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climbingcoastie

[TR] 2 weeks in Switzerland and France - Several 9/29/2010

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Trip: 2 weeks in Switzerland and France - Several

 

Date: 9/29/2010

 

Trip Report:

 

 

This trip started over two years ago when I met Alke during a 21-day mountaineering course in Alaska. We were both a little disappointed with the lack of technical climbing during the course with “guide training” in the title. We kept in touch and everything lined up for me to visit this fall. We decided two weeks would be the ideal amount of time.

 

Day 1

I arrived in Geneva around1500 and Alke picked me up for the hour drive back to his beautiful hotel, Esprit Montagne , in La Chapelle d’Abondance, France.

 

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Hotel Esprit Montagne

 

 

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The view north from the hotel.

 

 

Day 2

We drove for about an hour to Barme, Switzerland to a nice crag to get reacquainted climbing with each other. We climbed somewhere around 10 single pitch climbs and 3 or 4 two pitch climbs with beautiful surroundings and the sound of cowbells all day.

 

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The crag at Barme.

 

 

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The view from the crag.

 

 

Day 3

We climbed La Marmottons, 5a (the Marmot) on Cornettes de Bise just outside of la Chapelle. It was a steady 400m+ hike to the base. Alke lead the first two pitches, 4c & 5a, that we combined into one on awesome limestone. I got the next two pitches, 4b & 3, that we also combined into one. At our second belay Alke told me to take the next lead, leaving the small overhanging crux pitch for him. Getting to the third belay Alke took the small rack and clipped the first two bolts, 5c. Not seeing how to get up to the third bolt he traversed right and up, somewhere along the way he lost his grip and fell. I tried pulling slack but seen he was headed right for me so I locked off and braced for the impact. Landing on my head and neck just as the rope came tight knocking my sunglasses off. I watched them tumble down the rock and land on a small ledge while we asked each other if we were all right. Alke took a minute or two then completed the climb. On the first rappel the rope didn’t reach the next set of anchors so I swung right and ended up slinging a horn for the next anchor picking up my glasses along the way. Everything was uneventful the rest of the way to the car.

 

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Cornettes de Bise

 

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Second pitch of La Marmottons

 

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The joys of climbing

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4

Another hour’s drive put us in the parking lot for the Miroir d’ Argentine. We hiked up about an hour to the base of Voie Originale de I’Y (the Normal Route), AD+/II/P2 4c, 400m. I took the first pitch cruising up easy terrain. We swapped leads up until I got off route around pitch four. Instead of following the bolts (that I didn’t see) up the face I saw cord and webbing sticking out of a flake above me so I started up. Realizing I putting in my own gear and wasn’t passing any bolts I began to wonder about being on route. As I went up I was concerned with running out of rope. About 10m from the top of the flake I asked how much rope was left and he said no more than 15m. Thinking there had to be an anchor at the top of the flake I continued up. Once on top of it the only thing there was an old piton with some very weathered cord around it. I cut the cord and built an anchor using the old pin and belayed Alke up. We both expressed concern about being off route but I thought we could climb several cracks up and left to get back on route. Alke gave me the next lead and after 20m and four gear placements traversing up and left we were back on route. Everything went smoothly until we missed the second to last belay station due to it being covered in snow and continues up and right to the base of the summit block. We then had to traverse left along the summit block for 40m clipping old pins as our only protection. Topping out thru a notch in the center of the ridge I was surprised by the view. We then had a two plus hour walk to the car getting there just as it got dark.

 

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Miroir d' Argentine is the peak just right of center.

 

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Looking down to the car and across the valley.

 

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The flake where I got off route.

 

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Just over half way and heading for the obvious notch.

 

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The last pitch before the traverse.

 

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The view over the back side.

 

 

Day 5

Rest day and going for a “walk”. We drove a short distance above La Chapelle and walked to a lake in a beautiful bowl then proceeded to climb 450m up to a ridge that we traversed that involved somewhere around 4b moves without climbing gear. It was a great day just not what I had in mind as a walk. More like a hike!

 

 

Day 6

We hired a guide and headed to Point des Ecandies and did the south to north traverse D/II/5a. I forgot my gloves and by the time we got to the base it was snowing. I really didn’t like the first two pitches, as I couldn’t feel my hands. Warming them up in my armpits during the short belays along the way. It was very interesting to watch Bertrand climb in his boots as we had rock shoes on. I also learned a few things from him throughout the day. Very fun day of climbing in a spectacular setting!!

 

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Point des Ecandies. We went form left to right.

 

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Nearing the base. As you can see Bertrand was a ways ahead of us on the hike in.

 

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Bertrand and Alke

 

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Climbing along the ridge

 

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Down climbing snow in rock shoes = FUN!

 

 

 

 

Day 7

A true rest day! No climbing, hiking or anything. Just planning the rest of the trip. With forecasts of snow we were trying to figure out what to climb. Wish I had a camera for Alke’s expression when we thought of skiing in Zermatt for the day.

 

 

Day 8

Woke up early, ate breakfast and hit the road for Zermatt. We stopped in Tasch, north of Zermatt, and took the train, as there are no gas cars allowed in Zermatt. We took the lifts up to the glacier, passing the Matterhorn along the way. Once on top we ditched our packs at the restaurant and skied for two and a half hours, on October 6th!!! Once we were done skiing we ate some lunch grabbed our packs and started up the Breithorn (4165m). I knew it was a race against the clock as I have always had problems with AMS. About halfway up my head started hurting and I really couldn’t enjoy the summit to its fullest because of it. We took the East Ridge down, which involved a narrow ridge with relatively steep drops on each side. Just below the col my leg punched thru a snow bridge, but only went about knee deep. Made it to the lifts and headed down to the car then on to Saas-Grund and got a hotel.

 

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Skiing above Zermatt

 

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Heading up the Breithorn. Notice the two climbers to the left of the rocks?

 

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Summit of the Breithorn.

 

 

Day 9

We slept in and went to get food for the next few days at the local grocery store. We then took the lift up out of Saas-Grund and walked an hour to the Weismeshuttun. Once we found the winter room of the hut we dropped our sleeping gear and headed for the base of the Jeigihorn (3206m) passing mountain goats along the way. Once at the base we found our route, Alpendurst AD+/II/4c 350m and headed up. It was very nice climbing and well protected with bolts every 2-3 meters. A little further spaced in the easier sections. Walking back to the hut we noticed we would have company for the night. Two guys from Belgium were on a weeklong climbing holiday and planning to climb Alpendurst the next day.

 

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Jeigihorn on the left.

 

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One of the locals on our hike to the Jeigihorn

 

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A few pitches up the Alpendurst.

 

 

 

Day 10

We left the Weismeshuttun about 0630 and started walking around to the Almageller Hutte. We stopped at the Berghotel Almagellecalp for a sandwich along the way, getting to the Almageller Hutte around 12:30. We dropped our sleeping bags and headed for the base of the Dri Hornli. We traversed the ridge finding very few bolts along the way, placing some gear but usually just slinging horns. We got back to the hut just as it was getting dark. Two guys from the area offered us brawts and some sore of pasta. It was delicious.

 

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Leaving the Weismeshuttun.

 

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The Berghotel Almagellecap

 

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The Dri Hornli. We climbed it left to right.

 

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Along the Dri Hornli

 

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On top of the Dri Hornli.

 

 

Day 11

People in the hut started to get up at 0430. We were the last ones up around 0600. I learned a valuable lesson that morning: always fill your water the night before because there won’t be enough left in the morning. We started up the boulder field on our way up the Weismise (4017m). I was actually doing better than expected as dehydrated as I was from the previous day. That changed about halfway from the col to the summit. My head started hurting and I slowed way down. Alke ended up taking the rope from me for the last few hundred meters before we roped up. When we got to what looked like the end of the ridge and a broad snowfield we roped up and put on our crampons. Crossing the snowfield I noticed another rocky ridge ahead. We crossed a knife-edge ridge to get to the upper rocky section. As we crested the rocky part I seen another snow dome ahead and thought, “Damn it, will this thing ever end”. We crossed another knife-edge ridge to the snow dome and as I crested over the top I saw Alke standing below me. The top was finally here. Half way I thought out loud. We didn’t spend much time on the summit and retraced our steps to the hut. Picking up our rock and sleeping gear and continuing down to the town of Saas-Almagell (1672m) totaling a decent of over 2345m (almost 7700ft). My feet hurt so badly towards the end I wanted to take my boots off and hike barefoot! We caught the bus back to Saas-Grund and to a hotel and shower.

 

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On our way down to Saas-Almagell

 

Day 12

We took our time driving to Sustenpass, taking the long way and detouring a few times to sight see. We had lunch at Hotel Steingletscher. We then drove the private road the end parking lot. We made it up to the Teirbergli Hutte in just over 2:15. The hut was perched on a rock out cropping between the glacier and what seemed like a 1000m drop. The main door to the hut was open but most of the rooms were locked because it was closed for the season, only having the winter room open. The wind started to pick up around 1945 but forecasted to be good weather.

 

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The climbing possibilities are endless every where you look.

 

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The Gwachtenhorn with the road leading to the base. The Teibergli Hutte is on top of the black rocks below and right of the summit.

 

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A view from the shitter.

 

 

Day 13

Probably the best nights sleep I got the whole trip. Over slept the alarm by an hour but got going quickly. We dropped down to the glacier and headed to the East Ridge of the Gwachtenhorn (3420m) following the beaten path over and through the crevasses. When we got to the ridge the wind picked up but the climbing was so good we didn’t really noticed. Moving quickly, only weaving the rope around blocks and using hip belays we were on top quickly taking pictures due to the wind and continuing down the west side back to the hut. The guidebook said it would take 3-4 hours up and 1.5-2 down. We went round trip from the hut in 4:15. We grabbed our sleeping gear and continued down to the car. We decided to take a “short cut” and drive by the Eiger on the way back to La Chapelle. Not sure how legal the short cut was as we think the road was for busses only, but no harm no foul.

 

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Heading to the ridge of the Gwachtenhorn.

 

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Alke along the ridge.

 

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Alke nearing the top of the ridge.

 

 

Day 14

Drove to Champoussin where Alke worked when I met him. Beautiful views of the Dent di Midi across the valley. Met one of Alke’s old friends, an ex professional cricket player named PJ. Then drove to the Col de Jaman and walked to the Dent d’ Hautaudon (PD/I/3c, 250m) thinking we would have an easy last day of climbing. The ridge was easy climbing but had quite a bit of exposure with down climbing. The rock reminded me of Quikrete and didn’t feel solid even though it was. We both agreed that if a 4a climber tried it they would have a heck of a time.

 

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Above the clouds again.

 

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Our last climb of the trip. Right to Left.

 

Day 15

0545 came awfully early. We were on the road by 0610 to the Geneva Airport, for me to catch my flight to Indiana to visit my parents.

 

Thanks to Alke for climbing with me for two weeks! And this trip definitely couldn't have happened without two others: Anneke, Thanks for letting Alke climb with me and for the delicious food and your hospitality. And my wife Ginny for letting me chase my dreams halfway around the world missing her birthday again!

 

 

Gear Notes:

A light alpine rack with a few extra draws would work for everything we climbed.

 

Approach Notes:

KLM

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Lovely place and great photos.

 

That shot of people downclimbing snowy slabs in rock shoes all roped together with no pro made me shudder a little bit.

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