12/1/06 Mont Blanc du Tacul, Chamonix.
Mixed and mild weather has seen less folk out climbing over the last week or so and the lack of fresh snow has meant the skiing is still poor. However a few keen parties have been out on Mont Blanc du Tacul which is still giving good conditions on routes such as the Modica Noury, Scotch on the Rocks and the Supercouloir direct start. On Pointe Lachenal folk have climbed Voie Pellisier and M6 Solar. This latter route provides a good short day with 4 pitches up to about Scottish V. It's been popular this year due to the fine icy runnels that have formed on it. It's possible to leave your skis at the top of the route, walk round to the base of the crag, climb the route and ski off down the Vallee Blanche.
29/12/06 Supercouloir, Mont Blanc du Tacul, Chamonix.
Mark on the Supercouloir direct start at dawn
The upper Supercouloir has been icy for the last couple of months but more recently the direct start has gained a significant amount of ice and is providing a number of teams with 2 superb pitches of icy mixed climbing with convenient rap points for descent. The upper ice pitches are fairly fat just now and seem less steep than the guide book suggests (sustained Scottish IV).
Mark Thomas and I climbed the direct start and continued over the summit of Mont Blanc du Tacul - providing a fine winter alpine outing.
The upper ice pitches of the Supercouloir
27/12/06 'Holiday North Face' atmosphere on the Aguille du Midi, Chamonix.....
Mark heading towards the crux pitch of Fil a Plomb
Continuing perfect winter weather and good ice in Chamonix mean many teams have been out enjoying the good conditions. Numerous different routes were completed on the Midi North Face today from Fil a Plomb on the East side of the Face to the Eugster Direct (which is very icy compared to when I climbed in it May) round on the North West Face.
Mark and I enjoyed good conditions on 'Fil a Plomb' which provided 3 long icy pitches and a lot of easy snow - much of which was excellent neve.
Aguille du Midi North Face 27/12/06
Numerous other teams, including some guided parties, climbed the North Face of the Col du Plan in very comfortable freak to freak style whilst other climbers 'rolled the dice' on the Chere Couloir and variants just left of the Frendo Spur.
24/12/06 Omega receives more British Ascents....
Neil on thin ice - Omega. Photo: Andy Houseman
Excellent Ice conditions on the Petite Jorasses turned the modern test-piece 'Omega' into a thin ice route rather than a mixed desperate. First free climbed in December 2004 by Nick Bullock and Stu Mcaleese the route has now had a number of free ascents by French, Italian and, most recently, 2 strong British teams.
Andy Houseman and Neil Brodie climbed the route from the Leschaux hut - to the summit of the Pettite Jorasses and back - in a single day push. Andy reported brilliant thin ice climbing and whilst the difficulties were perhaps considerably eased by the presence of more ice - it clearly was still not a 'romp'....as Andy's photo shows! A few days before Andy and Neil's ascent Omega had also been climbed by Kenton Cool and Neil Mcnab.
23/12/06 Cogne conditions better than expected.....
Sustained cold temperatures at Cogne have seen the spring fed routes building rapidly and things are in much better shape than a week or so ago. Up the Valnontey both Patri lines have formed and Repentence was there - if rather thin, it should only get better. We climbed a L hand variation to Flash Estivo which gave good thick, soft and wet ice at about Scottish IV/V.
The Lilaz valley had some good options too with reports from the Cafe book describing Sudori Fredi as Tres bon and Cold Couloir and Coyote as OK. The Cappuchino in the Cafe Licone was as good as ever!
Clear but cold and windy alpine winter conditions departing the Aguille du Midi, Chamonix
22/12/06 Difficult weather conditions in Chamonix prevent many teams climbing....
Teams leaving the Aguille du Midi telepherique this morning were greeted by 100km/hr winds and temperatures of -20C. The resulting wind chill and amount of snow being blown around made the prospect of leaving the station fairly unpleasant never mind doing a route! The 'brave' souls that did depart....were back in about 3 minutes!
21/12/06 Great Early Winter Ice on Mont Blanc du Tacul....
The first Midi 'freak' and the Abri Simond Hut have been busy with folk enjoying the excellent early winter weather and goulotte ice conditions on Mont Blanc du Tacul.
Teams have been climbing many of the classic Tacul goulottes in excellent 'fat-ice' conditions including the Gabarrou Albinoni and Modica Noury, pictured left.
Also pictured here, 'Scotch on the Rocks' (Stevie Hastons mid-90's test piece) was climbed by John Bracey and Nick Bullock who showed impressive energy and enthusiasm by returning the next day to add a decent new 9 pitch route to Pointe Lachenal. Name and grade to be confirmed....
Andy heading off into the superb icy groove of Pinocchio, pitch 4
19/12/06 Pinocchio, Mont Blanc du Tacul
Andy Houseman and I climbed Stevie Haston's other line on this face. Pinocchio provided 8 excellent sustained ice and mixed pitches up to about Scottish VI,7. The amount of ice probably made it considerably easier than many other ascents in recent years where folk have reported sketchy and not always well protected mixed climbing.
Alison skiing above Zermatt with the East Face of the Matterhorn and Dent Blanche in the background
15/12/06 Zermatt and Saas Fee Ski Conditions....
Early season conditions in these two high Swiss resorts are much better than the UK media coverage of the early alpine winter had led me to believe. Quiet, perfect pistes are open right down to the resorts and the off-piste skiing on the glacier from the Klein Matterhorn (pictured left) provided some excellent early season thigh burning turns!
Folk have also been skiing the Breithorn and Allalinhorn - the 4000m peaks accessed from the tops of these two resorts although we turned around on the latter due to unstable snow conditions on the steep summit slopes.