As the title says this is a rematch against this route as a few weeks ago, both Jess and me retreated from the route, the whole story is here, and involved lots of tiredness, rudeness, dysentery and a stuck abseil rope. All in all, its fair to say that we hated that day and did not hold much love for the route. However, today we went back to clear some unfinished business.
I have wanted to climb this route since I saw people climbing it a few years ago, when I was climbing Pointe Gaspard and whilst on belay watched groups do ths longer and harder route, and continue across the entire ridge to the summit. It looked like a fantastic route, and I wanted to have a go. Although as the first paragraph stated we did not have a good introduction.
When we got to the route today we had a similar introduction, and could not find the start of the route again. You would think the fact that we had climbed the first three and a half pitches, we would remember where the start was, well, to my complete embarrassment, we were a complete rock buttress away from the start. Eventually after faffing around in the scree we found the start of the route, not before I had gone a little mad and started to talk to myself and my bag, trying to work out how I could not find the start, what a moron I was, was this route jinxed, did it not like me… I’m a little weird at times and have a trait to talk to inanimate objects like they are alive and have fully functioning personalities, who knows one day they might answer back!
Eventually we set off, at around 10.00am, and I led off first. The first three pitches were the same as before (obviously), apart from the fact that we were not hauling up a massive bag, which is a lesson learnt. Instead we took our new Simon Cliff bag; when I first saw this bag in the shop I did not have a good word to say about it, although I will now eat my words. After the problems when we last climbed the route, this bag has solved them all, it fits all the basics, food, water, waterproofs etc, and is still small and light enough to not even realise you are wearing it, which happened a couple of times today. I would recommend this to any climber for a climbing pack, it’s an awesome bit of kit!
I was happy to climb the 5c pitch again, and found it easier than the first two times I climbed it, which is hopefully a sign of improvement in my climbing. Even better, the next pitch was the one we gave up on last time and turned around, however this time Jess aced it and gave a triumphant shout when she past the crux move she had struggled on before. It was good to see that we were both climbing well.
We pushed on upwards and after a couple of easier pitches of 5a, one of which was extremely run out, or I was off route, either way the climbing was easy so it did not matter to much. I was mainly thinking of the next 5c pitch and could see it creeping closer as we pushed through the easier sections. Once again, I settled myself before the pitch and tried to psyche myself up, I find that when I have the right mindset I climb so much better. I dispatched this pitch with only one struggle, in the middle of the pitch, over the slight lean back where I was struggling for a positive hold to make the move, however once found, the rest was easy. This signaled the end of the main climbing and we would now be going over the ridges to the summit, which I presumed to be a walk, although there was a surprise in store as it had more climbing than I had imagined.
This was when a gust of wind cut across the face, and I had the feeling that this was no mild summer breeze passing by, but the ominous wind that precedes a change in the weather. As to confirm this, we started to move along the ridge with occasional showers, which played on my mind a little as I did not fancy climbing the final 5c pitch in the rain…
I suppose this just added to the variety of the climb, the ridge was exposed in places and had some spaced bolted protection, so we moved together rather than pitching the climbing, as it was graded from 2-5 so was within our ability to simul climb. Although at some point I lost the bolts, so continued by placing my own protection as I went, until we regained the ridge and eventually stumbled across another bolt. Not long after this came the final real pitch of climbing, another 5c, with a slightly overhanging first move, which was a bit of a struggle, but once it was done the rest of the climb was easy.
Soon after we were on the summit, one of the highest peaks in the Aiguille Rouges. The wind had picked up a little more and it was clear from this point of view that a band of bad weather was working it’s way over the summits towards us. So a quick couple of photos and a snack later, and we set off down the Crochues Traverse, for our descent route.
At this time we were racing the clock and the weather, we knew this was a long route, and including the decent we would be very close to missing the last lift down. We simul climbed down the entire traverse, which included a 35m chimney graded at 4a, this would have required a lot of concentration either way, however it was at this point that the rain came in earnest, and every hold was wet and slippy. This was dangerous, even without the rain, but with, it required all my concentration to get down safely. We had made the calculation between speed and safety, vying more toward speed and I believe that what we did was on the cusp of this divide for me, one false move and this would have been a bad day at the office, however we both descended the route safely so it’s seems the math was on point today. The rest of the route was down climbing scree and choss all the way back to the path we started on.
We pushed the pace, even to the point of not taking the rope off, we did not want to miss the lift, we both took falls on the scree, but we were ok. Eventually we got to the lift at 17.00, with 30 minutes to spare, and finally sorted our gear out. At this point we must have looked like a rag tag pair of climbers, we had put our rain coats on over the top of everything; rope, coils, back packs, we were still roped together as if on a climb and it stayed that way until we got to the lift, with everything else hanging off our harnesses. So it was good to de kit, sort out and look a little more presentable.
We have both agreed that this route was pretty epic, especially when combined with the traverse decent. When I saw the route from Pointe Gaspard I thought it looked like a good climb, however now I’ve done it I know it is. I really enjoyed the mixture of bolts and trad, the variety of climbing, pitching and simul climbing, good weather and bad, safety and danger and a sustained grade throughout, it was all in there. It is also great to have the opportunity to climb tougher grades in the mountains, with the exposure and views, however with the added safety net of fixed protection. I’m so glad that we went back and gave it another go. Although, I think I will need a day off after today as it was a long physical day in the mountains, with little food and drink and I know I will sleep well tonight. Although as ever, it looks like my rest day will be cloudy and raining for a change!?! On the point of weather, can someone let whoever deals with the weather in Chamonix know that it’s summer and therefore that usually means sun. Every climb for the last week, we have either been rained on or we have just been able to outrun the weather. I kind of fancy a week of sun at some point, please, pretty please??