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wfinley

Another Chamonix / Alps questions thread

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Yes... another Europe thread. In the process of planning for a month in Europe come July. Right now we're thinking 2 or 3 weeks in Chamonix and / or maybe a week in Zermatt.

 

I have three specific questions (for now):

 

1. Hotel. Anyone have recent extended stay hotel / apartment suggestions? There will be two of us (my wife and I) and we want something affordable and quiet (but not bunk-beds in a hostel).

 

2. Car. I've read it's nice to get out of town now and then. Should we rent one or is it a pain?

 

3. Routes & Grading. This is the big unknown for me because I'm having a hard time figuring out both commitment levels and grade when it comes to the European scale and how they compare to North America. Can anyone compare some of the more popular European routes to routes in the US (Alaska, Cascades, Tetons) or Canada (Canadian Rockies / Bugs)? For example - what is a comparable North American route to something like the following routes:

 

(II / F) Mt Tondu / Normal Route

(I / PD) Petite Verti / Normal Route

(PD+) Pollux / SW Ridge

(II / AD) Aiguille Du Midi / Cosmiques Ridge

(III- AD-) Matterhorn / Hornli

 

Thanks!

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We're headed to Cham at the end of the month to ski. We are renting a studio apartment for a week for $390 euros through homeaway.com. This was cheaper than any hotel I found and you get a kitchen.

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I was in cham for 5 weeks last April. We stayed in a gite (Ski Station, it was called) that was very simple and cheap, but nice. The you will most likely get a room for just the two of you without asking, but if you ask to be alone you will be for sure. little kitchen, easy walking to town, free wifi. And you can store your gear their for free when you're away!

 

the only route that I've done on your list is the Cosmiques - it is very very easy - there are about 2 or 3 moves of 5.5 on super bomber rock and the rest is walking/scrambling. Fun though. you will need to rap one little section. We were unsure what to expect and ended up carrying a light rock and ice rack and didn't touch any of it. A comparable route *might* be the west ridge of pigeon, but the cosmiques is shorter and easier. That's the closest I can think of.

 

have fun! it's a great place

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Do not be afraid to check some of the hostels (gites) as many have rooms for couples. La Tapia in Chamonix has such rooms. The same for the hostel in Zermatt.

 

The Hornli Ridge is comparable to the Upper Exum in terms of difficulty except that the route is much longer and will have snow / ice on various sections. The rock when wet is slicker than snot. Check out the grave yard to understand what I mean.

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(II / AD) Aiguille Du Midi / Cosmiques Ridge - :tup: :tup: I vaguely remember one section of route decision-making, but not so bad. Then again I was young, not so experienced, and rope-monkey to two older Frenchy fries who were kind enough to pull me along. Slept for free in muddy Mere de Glace - but will second Ski Station - buddy was there last year. Car rental not a problem - as usual if you can speak some French it helps - then they will only treat you as half-ass instead of whole.

 

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Thanks for the info. Looking into places now. And thanks also for helping compare euro ratings to US ratings. You only ever see photos of the gnar routes in Chamonix so I was beginning to think that timid climbers wouldn't have anything to climb.

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Our family stayed in Chamonix for 3 weeks last August. We rented this place and would stay there again: http://www.holiday-rentals.co.uk/France/holiday-apartment-Chamonix/p12639.htm#photos-bar

 

The owners are Brits and locally available. BTW, we found a better selection and better rates on the UK holiday rental sites than VRBO and other American sites. You probably already know that Chamonix is overrun by Brits and has been for a century - so most of the deals are on their websites.

 

We rented a car on arrival in Geneva and were glad we did. There's a lot of great road tripping that you can do in the immediate area that you can't do easily via public transportation (e.g. St. Bernard Pass loop over the Italian border and through the Mt. Blanc tunnel), or a day trip to Zermatt. Prices vary a lot - keep checking. I was quoted rates from $300/wk-$1000/wk by the same company for a compact 4-door, depending on when I checked. Clear your cookies if you keep checking and they're fairly sophisticated at screwing repeated price checkers. I didn't check out the feasibility of daily rentals in Chamonix - depending on your mix of local versus road tripping, it might make sense to do short term rentals instead of what we did.

 

Parking in Cham is a bitch, though that might have been partly due to being there during the big Alps footrace in August. If you rent in Geneva, make sure that you have Euro change for the toll road on the way to Chamonix. It can be a bit disorienting to hop in a car after an overnight flight from Seattle, so little things like having your toll change in order can help a lot.

 

A word of warning: the Euro car companies are well known for charging for imaginary or pre-existing damage to the cars. They dinged us for $500 for a couple gravel marks on the spoiler that I'm sure were there when we arrived. The clerk at check-in walked straight to the spot, so I suspect they had it flagged and were waiting to run the scam. Visa covered it and their adjuster told me that this was common. Take a dozen photos from all angles when you check out the car.

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I forgot to mention: the apartment is obviously larger than you need, but you might be able to cut a deal. The back area is a bunk room and 2nd bathroom. They might just rent it as a 1 bedroom at a lower rate if they don't have a lot of demand.

 

The apartment was a great refuge on hot days. When the rest of Cham was cooking in 90 degree heat, we were kicking back on the balcony overlooking a glacial melt stream. It was great.

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I was looking into what it would take to do the Matterhorn. A guide can get you up and down in 9 to 10 hours. The trips I saw were 1 person per guide. I don't know about cost but it may be worth the money and with a guide you have a fighting chance to get it done. I know most of us thinks that's lame but if you are unfamiliar with the area it may not be a bad idea for the first time, and you could get some great beta about other things and see what it is like there. Just a suggestion. When I go to a new area I try to hook up with the locals. This way, with a guide, you know what you are getting (most times).

Here is one of the guides I looked at:

Matterhorn Guide

I pulled most of the info from summitpost.org here

Matterhorn

I am also reading "Men and the Matterhorn" by Gaston Rébuffat

and dreaming. Maybe someday.

Edited by Plaidman

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I've been wanting to do the Matterhorn for years and have studied it quite a bit.

 

A guide might be okay but I think the choice of route is more important.

 

The Hornligrat (NE ridge) is the most traveled but I think that makes it less desirable and more dangerous. You are racing crowds, waiting at choke points, and exposed to climber induced rockfall.

 

The only discussion I've read about guides are on the Hornligrat and it's very high pressure and in a hurry. The guides will want to rigorously vet you and possibly do other climbs first.

 

The Liongrat (SW ridge) is a lot less traveled and just as if not more aesthetic. Also the hut is at a much higher elevation and the climbing just seems more interesting. With a higher hut the summit day is shorter and safety is closer on return.

 

I talked with a European local and he said the mountain is chossy by any route, whatever that's worth.

 

 

 

 

 

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Wikipedia has a good page on ratings comparisons

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grade_(climbing)

 

I saw that but until you've been to a place you can't tell what the ratings mean. PD? Is that like grade II in American?

 

The French letter system is an overall alpine difficulty, like time, exposure, technical difficulty, retreat, all combined. I always thought the American "grade" system was only the time duration, so that the grade had to be combined with a difficulty rating to be relevant, like grade V, 5.10, WI3.

 

from the Wiki page

 

""PD: peu difficile (not very difficult). Routes may be longer at altitude, with snow and ice slopes up to 45 degrees. Glaciers are more complex, scrambling is harder, descent may involve rappelling. More objective hazards.""

 

and the next level is AD which includes up to UIAA grade III, which is 5.3. So PD must be up to about 5.0 or less because it only mentions scrambling.

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Great info! Thanks. It's really just a dream for me.

everything starts as a dream

 

the biggest problem to me looks like the exposure, as big as Rainier but pretty continual 40 to 50 deg.

 

[video:youtube]

 

The Liongrat has no traffic compared to the Hornligrat, but then again sometimes there's safety in numbers

[video:youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJIxBC05RmY&feature=related

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[The French letter system is an overall alpine difficulty, like time, exposure, technical difficulty, retreat, all combined. I always thought the American "grade" system was only the time duration, so that the grade had to be combined with a difficulty rating to be relevant, like grade V, 5.10, WI3.

 

from the Wiki page

 

""PD: peu difficile (not very difficult). Routes may be longer at altitude, with snow and ice slopes up to 45 degrees. Glaciers are more complex, scrambling is harder, descent may involve rappelling. More objective hazards.""

 

and the next level is AD which includes up to UIAA grade III, which is 5.3. So PD must be up to about 5.0 or less because it only mentions scrambling.

 

Makes a little more sense now. Thanks.

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What might be interesting is a route by route comparison e.g.

 

Chere Couloir == Triple Couloir

Arete De Cosmic == North Ridge of Forbidden (or whatever)

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What might be interesting is a route by route comparison e.g.

 

Chere Couloir == Triple Couloir

Arete De Cosmic == North Ridge of Forbidden (or whatever)

 

Easier said than done. Winter or summer?

 

Chere and Cosmic are above 12K feet to start with. Granite is vertically factured and exceptional. Forbidden and DT a bit of a walk. Cosmic/Chere a tram ride and 10 minutes or 45.

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