Chamonix 2016

Chamonix was a last minute and mellow trip this year. Mellow mainly because I recently sustained a mild back injury while doing chest compressions at work. This was my fifth trip to area and I feel so fortunate that I keep getting to visit one of my favorite places on this planet. It’s busy and not exactly wilderness but the access is incredible and the rock is splitter. Plus there is an excess of gelato, croissants and capucino to eat and drink and lots of friends to play with.

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How is that for a good looking salad?!?

 

On my first day, Jonathon and Dylan decided they wanted to drive to Switzerland to climb the classic 450 meter Motörhead (6a+, 14 pitches) at Grimsel Pass. On the way, we stopped at this crag called Medji and climbed some bolted crack lines. Only in Europe do you find bolted cracks. It was quite fun even though everything felt hard.

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Dylan following a 6a – b pitch at Medji

After we finished climbing, we stopped for kebobs and drove to the little town of Reckingen VS and stayed at this cute hotel called Joobi. The next morning we woke early to begin the approach to Motörhead. We walked along a super nice trail paralleling the huge Grimsel Sea (Resevoir). We had read that it was a flat trail but it was actually a lot of rolling hills through a tunnel and pass a waterfall. Despite the fatigue from all the travel, it was an amazing trail with awesome views of the Swiss Alps.

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Morning light along the Grimsel Sea

When we got to the base of the route, we got in line with the rest of the Euros. Despite the big terrain, it often doesn’t have that wilderness feeling here with the crowds and infrastructure. Plus this route was rumored to be an uber classic so crowds were to be expected. Powered by adrenaline and jet lag, I opted to lead the first block. I slowly struggled up the first third of the route climbing through some tricky slabs and cracks. At pitch 5, I gladly handed over the rack to Dylan who quickly dispatched the crux pitch. Jonathon smoothly finished up the climb with some more tricky slab and crack climbing.

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Dylan and Jonathon following one of the first 6a/6a+ pitches
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Dylan leading up pitch 8 or 9 with Jonathon on belay
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Myself and Dylan following one of the upper slab pitches
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Jonathon leading one of the upper 6a+ pitches
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Jonathon leading another one of the upper slabby pitches

It was a great climb with solid rock and fantastic views reminiscent of some of the climbing in Tuolome and Squamish. After a couple photos, we hiked off the dome through some really marshy terrain and then hiked back to our car.

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Lounging on one of the few belay ledges
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High fives after topping out the last pitch
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Summit Photo!
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View from the top
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Jonathon hiking off the top
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Catching some spray from the waterfall on the hot hike out
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View of Grimsel Lake from the beginning of the trail

I was pretty tired after that day and started to feel a cold coming on so I tried to take it easy over the next few days. That was really hard because the weather was so nice and there were lots of people to climb with!

A couple days later, I teamed up with Joe Stock to climb the Rebuffatt route on La Eperon (6a, 5 pitches) to the Cosmiques Arête. It was really great moderate crack climbing except for the 6a roof. That felt pretty challenging with the altitude and a full pack of boots and crampons.

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Joe is all smiles after getting through the 6a roof
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Joe leading up pitch 3 or 4
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Somewhere on the Cosmiques Arete

I was officially sick after this climb and new I needed to rest a couple days if I wanted to have any chance of enjoying the rest of my vacation. It always sucks to get sick while on vacation but there are worse places to be than Chamonix.

After a couple days rest, I met up with my Salt Lake City friend Alan Rouseau to climb Le Fou de L’Aiguille on the south face of the Aiguille du Midi. Alan said he was psyched to try something hard and at 7b it certainly challenged us and required a bit of aiding. We climbed the first 5 pitches, got a little lost and then ended up rappelling to the glacier and hiking back up to the tram because we ran out of time. It had a couple really good pitches but it was a bit chossier and more vegetated than the other routes (Rebuffatt and Contamine) I have done on the south face of the Midi. But it was still a beautiful day to be outside!

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Alan leading up the first hard pitch
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Me following the same pitch
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Me leading through the 6c-ish traverse
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Alan following the same traverse

The next day my back was super sore and Jonathon was still recovering from the cold and so we opted to climb the moderate classic Frison-Roche (6a, 5 pitches) on Le Brevant. The climbing was a little looser than expected especially on the ledges, but the last two pitches were some great bolted cracks! I was really stressed at the start of the climb because there were lots of other people at the base of the climb who were planning on climbing the same route and I get nervous climbing around a lot of people. It was literally a race to the base of the climb when the tram landed. Fortunately we got on the route first and were able to climb it quickly since it was pretty easy climbing for us. While Jonathon was leading the first pitch, we heard the sound of this loud woosh. It was the first base jumper of the day leaping off the top of Le Brevant. They proceeded to jump off the cliff one after another. I try to do everything in my power to keep myself attached to the wall and not off the wall. So that sport just seems a little cray-cray to me!

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Jonathon following pitch 2
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Jonathon following pitch 4
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Jonathon leading pitch 5
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Following pitch 5 and watching the base jumpers leap off the cliff
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Obligatory tram summit shot

The next day, I went out with Eric Larsen to the Blatier. We were hoping to climb Babakoos but couldn’t find it due to not having a good topo. So we ended up climbing L’eau rance d’arabie (6b, 250 m), which I had climbed two years ago with Jonathon and Chris Wright. I barely remembered any of the climb and only started to get vague memories of the pitches once I was half-way up them. I climbed the route right after arriving in Chamonix so my lack of memory was likely related to the jetlag haze. I do remember that it was really cold. I am glad I climbed the route again because it is really good climbing and so much more enjoyable when it is not so cold. And this time we skipped the hard, slabby first pitch by traversing in on the right side. Tragedy struck while rappelling, however, when my phone fell out of my pocket about 600 feet off the ground.

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Following pitch 2 in 2014 when it was really cold
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Chris leading pitch 2 in 2014
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Myself and Jonathon topping out the last pitch in 2014. Photo by Chris Wright.

On my final climbing day, team America went cragging at Foron. It was fun day out with a bunch of friends coupled with really good limestone sport climbing.

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Cragging at Foron

And then it was time to go home and back to reality. After five trips to Chamonix, I have finally learned to enter this trip without any expectations. Often I will begin this type of trip with big expectations (usually it’s about wanting to climb the Grand Jourasse because it looks so rad!!) about what I want to climb and often I will leave disappointed because so often those expectations aren’t met due to poor weather and conditions. This time because the trip was so last minute I didn’t have any time to think about expectations or climbing goals. And I think that is a good thing because I just focused on having fun and spending time with Jonathon and my other friends. As the old mantra goes – Accept; don’t Expect.

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Happy Face in the Swiss Alps!
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