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climbingcoastie

[TR] Another two weeks in France and Switzerland - several 9/16/2013

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Trip: Another two weeks in France and Switzerland - several

 

Date: 9/16/2013

 

Trip Report:

 

 

 

For those that don’t know or have forgotten here is the back story:

 

First Trip to Europe

 

 

This trip started last fall when Alke asked if I was interested in climbing Kilimanjaro this year. Of course I was intrigued and agreed on the trip. I looked into it a little and realized that it was going to cost a small fortune for airfare and for the climb. I wasn’t all that excited about the finical side of it due to medical bills we are having to pay, but I agreed so I wasn’t going to back out. Around February I mentioned to Alke that we needed to start planning our dates and mentioned the financial burden a trip to Kilimanjaro was going to have. He agreed and said I should just come and visit him, as it would be much cheaper for the both of us. After discussing it over with my wife, I had tickets bought within 24hrs!!

 

 

Day 1

 

After leaving Sacramento around noon the day before I arrived in Geneva at 1620 where Alke picked me up and drove me to his hotel. Needless to say after the flight and dinner I was ready for bed.

 

 

Day 2

 

Woke up to this view from my bed!

 

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One of Alke’s friends met us at the hotel and we headed to Mont Chauffé to do a little cragging. The climbing was all bolted on nice limestone that was super textured. I lead my first 6a+ (10a) not knowing the “+” sign was another grade altogether and not just a hard 6a.

 

Alke climbing at Mont Chauffe

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Loebas watching Alke climb

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View from the base of the crag.

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Day 3

 

Alke, Monique, and I headed to an area above Champoussin, Switzerland called Portes du Soleil. Alke said several times that the views were beautiful from this crag, and he wasn’t lying. We started off on some easier routes and worked up to climb a couple 6a. The rock looked and felt like it was going to come off in your hand, but surprisingly ended up being very solid. The whole time listing to the sounds of cow bells from below.

 

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From the base of the crag

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One of the routes we climbed.

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Day 4

 

Pure HELL!!

 

About two months before my trip Alke asked if I wanted to compete in a “Vertical K” race. He explained to me that it is a staggered start race that climbs 1000m in just over 2km in distance. Not knowing any better I agreed, but told Alke I wasn’t in as good of shape as last time I visited and wouldn’t do that great. Within the first five minutes of the race I knew it wasn’t going to be good. Alke started 12 minutes after I did and ended up passing me by the 500m mark. I was hurting so bad I thought about quitting at the 700m mark and again at the 800m mark. I did so poorly that I even disappointed myself. I’m too embarrassed to tell everyone my time but I’ll just say I solidified the “fat, lazy, out of shape American” stereotype. I knew I wasn’t in the best of shape, but I’m sure the jet lag, change in diet, and lack of sleep the previous three days added to my problems.

 

 

We started in the field in the lower left and followed the drainage up and right until above tree line. Then up to the flat shoulder to the left of the main peak.

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Day 5

 

I woke up still not recovered from the day before, but luckily we had a drive to get to where we were going. We headed towards Passy, France for a few days to do some alpine ridge climbs. When we got there we hiked up the Refuge de Tre la Tete. It was a nice hike that took just shy of two and a half hours. I kept thinking that night that I’d do that hike 10 times with a pack before I’d do another one of those races. This was my first experience with a hut that wasn’t closed for the winter. I must say it’s nice to have dinner and breakfast cooked for you.

 

 

Monique on the hike up to Refuge de Tre la Tete.

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Looking down at Les Contamines-Montjoie where we parked

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Refuge de Tre la Tete

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Day 6

 

We left the Tre la Tete hut around 0830 to hike up to the Refuge des Conscrits. It was a nice four hour hike that included a Himalayan bridge. Beautiful scenery the whole day. Once we got the Conscrits hut we dropped most of our gear and hiked the approach for the route we would be doing the next morning in the dark.

 

 

 

The alternate route to the Conscrits goes up the glacier. We chose the hiking trail that went up the left side out of view.

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Views along the way.

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One of the many exposed areas along the trail.

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Monique making her way along the trail.

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The Himalayan bridge we got to cross.

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Refuge des Conscrits

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The view from our room at the Conscrits.

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Alke enjoying a $5 Coke. They have to pay for the helicopter somehow as everything is flown in.

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Alke and Monique enjoying the sun at Refuge des Conscrits

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Day 7

 

Me and Alke woke up for an early breakfast and started on our way to Mont Tondu. The glacier wasn’t nearly as steep as we thought it was from the hut and we made decent time up to the col. From there we climbed a snowy slope to the rocky summit ridge. It was a fun, easy, but exposed traverse that we remained roped up for. I remember thinking this would be real easy without crampons on! We went from the hut to the summit and back in seven hours, about what the guide book suggested.

 

 

Mont Tondu is the snowy peak on the right.

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Alke along the summit ridge of Mont Tondu

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The view from the summit. Dome de Miage is the last summit on the left.

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Day 8

 

We woke up early again and tried to climb the Dome de Miage Traverse. The weather had moved in and we had clouds around the summits. We decided to continue as two other groups were also pushing on. We got the first col just as the clouds dropped and one of the groups decided to turn around. We continued up in the whiteout following the tracks of those from the day before. We got to the second col when the guided couple decided to turn around. We continued up to the first summit and lost the trail. After a few minutes of searching and then a break we headed down. We stopped by the Conscrits hut to pick up our extra gear and continued all the way down to the truck, parked 8000ft below our high point. My feet were a little sore when we got to the truck. We drove back to Alke’s hotel and had the best French fries I’ve ever had!

 

Alke along the glacier with the clouds above.

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Taking a break in the whiteout.

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Locals hanging around the Conscrits hut.

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Some of the undeveloped areas around Passy, France along the drive back.

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Day 9

 

We sort of took a rest day and did the local via ferrata. I had never done one and it was well worth the time. It would be a good way to introduce people to the exposure or a good work out if you couldn’t find a climbing partner.

 

The start of the via ferrata.

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Walking the plank 20m up.

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Alke working the safety tethers .

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Day 10

 

Rough nights sleep the last couple days. Drove to Morzine, France to climb a 400m route called Vol du Korbé (5c). It was beautiful limestone with the climbing getting easier the higher you climbed. At the top you traverse left below a headwall then climb up the left side of it.

 

The route starts below the black mark, climbs through the swirls, and onto the upper slab.

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Alke getting to the first belay.

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Just over half way up.

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Amazing views from the climb.

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Only five pitches to go.

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Day 11

 

A true rest day, no climbing, no hiking, nothing. Just sitting around and watching it rain outside. I slept about 10 hours and think I finally recovered from the race.

 

Day 12

 

We got a little later start than we wanted and headed towards Zenal and hiked up to the Cabane du Mountet for an attempt on a few climbs. It was an amazing four and a half hour hike that followed the valley a little bit then climbed up to the hut. It seemed like I was doing better on the hike than previous days. Our plan was to climb Mammouth after the hike, but due to time we decided to hold off. Good thing, because it rained/snowed most of the afternoon.

 

Fall colors along the trail.

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Growing up in Indiana, I sure do miss fall colors.

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A views of the valley we hiked up.

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Alke along the trail about half way there.

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View from the Cabane du Mountet

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Day 13

 

We headed out before daylight to attempt the SW ridge of Besso. It took us a little over an hour to get to the base of the chimney. With all the snow the last few days there was still quite a bit on the route. With the snow covered rock we decided to rope up and pitch out the class 3 scrambling to get to the ridge, which slowed us down considerably. Once we reached the ridge, after four pitches, we tied in short and I lead up the ridge. Great exposed climbing!! After a traversing the ridge for a couple hours we realized we weren’t going to get to the top and back to the base before dark and with clouds moving in we decided to turn around soon. We were on the north side of the ridge and I decided to go up a little more to get us on the correct side before turning around. Once on the right side I found the trail that we were suppose to follow up bypassing the section we just climbed. We followed this trail down to the approach chimney and back to the hut. Once back in the hut we looked in the guidebook and it said to be sure to note where you gain the ridge. If you miss this spot on the way down the climbing is much harder than that on the route. This might explain why it took us so long to traverse the section that we did.

 

 

Alke approaching the Besso

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Alke along the ridge

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Alke on the decent with the section of ridge we climbed in the background.

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Didn’t make the summit, but views like this make a great consolation prize. The Mammouth ridge is the black rock in the lower right.

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Of course once we got down the clouds started moving out.

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Day 14

 

Again we woke up and were out the door before daylight. This time we were headed towards Zinalrothorn. Seeing it from Besso yesterday we decided there was too much snow-covered rock to try for the summit, so we just settled on just trying to get to the shoulder above the col and left the rock gear at the hut. The perspective of distance is totally different here. Looking at the shoulder from the hut it looked like it we would be there in no time. Several hours latter we were still trying to reach the col below the shoulder. Once on the col we followed the knife edge ridge towards the Zinalrothorn. Just shy of the shoulder we ran into the snow-covered rock. I attempted to get through it, but without rock gear there wasn’t much protection and I decided to down climb and call it a day. As soon as we decided to head down the sun came out and and made for some great views.

 

The Zinalrothorn at sunrise.

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A picture from about half way to the col.

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Zinalrothorn and the ridge we tried to climb.

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Alke from our high point on Zinalrothorn.

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Over the back side of the ridge.

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Dent Blanche

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The possibilities are endless!

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Another local

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Day 15

 

We still had the Mammouth Traverse (3b) to do before we hiked out that afternoon. We hit the trail just as the sun cam up and was climbing up to the ridge shortly after. The hardest part of the beginning was the route finding. Once on the ridge it was straightforward and exposed climbing. Nothing too hard and we were short roped the whole route. It took us about five hours hut to hut. We then packed our stuff up and headed down to the truck.

 

The Mammouth Traverse We did it left to right.

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Alke along the ridge.

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I finally gave Alke my camera, so a few pics of me:

 

Besso in the background

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Obligatory summit shot with the Zinalrothorn in the background.

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As good of a place as any to take a break.

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Done with the climbing. Now back to the hotel, and home.

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Day 16

 

I learned the last time not to make my return flight too early, so I booked it for 1100. Long trip home! From Amsterdam to Seattle I had a little brat kicking my seat every 2-3 minutes and the parents did nothing to stop him. Finally made it home to Sacramento at 2130 for a 20+ hour travel day.

 

 

 

 

Several people have asked me which trip I enjoyed the most. That’s a hard one to answer. My first trip we had perfect weather and met all our planned objectives. This trip we had to plan around the weather and didn’t summit but two of the five bigger climbs we planned. We also chose bigger objectives this time around and decided to not use a guide at all. Getting shut down is part of climbing in my book, it can’t all go as planned all the time. So I’d do either one of them over again in a blink of an eye.

 

I did learn it isn’t nearly as expensive to live there as I thought. I think I’ve got Ginny talked into living over there for 90 days right after I retire in a couple years!! There is a lifetime of climbing there so not sure if 90 days will be enough. :grin:

 

 

 

Gear Notes:

Light alpine rack, slings, and a few extra quickdraws

 

Approach Notes:

KLM is now partners with Delta. I booked my flight on the KLM website because I was impressed with them on my last trip. Unfortunately I got stuck flying Delta across the pond.

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Wow, I really need to get over there some day. Thanks for the report! What is the peak in the last photo of your TR?

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