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Monday
Oct012012

Chamonix Alpine Crags

The Chamonix valley in France is stacked with rock, much of it granite. Between guiding jobs, I was lucky to sample this legendary stone with guide friends and Cathy.

What's not pictured below are early mornings I had free, but couldn't find a partner. To burn energy, I ran the Chamonix side of the Tour du Mont Blanc trail in segments. No hydration pack. Just 10€ in my pocket for a cafe along the trail. Can't do that in Alaska! 

A few hours after arriving in Chamonix, Danny Uhlmann and I climbed the Rebuffat Route on the Aiguille du Midi. Danny is a romantic Earth-gallivanting IFMGA Mountain Guide. In 2010 we walked and skied through Alaska's Wrangell Mountains. The Rebuffat route on the Midi is an ultra-classic eight-pitch 6a on orange granite that finishes at the Midi telepherique balcony. Beyond Danny in this photo is the Tacul summit of Mont Blanc. In a tight cleft in the triangle rock face is the Chere Couloir....


In raging wind, Danny starts the first of six rappels down the Chere Couloir, a WI 4 gully climb. The Chamonix valley is visible 9,000 feet below. 

 

Instead of climbing the Chere in blizzard, we should have gone to Italy. On a wiser, and rainier day, Danny, Tim Connelly and I left Chamonix via the Mont Blanc tunnel. We continued driving down the Aosta Valley until the rain stopped. That place was Machabe. Everything is better in Italy. 

 

Alice Rankel (pronounced "A Lee Che") on the Crochues Traverse in the Aiguilles Rouges. I met Alice two years ago when she was house mates with my buddy Dylan Taylor. Now she is room mates with Dylan. Alice is teaching Dylan to pick up his crumbs and to speak Italian. Soon she'll be visiting the United States for the first time. With Dylan, they'll fly into Las Vegas. As they step off the plane, I trust Dylan will exclaim "Alice, this is America!"

 

Danny took this photo of me with his Australian client Chris O'Neill on the Pappion Arete of the Aiguille du Peigne, a beautiful winding ridge in the Aiguilles du Chamonix. My client, Rob Rothenberg, is out of view. Do you like my super-alpine anchor? Wrap the horn three times and we're not going anywhere.  


Cathy is here! And we're climbing the classic, six-pitch Aiguilles Rouges route called the Frison-Roche. 

 

Lucky for those bolts, Cathy. That crack looks scary! (joke). We brought cams, but they didn't get used. 

 

Cathy on another classic in the Aiguilles Rouges, the Chapelle de la Gliere. This is the Razoir pitch. Mont Blanc over there. 

 

Rehydrating at The Pub after climbing. Flanagan has a Guinness. 

 

Cathy leading on the Aiguille de l'M. This route was on our tick list from Anchorage friends Billy and Yvonne who visited Chamonix earlier in the summer. 

 

Rapping off the l'M down to the...

 

Ladders to where the glacier used to be, then steel steps to the moraine. No more glacier.

 

Miles Bright demonstrating Mountain Guide vacation technique at The Church Crag, an overhanging 40-meter wall of edges on the Swiss border. Miles belayed and coached me up a horrendously hard and long route. As I hit the dirt from the lower, he handed me an espresso. The day wasn't actually vacation for Miles. He'd been up since a dismal hour on a weather-aborted Mont Blanc summit bid. 

 

But Cathy and I are on serious vacation, drinking gallons of Illy, and cragging in the warm sun on the Montenvers Slabs above the Mer de Glace.  

 

We spent several days climbing with Eric Larson from Telluride. First at Barbarine, then back on the classic Rebuffat route on the Midi. Eric enjoys summer work in Chamonix combined with Telluride Resort snow safety and expeditions to Alaska and the Himalaya. 

 

Cathy and Eric each led a block of four pitches on the Rebuffat. I drafted, playing with my camera and carrying some of their gear for ballast.

 

Cathy on perfect hand cracks on a variation of the upper Rebuffat. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you get tired of climbing then just call for a rescue! 

 

Eric Larson wearing his beer-drinking pin at the South Bar in Cham Sud. Chamonix is the common ground of IFMGA Mountain Guides. Over half of 80-something US Mountain Guides where in Chamonix this summer. For me, living in Alaska, I feel that to be a Mountain Guide, I must go to Chamonix. In Chamonix I can guide technical routes, carry small packs, work with career guides from around the world, talk the talk. Thank you Dylan, Danny, Wex, Ben, Mike, Eric, Jamie, Tim, Keith, Miles, Geoff, Margaret, Farmer, Caroline, Adam, Jonathan, Seth, Steve, Liz, Marc, Kathy....