Week in Chamonix
Well, I survived my week in Chamonix - shame I didn't manage to climb any mountains! It turns out to be surprisingly difficult to get to Cham from Geneva (the nearest airport, incidentally) - there's a twice-daily coach (thirty quid) and a four-times-daily train (twenty quid) with two changes. Eventually I got to the campsite and met up with Andy and Sarah. This was Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday were rained off. The forecast for Friday, Saturday and Sunday were good so after much, much discussion (I wanted to do snow routes, Sarah wanted to do rock, Andy wisely kept his opinions to himself) we decided to head up the Mer de Glace and climb the Aiguille du Moine.
It took us most of Friday to pack, naturally, and just as we walked out of the campsite it started hailing. We eventually got to the Montenvers railway at about half-four, and our progress up the glacier was lethargic to put it mildly. At sunset we reached the Via Ferrata up the cliffs from the Leschaux Glacier toward the Couvercle Hut (near which we'd planned to camp) and knew that we had another four hundred metres to ascend. We turned round and camped on the glacier.
A 6am start saw us up the ladders and at the hut at about eight, and nearing the top of the Petit Moine glacier and the start of the route at about nine. The route was obvious at first, but soon became non-obvious and we certainly took several long-cuts. We soloed (attracting the admonitions of at least one passing guide) until the route brought us back to the steep couloir we were nominally following; at this point a steep but wide snow gully. Since we'd left our ice gear at the start of the rock, getting up this was interesting: Sarah volunteered to lead it, and was unamused when yours truly cried "icy death" as she neared twenty metres of runout and the first protection opportunity. (In my defence, she'd all but ordered me to...) We made it up safely though, and several steep and off-route pitches later we reached the summit ridge, where some on-route and English-speaking passers-by told us that we were about 45 minutes from the summit. It 4pm and we were knackered, so we did the only sensible thing: went down, using up every piece of ab tat we possessed (plus a load that we scavanged) in the process. Downclimbing the ladders to the glacier by torchlight ranks as one of the less pleasant experiences of my, um, experience, but with the psychological aid of two cow-tails I made it safely and arrived back at the tent at ten thirty where Andy and Sarah (who had run down from the hut) were waiting with tea.
Needless to say we abandoned our plans to climb the Aiguille de Tacul the next day and just yomped on down to Montenvers.
And that's about it. Two more days of rain and then I came back and let Andy and Sarah get on with climbing hard things. I've now been roped (no pun intended!) into a trip back to the Couvercle hut this weekend. The Nonne and the Cardinal are on the list of possibilities, but I will most definitely be avoiding a repeat of the Moine! (Read my lips etc.)