One step forward, two steps back! (La Somone, D- 5a)

In my last post In Descent Proposal, Voie Ravanel (D, 5b), Pointes de Bayere, I finished by mentioning that the descent had been hampered somewhat by a pain in my ankle. Although this pain was not so acute to stop, it was enough to keep me aware that it might get worse, especially on the scree and crap that we were descending. I had, as I had many times that day wedged my foot in a crack, twisted it, to lock it in place and then moved upwards on the route, however at one time I guess this led to the injury, although I cannot precisely say when? By the time I was back in the valley, I thought it would be better with a days rest and just left it at that.

In the end I’ve had a couple of days off for it to heal. As you might have guessed the weather has been captain amazeballs on these injury days, which is a slight annoyance given how many bad days we have waited through in the hope of a good spell, and when it has come, I’m injured! So after a couple of days, I spoke to my friend George back home, described the injury and he let me know that I needed to elevate it and take some ibuprofen to reduce the swelling, as well as this, to rest it, but don’t be immobile, still use it…

I have determined that this means that maybe I should climb a little easier, find a route with a short approach time and just incase I fail miserably and if the two points above don’t work , make sure I’m on a bolted route to avoid the potential of falling to my death when my foot stops working mid climb. Well I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant by it anyway…

There is quite a criteria to fill there, but luckily, there is an amazing variety of routes to choose from and after a quick look through the guidebooks I have decided that we will climb a route called La Somone (D, 5b), this route is predominantly a grade 4 climb, so that’s a tick for climbing easier, it has a 20 minute approach, again another tick. Add to this that it is bolted and easily escapade throughout, it sounds like this route was made to measure with my kenundndrum in mind! As well as this, I’ve never been up this part of the Aiguille Rouge, so this will be an all new area to explore!

We went into town the next morning looking for signs for the Brevent lift and did not see any, so just made as close to a beeline for the foot of the lift (on our way home we found a more direct route). Once on the lift we were packed in with hikers, paragliders and other climbers, so a good variety of the adventurous pursuits available from Chamonix. In two lifts we were at the top and were greeted by some lovely views of Mont Blanc and also across the ridge lines of the Aiguille Rouge, from the top we made our way down the jeep track, passing between the climbing crag until we could see our climb. Hmm, was my first thought, this looked a little…little. Seriously, compared to everything we had done previously on this trip we were about to take on a hobbit version of a climb.

So we got to the foot of this micro machine climb and kitted up, I was surprised to see another group follow us to the base, the route was so small I’m not sure 2 groups could fit on. Before long Jess had climbed the first pitch, and by long I mean short, mili seconds after starting, Jess was perched at the first belay, so we decided to link the pitches, as this was not a pitch….well not really.

I followed up and even on this easy climb I could feel a niggle, not on every step, but every now and then. This seriously played on my mind throughout the climb, I remember when I last had a serious ish climbing injury (on my other ankle), and even after 6 months without climbing, when I started I could not confidently weight the foot and it’s a similar story now. I feel weak on my ankle, and therefore I do not have any confidence in climbing, I suppose I’m also fearful of furthering injury as the next ten months is predominantly a climbing trip.

At our first belay I explained to Jess that I wanted to second each pitch. The other pitches were similar to the first, and one 5 grade pitch helped to add a little character to a climb that was not only fit for the borrowers, but also super easy, even with a messed up ankle. It was nearly boring, which might seem like a bold statement, but it felt like we were going through the motions for the sake of it, rather than because we wanted to.

Eventually the climb topped out at the crag and a walk to the left led to the final two pitches that were so disconnected to the rest of the climb, the whole thing felt like cragging rather than a multi pitch, again Jess led and I followed. Once at the top we found a comfy rock that would serve as a chair and had our lunch taking in the amazing scenery, and people watching on those walking up or down the jeep track. After, we went to the crag and Jess did a climb, before we decided we’d had enough and went back up to the lift. It was not long and we were back in our van having some snacks and a drink. My ankle felt a little swollen, but it was not too bad, however it was not ready to start the type of climbing and routes that we had been pushing these last few weeks and I’m a little disheartened by the whole thing. This day was supposed to be easy, a test day of sorts, however my ankle has failed the test, and I feel like my climbing will suffer from this lapse of training and also my mindset will will follow suit.

We are now looking at some easier routes so we can take advantage of the nice days coming over the next week, although many of the climbs on my wish list may just stay there until the next time I come back to Chamonix. As well as this, Mont Blanc is looking like a no go, as the snow is soft due to high temperatures, there have even been a couple of deaths this year due to rock fall on the couloir, so I do not feel that the whole thing is worth the risk, unless the next week allows it to freeze enough to be safe again.

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