Chamonix is BUSY! July and August are the busiest two months of the year with more people visiting than the whole of winter. The thing about winter is that they tend to be skiing and town is still relatively quiet, summer, however, is different, they are everywhere! In the hills. In the mountains. In the swimming pool. By the lake. But mostly in the super markets…all the time…..in the morning…..at lunch time….in the evening……ALL THE TIME!
As well as being busy with people it has been oppressively hot, in-fact its been a strange year with weather. A relatively warm winter, a very wet spring and now a scorching summer. All of these have meant for challenging conditions in the hills. The rain in spring caused flooding and substantial land slides. The heat we have had for the last month is making the mountains unstable and dangerous. Rock faces which normally hold snow over summer are bare and dry, the glaciers are melting faster than normal with big crevasses opening up and large rock falls from the mountains are common place at the moment. The famous Goutier route up Mont Blanc which is the normal route up has been ‘closed’ by the authorities and climbers urged not to attempt it. The Grand Couloir on the way up this route tends to throw rocks at people at the best of times but the heat has turned it into a contest shooting gallery of rocks….not a safe place to play at the moment!
The above image is the Argentiere basin with Aiguille du Chardonnet on the left, looking up the Argentiere Glacier to the right, everything is looking warm and dry.
The sensible climbers at the moment are heading to the places which are always snow and ice free in summer, big classic granite climbing is the way forward at the moment. A few friends headed to the Grand Capucin, a big, famous pinnacle of rock between Italy and France putting up some lovely photos on the internet to admire. We however are not that hardcore but nevertheless we have had a few good adventures recently.
At the beginning of the month Pete suggested the Voir Normal route on Aiguille du Moine. This is generally the descent route off the mountain but can be climbed also. We got lost on the face and ended up climbing things that were much harder than we set out to do. We didn’t get to the top. The walk in over two glaciers, climbing exposed ladders, a lovely bivi with a great view, freeze dried dinners and some comical belays and rappel points were enough to let us have a fun two days. That is of course the whole point of this being outside malarky so we were happy!
The lead climbing would cup started its tournament in Chamonix in July with some of the big names in the climbing world showing us their stuff on the 20 meter climbing wall that is constructed in the the Place du Mont Blanc every year. Very impressive stuff!
The crowd warming up!
We were also asked to be models for the fantastic mountain training facility in Scotland called Glenmore Lodge and also for the British Mountain Guides. We headed up to the Aiguille du Midi with our friends Andy Townsend a IFMGA mountain guide who works at Glenmore lodge and the British Mountain Guides along with another friend, Howard King, who was the amazing photographer. We spent two days up in the high mountains with a night in the Cosmiques Refuge at 3630m. Being high without much acclimatisation took its toll on all of us and was quite hard work. Georgie was the main model as she is much prettier (more marketable!) than Dan. Dan mostly kept Howard safe, stopping him falling in crevasses or off rocks while he was taking the photos. Obviously a more stupid model was needed to fall in a crevasse so Dan was up for that one! With a traverse of Point Lachenal (avoiding the big rockfall in the middle), glacial rope work skills and a few pitches of good rock climbing this was a great two days up high with great people.