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Wednesday
Sep252013

Chamonix Summer

Sunshine, orange granite, amazing guiding and excellent friends. It's been a great season in the Alps. 

This was my third summer guiding in Chamonix. In August, when the summer work slows down in Alaska, it works well to shift to Chamonix. In Chamonix, there is plenty of guiding work, guiding challenging routes, with a small pack. Also, I get to hang out with American IFMGA guides, stay up to date on guiding technique, talk the talk. My annual continuing ed. While Anchorage has many talented guides, none are formally trained, IFMGA guides. By law, every guide in Chamonix is IFMGA. 

Seth Hobby near Castor's summit on the Spaghetti Traverse of the Monte Rosa massif. Seth and I lived and guided together in Bellingham in 2003. He now lives and guides in Lofoten, Norway. We spent 10 days in August working and climbing together this summer. Thanks for the great times Seth!


Seth climbing splitter orange granite at 12,000 feet above the Vallee Blanche. Several hours later Seth was on a plane to Norway. 

 

Pure French. IFMGA guide Matthieu Desprat, who I worked with on two trips.

Matthieu told me about the Cosmiques Effect, a cause of numerous French guide deaths and a resulting evaluation of the French guiding system. When French and Canadian guides were compared, they found that both nationalities guided on similar terrain, but the French guides had 80% success on their guiding objectives, whereas Canadians had 50%. This was attributed to Canadians turning around more since their work is in a more wilderness setting, thus more lives were saved. They also found that Canadian guides are better at talking and sharing information. Matthieu said there were 30 guides in the Cosmiques Refuge the night before the 2012 avalanche on Mont Maudit that killed nine. "They did not talk. It makes me want to cry." 

 

Elisabeth Dupuis descending to the shadow of Mont Blanc after a sunrise summit. After several days of smaller technical peaks, we climbed the Trois Sommets route on Mount Blanc from the Cosmiques Refuge. To avoid repeating the creepy serac hazard, we descended the Gouter Route, doing a full traverse of the mountain. This was our first climbing trip together after many ski adventures.  

 

The highest summit in Italy; Gran Paradiso with a bunch of (name the nationality).

 

An American pro-dog runner near the summit of Mont Blanc. Running the Blanc became trendy after Kilian Jornet ran Chamonix to Chamonix, in 4:57 hours in July. 

 

Michael Powers, the Jedi Master of guiding (in Joe's world). We shared this tiny apartment in Cham Sud during August. Michael taught me to guide when I started at the American Alpine Institute in 1998. Since then, Michael has become a full-time dad, with a six-week guiding respite in Chamonix. Michael is still fun, super-stoked and loves to climb. 

 

Next generation Jedi Master Dylan Taylor expounding the benefits of his new rope coiling technique. Using a quick draw, he's converted a butterfly coil into a mountaineer's coil. This allows Dylan to use a 25-liter pack for a full day in the mountains by carrying his rope over the shoulder. Right back to the 1960's!

Seth (seated), Dylan and I just climbed Ex Libres, a five-pitch 5.10b on the Brevent. As we climbed, wing-suiters jumped from this railing and hurtled past us like falling rocks. 

 

Garry Menzel prepping for the Matterhorn on the Breithorn Traverse above Zermatt. A few days later we climbed the Hornli Ridge

 

Mom and Dad visited in early September. Here's Dave Stock, looking fit at 74, after descending the outrageously exposed Arete du Pain from the Aiguille du Midi telepherique. We had coffee at the Cosmiques Refuge, then joined Mom at the Refuge du Plan de l'Aiguille for the night. 

 

Eric Larson leading the money pitch on the Directisisme, a 400m mixed route on the Triangle du Tacul of Mont Blanc. Eric guides trips around the world and is snow-safety at Telluride Ski Area. We spent much of four weeks together working, climbing, talking and consuming beers. Thanks Eric!

 

Payback! Eric follows my money pitch–a 160-foot 5.10b–on the Contamine Route on Pointe Lachenal. 


My Chamonix stash may be getting bigger, but I am not moving to Chamonix. While Chamonix has the best alpine guiding in the world, Alaska has the best ski guiding. Before heading home, though, Cathy and I are going to Spain for a few weeks of wine and sun. Oh yeah!