Montag, 26. September 2016

La perla preziosa - Heiligkreuzkofel - 07.09.2016

 Heiligkreuzkofel - La perla preziosa - 07.09.2016

After having passed the season in Chamonix and having worked and climbed some good routes in good company I had to return back home - even if just for a few days. I was lucky and it wasn't hard to find some friend to climb a good route with. 
Uli seemed quite motivated to climb a route I had dreamed of for the last few years. 
La Perla Preziosa is a modern route opened by Nicola Tondini in 2006-2008. It is not that long but the climbing is quite sustained and the crux pitch is given IX+. This is mainly the reason why I did never try this route. I thought I'd probably manage to get to the top of the crux pitch somehow but I would not be able to free-climb it if I was not in a super good shape. 
Certainly I did not feel super strong or perhaps I should say that after two months in Chamonix I really didn't know how I would perform on "home rock". But in the end this was a route that motivated me and what I was sure about was that Uli was in a veeery good shape and that he would certainly manage to climb the route. 
So at 8.30 we took the chairlift to the hut and from there we slowly started to walk towards the base of the route. In order not to have to climb with a backpack, Uli suggested to pull up a haul bag. 
I started climbing up the first pitch, quite easy, one section around V, but on loose rock. The second pitch still isn't very hard and offers nice climbing on good rock. The third pitch is already a bit harder and is graded VIII-, nice rock, well protectable. The fourth pitch is probably the best pitch of the route, VIII (the first half of the pitch is the harder part). This pitch leeds to a good ledge. The fifth pitch has some harder sections followed by good rests and an exposed traverse at the end of the pitch to get to the anchor. Thanks Uli for the patience on that pitch! 
The sixth pitch is the crux pitch: first you traverse to the right, then you climb up a small dihedral and get to two bolts. From the second bolt you climb to the right and then straight up before traversing again on easier ground to the right to get to the anchor. The seventh pitch is given VIII and offers some nice climbing on vertical slabs. We missed the last pitch because at the end of the seventh one I traversed to much to the right and so we did the last pitch of the Direkte große Mauer. 
The route is very beautiful and certainly is recommendable. The most delicate sections are probably the end of the VIII+ pitch (traverse) and on the crux pitch climbing from the second bolt to the anchor. 
According to the grading I think that the grades are generally quite soft. Especially the crux pitch is in our opinion WAY easier than it is graded. We suggest VIII+/IX- or  SOFT XI- for that pitch = 7b/+ instead of 7c+. To avoid misunderstandings: it was our personal feeling and hasn't nothing to do with the beauty or seriousness of the climb. 
Happy to have onsighted this one! :-)

Second pitch

Third pitch

Third pitch

Fourth pitch

Fourth pitch

Fourth pitch

Last part of the fifth pitch

Start of the sixth pitch - crux pitch

Sixth pitch

Sixth pitch - towards the first bolt

Seventh pitch

First pitch

Hanging on the anchor after the third pitch

Montag, 19. September 2016

Grandes Jorasses - Manitua -26.08.2016

Manitua - Grandes Jorasses

Even though the rainy weather at the beginning of this summer didn't make me hope for good conditions on long rock routes on big north faces, conditions towards mid-end of August got better and better. 
Last year I had heard about a few roped parties that had climbed a route called Manitua on the Grandes Jorasses and the idea of climbing that route fascinated me. Marc Toralles, a spanish friend of mine that I first met a few weeks earlier, told me he had read that the conditions on the Jorasses were quite good and that someone had repeated that route some days earlier. 
The route was first climbed by Slavko Sveticic (solo!) in 1991. Afterwards the route got some repetitions, mostly in winter. 
Last summer two or three  roped parties did a one-day ascent of the route. 
Manitua climbs the steep about 350-400m wall on the left side of the Croz Pillar. To get to this wall you first have to climb a snow/ice field then you follow a diagonal snow/ice ramp to the left and then you climb up on mixed terrain (in dry conditions, like when we climbed it, mostly easy and partly loose rock) until you get underneath the hard section of the route. Ten pitches of rock climbing up to 7a+/b, with a last pitch of A3 or (like we did) 7c (6c/A1), lead to the top of this steep wall. From there the climbing gets easier and the difficulties more classical - but still not to underestimate. 
The weather for the week of the 22th seemed to be very stable and warm. Marc had to do some guiding work in the Ecrins until the 23th and so we decided to meet the 24th in Chamonix, go to the Leschaux hut and climb on the 25th. 
As the weather was to good to just sit around and wait for the day we would go up to the Leschaux hut I decided to climb something the day before and as I didn't find anyone who wanted to do some harder stuff I went to solo the Gervasutti. 
Even though I didn't really go that fast all the way, the next day I still felt quite sore and it did't take me that long to realize I felt too tired to climb a committing route like Manitua the day after. Fortunately Marc felt the same way: three days of guiding, rushing to Chamonix from les Ecrins, packing the stuff as fast as possible to get the four o'clock train to Montenvers isn't exactly the best way to start a hard climbing journey. 
After two and a half hours of walking we got to the Leschaux hut and yes, we felt tired. We both agreed that it would be better to take a rest day at the hut as the weather forecast for friday was still very good. It would not have been wise to just go for if the next day because we planned to climb the route in one day, what meant that we didn't bring nor sleeping bags nor a stove. We just brought our down jackets and a two men bivi bag.  
The rest day on the hut gave us the opportunity to recover and check out the line with the spyglass a bit. Thanks to Chloe , the hut keeper and her cat Jorasses we felt welcome and in good hands.
Contrary to the first night where the hut was completely booked out and therefore we had to sleep outside in front of the hut, the second day we had the hut all for ourselves. Two other climbers arrived to the hut in the afternoon. The funny thing was that I had met those two guys on the Gervasutti two days before. Now David and Misha were going to climb the Walker Spur via the Cassin Route - what a coincidence! 
Friday we all got up at about 1.30, had breakfast and started at around 2.15. After having walked up the glacier with Misha and David for a while, Marc and me continued more towards the right in direction of the Croz Spur. We quickly climbed the snow ramp and the diagonal traverse. On the rocky part we tied in and mostly simul climbed to the beginning of the harder pitches. 
We lost a little bit of time because at the beginning of the "mixed" section we went to much to the left and then had to down climb one pitch. 
Underneath the steep wall we first did not understand exactly where we had to climb up. The first pitch is given 6c/+ but we could not figure out which line we had to follow, so instead of "climbing into the Nirvana" and loose precious time we decided to do the easier variation on the left (5c). Not perfectly ethical, I know, but as we didn't see any pitons nor any possibility to place gear and we were not sure about where to climb up, I didn't like the idea to just go for it. 
After this first pitch we opted to both climb without backpacks what meant that we had to tie both backpacks to one end of a half rope and lift them up - incredibly strenuous without a pulley and certainly not the fastest solution......
We were lucky - most of the pitches were dry or at least not that wet and so little by little we gained height. I was quite happy I managed to onsight/flash everything up to the last pitch. 
The last pitch did not look like something I could manage to free-climb or at least not without properly checking it out, and as I am not used to aid climb and we just brought one cliff I wisely decided to take the left finish climbing the last pitch of Bubu Bole's route "le Nez". Getting from the last rock piton to the anchor was probably the most tricky part and costed me quite some effort.  
We reached the nevé overneath the main difficulties at about 4.30-5 o'clock. I think the rocky part has taken us about 7,5h. 
From there we followed the original line of the route climbing a mixed gully on the left of a rock pillar. Then we followed the rocky ridge of the classic Croz Spur including one super loose and almost unprotectable pitch. The last two pitches we climbed a mixed couloir that leads right go the left of the summit. Certainly the upper part was not in the best conditions, so we were happy that we had brought two technical ice axes each, otherwhise it would have gotten quite uncomfortable......

At 20.50 we both stood on the summit. 
Abseiling straight from the Point Croz on the crumbly southern side was certainly not the best thing we could do and I can not recommend it. Anyway we came to the top with the last daylight and the glacier underneath us was disappearing in the clouds and the fog. We just had enough time to figure out which direction we had to descend. It took us about 3,5-4 hours to descent those 300m. once on the glacier and back on a good track it wasn't complicated anymore to get to the Boccalatte hut. As it was quite warm and In order not to wake up anyone we just lay down on the terrace in front of the hut and slept for a few hours. The hut is run by Franco Perlotto, a very friendly and hospitable mountain legend. After having drunk two coffees and eaten a breakfast-pasta we slowly descended to the valley and took the bus back to Chamonix. 
And the best comes last: "all you can eat dinner" at the Wok restaurant in Sallanches.....:-)

3th pitch 6b

Mixed section in the upper part

7a+/b pitch

Donnerstag, 8. September 2016

Mont Blanc du Tacul - Pilier Gervasutti - Free solo* - 23-08-2016

There are many guides that really just think about working and making as much money as possible. Probably I am doing something wrong, perhaps I am just living too much for the moment. Life is short and we usually don't know when and how it is going to end, so in my opinion spending all the time working is a waste of time. (well, someone else could say that I am wasting time because I am not making money – different points of view. I think happiness is not something you can simply buy). 

After having guided a Mont Blanc around the 20th I was motivated to climb some harder stuff for myself, but as this time I didn't plan anything in advance, it was impossible to find a climbing partner. So after two days of looking at the blue sky I decided that I should go and climb something alone. One route I had on my list of routes I could and wanted to solo was the Pilier Gervasutti. According to some narrations I heard the biggest problem of the Gervasutti was not get lost on the first part, while as in one guidebook they write that the Gervasutti is extremely exposed to rockfall in the upper part. Others told me that first pitch was the crux of the route and that most of the route was mainly safe from the point of view of the rockfall..
I knew that the only possibility to get an impression of the route was to go there and have a look myself. The route is mainly exposed to southeast and so it gets into the sun quite early in the morning. I knew it would be safer to start early on one side but first I don't like climbing with cold hands and I may sound repetitive but I don't really like bivouacs. 

The first cablecar started at about 7.00 but there were quite a few people waiting and so I managed to take the bin at about 7.20. At 7.50 i started to descend along the exposed ridge of the Aiguille du Midi and then I speeded up a little bit. After one hour I was standing underneath the first pitch. As the original entrance of the route is not doable anymore due to the glacier melting most of the people start climbing at the lowest point of the rock pillar following a steep and slippery looking crack. The gaping bergschrund didn't increase my motivation to climb up that pitch and so I opted for another variant that starts a little bit higher on the left. I crossed some big crevasses that were filled with big ice-blocks and got to a quite easy rock-ramp that led to a small ledge where I could take off my crampons and boots and put them into my backpack.
Climbing up I remembered a friend of mine who told me not to go too much to the right but take a crack/dihedral to the right of the corner. I don't know if I went the right way because at a certain point I stood underneath a quite short but difficult looking dihedral with a fix cam, a rock piton and a bolt. After trying to figure out if there wasn't any easier solution I decided to climb up the dihedral. As the climbing seemed quite delicate and to feel a little bit safer I decided to „belay“ myself with the daisy-chain clipping it first to the piton and then to the bolt. After that short section the climbing got easier again and I started to feel a bit more relaxed again. I stopped a few times to look at the description, take some pictures and to take off the climbing shoes for some minutes. 

Instead of doing a first aid pitch on the northern side of the pillar I took a variant on the left that was marked on the topo. The second aid pitch was not that hard, perhaps 6a and it was completely dry, so I free-climbed it. The mixed ramp on the northern side of the ridge was relatively dry and so I just followed on with my climbing shoes, now and the stepping into the snow and trying to avoid icy patches.

Before the last sharp rock ridge you have to climb up an easy mud-rock couloir with many loose blocks (This part could be quite dangerous if there are other climbers above you). Fortunately there wasn't anyone in the couloir so I passed this part quite quickly. From there the summit seemed very close and so it was.. 

the mixed ramp
I arrived at the top at 13.38, after a little bit less then 4 ½ hours of climbing.
Happy and saddisfied I descended the Tacul and got back to the Aiguille du Midi some minutes after three o'clock in the afternoon. 
looking back after the loose rock couloir

Material: 60m Kevlar (for emergency – not used), daisy chain, short kevlar, 2-3 karabiners and rappel device, 1 icescrew, 1 omega pacific cam – red, about 1l water, some muesli bars, helmet, crampons, 1 tecnical iceaxe, climbing shoes, chalkbag, suncream, sunglasses, gloves, jacket, primaloft vest.
Roundtrip: ca 7h 10'

Donnerstag, 18. August 2016

Pilier Rouge du Brouillard - Bonatti Oggioni - Free Solo

Pilier Rouge du Brouillard – Bonatti Oggioni - Free Solo

After having guided some Mt Blancs I felt like I had to do something for myself again. The red bible – Batoux's 100 finest routes is always a good inspiration if you want to amplify your „to do“ list.
Many people had told me about the great rock routes on the red pilar of the Brouillard and looking at the guidebook some weeks ago I saw that the Bonatti-Oggioni could be a interesing solo goal.

To access the pillar from the Val Veny you first have to go to the Monzino hut (2590m) and from there continue from to the Eccles bivouac (3850m). The climbing itself is about 400m long, mostly about V/V+ with one 6a pitch at the beginning. From the top of the pillar another 600m of climbing on poor rock along the Brouillard Ridge lead to the summit of the Mt Blanc.

As I came back from guiding the Mt Blanc on friday 12th I knew that it would be hard to find someone to do something interesting the next days, since most of my friends were guiding those days.
Anyway I felt a bit tired from the last days so I went sportclimbing the day after descending to Chamonix – but I knew the conditions in the mountains where very good and I didn't want to miss a good oportunity to realize one of my little projects.
The Pilier Rouge seen from the Eccles
Friday morning I finally decided that I wanted to climb the Bonatti Route so I packed my stuff, bought some food (and a new pair of boots :-), and took the bus to Courmayeur and from there to Val Veny. As the decision was quite spontanous, the timing was not perfect and so I started to walk up to the Monzino hut at about 18.10. I still felt quite tired from the last days and my relatively heavy backpack didn't reduce that feeling of heavyness in my legs. Anyway I reached the hut at about half past eight, early enough to enjoy a great dinner.
As I hadn't had time to go to print the topo I had all the route infos on my mobile phone... fortunately I had remembered to bring the charging cable....but unfortunately I forgot to turn the phone off before i went to bed.
When I got up at half past two I realized that the battery of my phone was completely empty, as it had been searching for a signal all night long and after 10 o'clock the generator had been turned off.
I already thought I would have to to drop my plan but unexpectedly I found an external battery charger in the kitchen – like manna from heaven.
I started at a quarter past four. The battery was amoust completely charged and my legs felt way fitter than the day before. 

The approach to the Eccles bivouac is quite long but fortunately not so hard to find. Compared to last year the conditions of the glacier were way better and so I reached the bivouac after about 2,5 hours. The lower part of the Pilier Rouge was still in the shadow and so I took a short break at the bivouac. 

Then I slowly started to descend towards the base of the route and climbed the first short and easy pitch to a ledge where I took off my boots and crampons and put on the climbing shoes. As I didn't want to free solo climb the 6a pitch with a nearly 10kg backpack I tied one end of my 60m kevlar to the backpack and the other to my harness. After having climbed this first pitch I lifted up the backpack, put the kevlar away and continued climbing. 

The quality of the rock is excellent and the route follows a logical line of cracks, chimneys and dihedrals. After 2h15, at 10.45 I reached the top of the pillar. 
the quartz crack
the 6a pitch

The Brouillard ridge is not very difficult but still requires some concentration as the rock quality is not the best. Due to the heat of the last days there was almost any snow left on the ridge.
It was almost two o'clock when I reached the summit of the Mt Blanc. 

After another 3 hours of walking in the scorching heat I reached the Aiguille du Midi at about five o'clock. 
Happy and grateful for another great and adventurous experience out in the mountains!

Freitag, 1. April 2016

Les Drus - Direct North Couloir

After having spent most of the last two months in Norway skitouring, I was very psyched to climb some ice and mixed lines in my favorite alpine spot Chamonix.
As in this period I am quite short of time after having arrived to Bolzano I just had 10 hours to sleep a bit, pack my stuff and get ready to start again. Time is precious, so you better try to make the best out of it!

22.03.2016 - Mont Blanc du Tacul - Pinocchio


For the next day me and Thomas planned to climb something easly accessable and so we went for "Pinocchio", a nice mixed couloir (about 8 pitches up to M6) on the east face of the Mont Blanc du Tacul. The ice was not always very thick but all in all the conditions were ok and so after about 3- 3 1/2 hours we had done the hard pitches. But then we decided to keep on going towards the summit and the descent the Contamine-Mazeaud. As a consequence we returned to our skis quite late and had to descent the second half of the Vallée Blanche in the light of our headlamps - so romantic...
I had a bit of a headache because I had not been very high up for the last months and skiing down the icy slopes of the Vallée Blanche was not sooo much fun, but it had been a great day out in the mountains.   

The next day it was quite windy and so we had time to recover and decide what to do on thursday.
In the town we met Aaron and Martin, two friends of ours that had also come to Chamonix to climb and ski. Martin was a bit ill and so for the following day we planned to do something together with  Aaron.
Nowadays, if you have a facebook account and the right contacts it is quite easy to get some inspiration. We saw a post of Colin Haley and Dave Searle: they had climbed the Mont Dolent Northwest couloir and the descended by ski on the italian side to Val Ferret. It seemed to be a very good option and so we decided to go for it. As Martin could not come with us he offered us to pick us up in Val Ferret, so we would not have to hurry up to much trying to catch the last cablecar to return  back to Chamonix.

24.03.2016 - Mont Dolent - Northwest Gully


We took the first cabin to the Grands Montets, and from there we skied down to the Argentiere glacier, then skinned up and went to the very end of the glacier basin where the route starts.
We followed the left couloir for about 300m and then traversed diagonally to the left following a snow ramp that leads to the north ridge.

Underneath the summit on the last steep slope we had a quite scary moment as we saw two skiers, a man and a woman descent the icy slope sidestepping... as the girl didn't seem to feel really confortable I offered her to take her iceaxe off the backpack...a few meters lower her binding opened unexpectedly - I didn't even see it but fortunately Aaron and Thomas were behind me and helped her to take off the skis and put the crampons on.  
After a few hours of steady climbing, at 13.20 we stood on the top of this wounderful peak.

The descend was not very complicated. We first descended the southeast ridge by foot and then skied down towards the Val Ferret. There we "enjoyed" 10km of skating to get to the parking where Martin picked us up.
The weather on friday was bad and we needed a restday - a perfect combination. We still were not sure about what to do the next day. One option was the Direct North Couloir on the Dru but we knew that it would be quite a long day and I wanted to be back home on sunday for eastern...

26.03.2016 - Les Drus - Direct North Couloir


It was about 07.50 when we arrived to the parking of the cablecar in Argentiere...early enough? so we thought until we saw the crowd of saturday-skiers and alpinists waiting in front of the ticket office. Hmmm, and now what should we do? It was out of the question that we would manage to take the first cabin, so we thought about a valid alternative, but we could not find one :-). We just waited for our turn and finally we got to the top of Grands Montets at about 09.50. We put on the crampons and started at 10.00...yes, quite late - again.
We got to the base of the route after 1h40. There we did a little break and and at about 12 o'clock we started to climb.

We climbed up the lower part quite quickly and soon came to the start of the more technical pitches. We roped up and Thomas started climbing the M6+ pitch. As I followed it suddenly began to smell like seemed like climbing in a public toilet...probably someone had some digestive problems and had to "let it out"...
The following M5 pitch was quite short and as I wasn't sure if I already was at the right anchor I followed on climbing linking up also the third pitch (M7), what ended up with some simul climbing.

The fourth pitch is the crux of the route and is graded M8 - perhaps soft - don't know. Anyway very esthetical and the climbing is very good and not so scary.

A fifth pitch (a bit exposed) leads to the last part of the route, an approximately 250m ice couloir. This is the point where the direct couloir joins the classic route. This last part was almost the most strenuous part, probably also due to our blunt crampons.

At about 19.30, with the last light we reached the col.
From there we quite quickly abseiled the route and hiked back to the Grands Montets where we arrived at midnight. One hour and some turns on the icy slopes later we arrived at the car. Perfect timing :-)