opened.

(photo - Cat Freeman)

(photo - Cat Freeman)

Unfortunately the heavens didn’t want to close after we got down so with the weather crapping out for the foreseeable future across the whole of the Alps it seemed like there were two options. Hang around in the rain or head to the Provence (via Orpierre) for some relaxed climbing in the sun and obligatory afternoons of wine tasting? Not a hard choice really....

Eventually we persuaded ourselves to leave the laid back atmosphere of the Provence and give the mountains a second chance. Arriving in Saas Grund only to find people hadn’t been exaggerating about how much snow there still was up high. Stepping off the Hohsaas lift with various plans we soon ended up at plan C and salvaged the day with a nice walk up the normal route on the Lagginhorn above a stunning cloud inversion in the valley below.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Summer Guide Training part 2

A couple of weeks ago we finished off the last of our summer training for the guides course, four full days over in North Wales based out of Plas y Brenin in pretty much perfect weather. Compared with a lot of the other courses there was a lot more 'classroom' time with a number of talks and discussions of all aspects of guiding from client psychology, to making the most out of the internet for marketing.

However the main program for the week was looking at coaching methods. The first morning was spent inside discussing how people learn and looking at teaching/coaching methods, for such a vast subject we only had a short time to briefly touch on it but learnt a lot nevertheless. Putting it all into practise that afternoon we ran a mock fundamental of climbing workshop in the sun at the RAC boulders. Tuesday was a day out on the hill to look at how to teach and assess navigation. Assessment isn't common role for a guide but once qualified there is always the chance of working on ML, MIA etc mountain qualifications where you will be assessing navigational and various other mountain skills. This turned into more of a day of navigation training for me. I knew before hand that it’s a skill I’m weak at (bit of a recurring theme here!)...even though I’ve spent a lot of time in the mountains in Europe it's usually only when you get caught out in bad weather when ski touring that the map comes out, so lots of night nav and days out in crap weather for me this summer.

It was back inside for a full day on Wednesday for a very varied day of talks and many coffee breaks. We finished the day off by putting together a full program for an alpine preparation course we were going to be giving the next day. Working with Andy and James we put together a program that was based around the centre in the morning and going to a local crag in the afternoon. Our students were the new centre assistants from Plas y Brenin and it was good to be working with genuine students rather than mock students where it feels a bit strange and hard to teach people things that you know they are very experienced at already.

Neither Nic, Oli or Lawrance had any alpine experience but all three had aspirations to visit the alps soon and most importantly were really psyched to learn the necessary skills. Through the morning, using various areas of the centre, we covered how to take coils, moving on a glacier and prusiking practise. Over a coffee break we spent a good while flicking through guide books and maps whilst chatting about a typical alpine day and the differences between climbing in the UK and the Alps. After lunch we headed down the road to the small crag of The Pinnacles right in Capel Curig where we practised crevasse rescue and how to move together on classic alpine ground.

That’s it now till the summer assessment in mid September, again over in North Wales. I’m going to be working in Yorkshire for most of the summer but aiming to spend a few weeks before the assessment in North Wales putting it all together to hopefully go into the assessment as prepared as possible...

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Summer Guide Training part 1

I was in the Lake District last week for the first part of my guides summer training. We started the week off up at Raven Crag in Langdale for a day of multi pitch guided climbing. The aim was to look at all the skills for getting the maximum climbing out of a day with 2 clients. We covered all the various options, one rope, two ropes, climbing in series and parallel. As well as the going up we also looked at and put into practice various way to safely and efficiently get the clients down.

On Tuesday we headed up to Dow crag above
Coniston for a day of short roping. This is a skill that is completely new to me, when climbing with mates you either have the rope on, off or you’re moving together with varying amounts of rope out and gear between you. Short roping is used to safe guard clients when going up and down on easy ground. My first round of guiding Andy up and down the side of Dow crag was a complete shambles, there’s just so much to think about all at the same time. Slowly as the day progressed things started to click, I started to get my systems sorted and the whole thing seemed to run a lot smoother. It’s definitely one of the more difficult skills to learn and as a guide is one of the times you are most exposed to risk and danger. Anyway I finished the day having learnt a lot in a short space of time but knowing I’m going to have to put a lot of time in over the summer to get it dialled.

For the final day we drove up to
Borrowdale and had a split day between Shephards crag and Black crag. Andy and I headed off with Tim Neil to spend a day looking at coaching techniques for multi pitch climbing. Unlike the first day which was looking at pure guiding techniques to get as much climbing in as possible the final day was aimed at clients who want to gain the skills necessary to go multi-pitch climbing themselves. The emphasis was about building a good teaching progression into the day and getting the clients involved in everything; building their own anchor once they arrive at the stance, belaying the second client up and just generally chatting through everything.

I spent all last week wearing the new Orion softshell, I’ve found this jacket a great choice for cragging in the UK when you’re not too sure what the weathers going to do as you set off up a multi-pitch route. Its over to North Wales next week for the second part of the summer training and hopefully a few days climbing after.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Location, Location, Location

I love the spring time in Chamonix, it’s relatively quiet around the valley, the weather, more often than not, is settled, seasonal work is finished and the options for playing are endless. In the last five days I’ve had four very different days out climbing.
Monday was a big mixed alpine line on a 4000m peak (see previous post ‘Too Late To Say I’m Sorry’). Tuesday ended up as a forced rest day due to not been fit enough for the previous day! Wednesday and we made the steep walk up to Bionassay crag just above Saint Gervais for an afternoon of steep limestone bolt clipping, well trying to anyway, just like the legs weren’t strong enough for a big alpine day the arms definitely aren’t strong enough for Bionassay just yet.
Thursday Colin and I headed up the Midi with skis and rock boots for some alpine granite crack climbing. A quick ski down to the base of the Contamine route on Point Lachenal and you can quite literally step out of your bindings and on to 250m of perfect warm sunny rock (the perfect way to approach a climb??) before abseiling back to the skis. Then a good spring ski back to the Montenvers train station and a late lunch in Chamonix. Friday was multi pitch climbing on the big limestone cliffs of Balme down in the Arve valley. Jonny and I did a route called ‘Le vieux de la montagne’, 7 pitches of technical slabs and steep walls on good quality limestone.
Easy access alpine rock climbing
Colin high on the Contamine Route, Point Lachenal

Top of the Contamine route before a quick abseil down the route and a good spring ski back to the valley

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Too Late To Say I'm Sorry, Aig Vert

The volcanic ash cloud may have been causing chaos for travellers all over the globe but luckily it hasn't blotted out the sun in Chamonix yet, quite the opposite. Eventually the weather seems to have settled down here and we've enjoyed some rare stable weather for the last couple of weeks.

Heading up the last cable car to the Grands Montets in the evening Dave and I joined a number of teams already insitu for the evening, including the Spanish Alpine Climbing Team (a.k.a Spanish wads!). We'd headed up to do the Robert Jasper line of 'Too Late To Say I'm Sorry', a 1000m line with 300m of thin ice and mixed climbing starting out of the Couturier Couloir and finishing on the Grand Rocheuse (4102m). Crossing the shrund with the first rays of light we quickly moved together over neve and hard grey ice and the first technical pitch of the route before putting in a belay below the crux pitch.

Heading towards the line of 'Too Late To Say I'm Sorry' (marked in red)

Getting the second rope out Dave started a snow cleaning mission to unearth ice and a crack to make a difficult traverse rightwards under a roof. The second part of this pitch is the crux, with the main corner lacking enough ice to climb this year previous parties had either aided or freed the crack to the right at M6 to rejoin the corner 10m higher. Wasted from his snow clearing efforts and in the aid of speed Dave reluctantly pulled on a few bits of gear before tensioning across in to the corner. Seconding on a tight rope I just managed to get it clean, only just managing not to hold up one of the Spanish wads who was leading right behind me... impressive to watch.

The next two pitches gave me some of the best mixed climbing I’ve done in a while, good gear, thin ice and an amazing situation leading to the final ice gullies.

The final pitch was probably one of the most aesthetic and quality pitches either of us has climbed in the mountains, a 40m perfect ice runnel finished off the technical climbing.

The amazing final ice runnel

Wanting to get the full mountain experience we carried on up and easy broad gully to join the East ridge of the Grand Rocheuse and it's summit. A short abseil off the top and 15 minutes later we were standing on the top of the Aiguille Verte. Down climbing the Couturier Couloir in perfect conditions we eventually arrived back at our skis and just got back to the valley without head torches.

On the East Ridge of the Grand Rocheuse, summit of the Aig Vert in the top right of photo

Approaching the summit of the Aig Vert