Paul James, MIC - - Winter and Rock Climbing Conditions

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

28-04-10, Mont Blanc Massif - Alpine Climbing

Grandes Jorasses to Mont Blanc

I am back in Wales now, but the last week in the alps, we were able to climb some alpine routes. Good stable weather for the mountains in Chamonix meant we were able to get up high and see what condition the mountains were in. On Thursday we got the first lift up the Grandes Montet, to do an acclimatization route up the Petite Verte, we climbed Chevalier Couloir (300m), which didn't take very long but allowed us stretch our legs from all the sport climbing and breathe some thin air for a few hours! It is a fairy average route (snow slope) but nice to get up high. After hearing reports that Couturier Couloir was in good condition we returned to the Grandes Montet lift station and bivied the night on Friday. An early start 4am on Saturday we walked to base of the 1000m route, crossed the bergshrunde and started climbing before sunrise. The couloir is in good climbing condition with much of the black ice buried under neve and fresher snow. We descended the Whymer Couloir (started just before 11:30am) into the Talefre Glacier, which was a little exciting with numerous sluff avalanches funneling down as we abseiled the last 200m. We were too late to catch the Montevers Train back to Chamonix so bivied by the Couvercle Hut Friday evening. Routes in the Argentiere Basin seem to be getting climbed and skied a lot, Swiss Route on Courtes, Ginat and Lagarde on Droites. The Skiing resorts are closing, which is probably just as well, with the remaining snow at 2500m and below being slush!

Busy at the start of the difficulties on the continuously sustained Couturier Couloir - Aiguille Verte.

Kath on Chevalier Couloir - Petite Aiguille Verte.

Summit Aiguille Verte 4122m.

Descending Whymper Couloir with Grandes Jorasses in background.

Abseil descent off Whymper Couloir, with numerous sluff avalanches constantly occurring!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

20-04-10, Finale, Italy - Rock Climbing

Finale Ligure seen high up from Rocca di Perti

The last week, I drove south from Chamonix to Italy to try and escape the poor weather which had been forecast. On the way to Finale we climbed a nice 250m sport route at Arnard Bard in the Val d'Aosta. The wether has been mixed in Finale, from hot sunshine to overcast skies and heavy rain! We have managed 4 days sports cragging which has been ace. Finale truely is an awesome place. Steep, solid pocketed limestone, with buttresses hidden all over the valley from 10m - 200m in height. It is well bolted and feels sharp and maybe hard for the grade! It is well worth a visit, for the beauty, climbing, training, if nothing else its chilled out vibe, and for coffee and pizza by the beach!

An amazing 30m 5+ sport route on Monte Sordo

Monte Sordo 6a

Monday, 12 April 2010

12-04-10, Switzerland - Ski Touring

The last week I managed to find some dry rock in North Wales and climbed on Clwyd limestone with Barni and Liam on Monday and then at Tremadog with James and Liam on Wednesday. I Flew out to Geneva on Thursday and will be in the Alps for the next 3 weeks.

(PK and Kath at the Plateau du Couloir after booting up the steep section from the first hut)

On Friday PK, Kath and myself embarked on a shorter four day version of the classic and original 'Haute Route' ski tour (Chamonix to Zermatt). Due to PK having a flight to catch 5 days later and numerous mountain huts being fully booked we started the tour from Bourg in Switzerland and travelled to the Valsorey hut on day 1. Over Plateau du Couloir down Glacier du Mont Durand to the Charion hut on day 2. Up the Glacier d'Otemma to the Vignettes hut on day 3. Down to Arolla today. Friday to Sunday we had glorious sunny weather, but it soon deteriorated Sunday afternoon and this morning to being cloudy and snowing. The journey and scenery was ace, despite the downhill skiing not being the best. Today with the poor weather forecast and epic consequences we missed out on the best part of the tour which should travel east from the Vignettes towards Zermatt, skiing downhill almost all of the 24km distance passing under the north face of the Matterhorn. The weather is set to be unsettled in the alps or the next few days, however I hope to do some more skiing and hopefully some rock climbing in the weeks to come.
(taking skins off skis to ski down towards the Charion hut, day 2)

(smiles all round, day 4 - skiing back down to Arolla)

(skiing down from Vignettes hut this morning)

Saturday, 3 April 2010

03-04-10, Snowdonia - ML Training and NNAS Course

Last weeks Summer Mountain Leader Training course was wet, this weeks ML Training course was cold and snowy! Most snow had disappeared from Snowdonia bar some large patches hanging in on high northerly cwms. Wednesday saw very wintry weather arrive, which has topped up the white stuff. Snow was falling down to 200m, it has been warmer over the last couple of days leaving the snow line above 600m. Today I was working on a NNAS (National Navigation Award Scheme) Bronze training and assessment course for Plas y Brenin. The park is busy, being Easter and sunny weather I am not surprised, the Snowdon horseshoe and Glyders looked white and beautiful, and I am sure people are getting out doing some wintry climbing and mountaineering. PJ Mountains is an open course provider for the NNAS Bronze and Silver awards so if you would like to learn how to navigate and get a nationally recognised certificate at the end, get in contact