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Fairly Long, Moderately Hard and Mostly Free (Read 173003 times)

geoffg

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andy moles

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Since I've taken quite a lot from this thread over the years, and have a day to kill before driving home from the Alps, I'll chip in a couple of recent routes that occupy the fairly long and moderately hard space nicely.

I can't work out a low-faff way of adding photos on my phone unfortunately so it's a textfest...

Esprit de Clocher 6c+
Petit Clocher du Portalet

État de Choc is the famous one, and there are plenty of amazing looking harder routes on the Petit Clocher, but Esprit has had a recent makeover, with cracks being cleaned and fixed gear being removed, and deserves some props.

The other routes we climbed, the SE Pillar and Le Chic, Le Cheque et le Choc, are also excellent (the granite on the Petit Clocher is stellar), but Esprit's strong line, sustained climbing and awesome position in the centre of the frontal east face, plus the fact that it's almost 'full trad' with bolted belays, made it the most memorable. More than on the other routes it feels like you're climbing a massive tower, which you pretty much are.

It's one of those routes where you can semi-ignore the pitch grades. The first feels a sandbag at 6a/+, with a pumpy fingers layback that leaves you thinking 'fuck' with regard to the steeper cracks above. But in reality there isn't a huge difference between the pitches - it's nicely sustained. As usual in the Alps, if you can crack climb (and it's perhaps not such a great recommendation if you can't), the more 'cracky' sections feel steady for the grade.

The cracks are nicely varied - a double set of cams up to blue plus a few nuts worked well. There's even a flared squeeze chimney at the top of pitch six (home to one of the two remaining bolts on the line). At the top of this chimney is a somewhat grimly hanging belay that marks a junction (if you're suitably heroic you can skip this belay, as the pitch below is quite short). The original line follows a pegged fault diagonally left to join the final two pitches of the SE Pillar, while the direct finish continues directly into an offwidth (big cams needed if you take this option). We climbed the original, which was the definite crux of the route for me - initially fingery and pumpy with poor feet.

Bivi and approach beta: the pictures I'd seen were of a big flat rock overlooking the north face. This is right next to the approach path and very close to the crag, but it isn't actually flat. We bivied further back on a big plateau in the moraines below the Orny hut, with a snowmelt stream on hand. The chairlift from Champex Lac is the best value thing in Switzerland at €19 return. The crag is about 2h30 walk from there (allow a little more probably if carrying a load of bivi stuff and to account for the final part of the approach being quite scrambly and exposed). We had some snow to cross, all manageable in trainers with poles, which I imagine would be minimal later in the summer.

Separate post for the next one...

andy moles

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Sale Athée 6c+
Aiguille du Moine

It's in Parois de Légende, and now that Rockfax has somewhat got its shit together and added some more obvious stellar lines to its Chamonix guidebook, this one seems to be more on the radar for Brits (notable upsurge in UKC logbook ticks in the past three years). And rightly so: there isn't much not to love about this for those who like climbing multi-pitch granite cracks.

Like Esprit, this route takes a strong logical line and is pleasingly crack-dominated (and even finishes on a tower on the South Ridge of the Moine - we didn't quite go to the top, more on that later). There is a little bit of more open slabby action (notably on pitch three, the first above the big ledge system, which I thought was quite wiggy with less than perfect protection), but generally it's all about cracks, which vary from hands to fingers and a bit of in between (I did a little bit of straight-in ringlocking and stacking, but not much and it's probably not obligatoire). A double set of cams to gold, plus one big blue and few micro cams and nuts, was about right.

All the pitches are good, but the hand crack on pitch six is pretty exceptional. I'm not sure I've climbed a better straight-in jamming pitch this side of the Atlantic. Oddly it's got a few bolts - like three or four on the whole pitch (other pitches similar - some where it's welcome to have a bolt, others right next to good gear). I'm not really sure of the rationale for bolts on a pitch like this, but the big plus is that you don't have to carry as many cams up the mountain.

Only minor gripe about the route was the odd position of a couple of the belays - they could easily have been placed somewhere slightly more comfortable, with no apparent compromise in the running of ropes on abseil etc. Probably didn't help that it was a bit chilly with cloud swirling around, but I felt pretty stiff a couple of times setting off on second.

Approach and bivi anti-beta: our big plan was to bivi under the Flammes de Pierre, which is en route to the Moine's west face by the old and now-unmaintained approach under the Charpoua glacier, and then to climb a route on the Flammes the following day. Unfortunately, because of the rapid death of the Mer de Glace, we had a bit of a mare finding the start of this approach. The usual story: collapsing moraines mean the fixed lines no longer reach the floor, and you have to do some sketchy scrambling on poorly bonded gravel and perched boulders to get to them. As a result we reached the bivi in the dark with one headtorch between us (not planned), had a later than planned start, and hence didn't climb the final two pitches of Sale Athée. We didn't mind not doing the last one as it's either much easier or involves pulling on bolts anyway, but it was a shame to miss the final money pitch with its spectacular-looking hand traverse.

We brought crampons and axe and needed them, albeit only for a short section of the approach couloir in the morning. Worth knowing for anyone contemplating getting the first train to Montenvers and climbing the route in the afternoon (when it gets the sun), is that this couloir was peppered with rockfall throughout the middle of the day while we were on the route. I suspect the snow is often absent or avoidable later in the season.

Fultonius

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Sale Athée 6c+
Oddly it's got a few bolts - like three or four on the whole pitch (other pitches similar - some where it's welcome to have a bolt, others right next to good gear). I'm not really sure of the rationale for bolts on a pitch like this, but the big plus is that you don't have to carry as many cams up the mountain.

 

I'd heard that's the exact rational for sporadic bolting on the big alpine cracks - so that you can survive on a standard alpine rack and not need triple cams and >#3. It's logical when you look at it that way.

andy moles

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Sale Athée 6c+
Oddly it's got a few bolts - like three or four on the whole pitch (other pitches similar - some where it's welcome to have a bolt, others right next to good gear). I'm not really sure of the rationale for bolts on a pitch like this, but the big plus is that you don't have to carry as many cams up the mountain.

 

I'd heard that's the exact rational for sporadic bolting on the big alpine cracks - so that you can survive on a standard alpine rack and not need triple cams and >#3. It's logical when you look at it that way.

I happened on that reasoning in the process of typing, and it does make sense. The alternative, that it's for hero guides who need only a small rack of quickdraws, makes a bit less sense.

duncan

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Verdon guidebooks...

Obviously I've memorised jwi's excellent summary but the recommended guidebook - Verdon 2017: 52 years and 520 routes in the Verdon - is out of print and currently unavailable. Does anyone have a copy I can borrow? What do folk use instead?


jwi

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Bruno Clément's guide book is the least bad option now. It's worth it to run the descriptions for the descents on camptocamp through Google translate. The pitch descriptions and trip reports as well

Paul B

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Admittedly it's been a while but I have several and play spot the difference between them. If it's useful I can photograph anything of particular interest.

duncan

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Thanks Paul. I've been offered a copy for "52 years..." Hopefully this and camptocamp will be adequate but I'll be in contact if it's not.

MischaHY

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The 52 years guidebook is ace. The only thing I found confusing is the theoretical quicker descent to couloir Samson after topping out La Demande or similar. Would appreciate a detailed explanation or GPX file if anyone has one (I’ll freely admit I haven’t extensively googled this yet and will probably find it directly after posting but just in case…)

edit: I see Camp2Camp recommends abseil access in most cases. Have I imagined this descent route?
« Last Edit: September 05, 2023, 10:54:01 am by MischaHY »

galpinos

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Sale Athée 6c+
Aiguille du Moine

Where is the f6c+ grade from, Parois has it at f7a+. It might mean a move from my "looks amazing but no-chance" list to my "highly aspirational/probably still too hard but a boy can dream" list...........

jwi

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The 52 years guidebook is ace. The only thing I found confusing is the theoretical quicker descent to couloir Samson after topping out La Demande or similar. Would appreciate a detailed explanation or GPX file if anyone has one (I’ll freely admit I haven’t extensively googled this yet and will probably find it directly after posting but just in case…)

edit: I see Camp2Camp recommends abseil access in most cases. Have I imagined this descent route?

I tend to take the following route from the road along the crest (so where La Demande tops out for instance) down to the foot of the routes:

Quote from: jwi's blog
park at the first Belvédère on the Route des Crêtes and walk upstream following a wide but rapidly thinning path along the crest. Follow cairns in a big loop down and left to a beautiful grove of old pine trees. Walk down along the small sportclimbing sector Valaute in an ever steeper a gully until you find a rap station at the base of the huge prow of the route Les Naufragés. Two raps (45 m and 30 m) lead to the base of the sector. Walk downstream the beach until you can take a small via ferrata up to a window in the tunnels
From the beach you can also take a tyrolian across to the new sectors to the right of the Hulk.

There are about ten more options to decend. E.g. Dalle Gris + walking down the squirrel garden + the raps to the left of ULA. Or the new raps between La demande and Au Dela, or down the wall to the right of parois rouge + scrambling down. And ... etc ...

But of those I've tried I prefered the one I've wrote up on my blog. I've taken it 4-5 times or so without issues.  I think this is the descent you allude to.

MischaHY

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Alright nice I’ll bear this in mind for next time.

jwi

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I realise that this might a bit late for Duncan, but the descendant of 520 routes has been released in digital format on https://omegaroc.com/en/rock-climbing-in-verdon/

The topo was made by the same people as 520 routes... and I have plenty of confidence in them.

I have not tried to use it myself, but the advice from the legendary week-end warrior Manu Le Folgoc is
Quote
That's all there is to it - throw the rest of the topos in the bin!

duncan

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Thanks for the app. suggestion. We’re using seankenny’s “52 ans…” which is very good.

It mentions jwi’s preferred option as the third of three possibilities. Only two abseils is a major plus in my book. There is now also a direct rappel piste (7 abseils) from a few metres downstream of the top of chimneys to close to the start of the route. Hard to spot 😉






I’m always nervous abseiling: I’ve known too many people who have died this way and had too many ropes hang-ups. Because of this, and because I’m an early 80s climber at heart, we took the traditional route of asking your mates to drop you off at the Couloir Samson and hiking through the tunnels (Thanks again Will, if you’re reading).


SA Chris

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Yeah, you don't want to "do a Carne". I've heard this story a few times (including from Emil (his "fielder", who I used to climb with) and it still gives me cold sweats.  https://climbingzine.com/long-run-profile-alan-carne-luke-mehall/ (section just after tent pic).

Fultonius

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I've been meaning to write this up since the summer and decided to use an old shared blog that a group of us used to use. Hadn't realised quite how out of date blogspot is! Anyone got any suggestions for a good format for writing trip reports?

https://scottishclimbers.blogspot.com/2024/01/sognando-aurora-tofana-di-rozes-5-year.html

Probably a bit wordy for JWI, but nowhere near as nicely written as Mischa's last piece (which I thoroughly enjoyed).

remus

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Hadn't realised quite how out of date blogspot is! Anyone got any suggestions for a good format for writing trip reports?

The cool kids seem to be using substack these days https://substack.com/ There's also medium which is pretty popular https://medium.com/

jwi

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I've been meaning to write this up since the summer and decided to use an old shared blog that a group of us used to use. Hadn't realised quite how out of date blogspot is! Anyone got any suggestions for a good format for writing trip reports?

https://scottishclimbers.blogspot.com/2024/01/sognando-aurora-tofana-di-rozes-5-year.html

Probably a bit wordy for JWI, but nowhere near as nicely written as Mischa's last piece (which I thoroughly enjoyed).

I liked it plenty! Just missing some info, such as a succint description of every pitch, access/parking info, season/aspect and preferably an artinasal topo :D.

SA Chris

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Is a knife cut lino print the current oeuvre for artisanal topos?

jwi

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Is a knife cut lino print the current oeuvre for artisanal topos?

Only if stamped épreuve d'artiste

Fultonius

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I've been meaning to write this up since the summer and decided to use an old shared blog that a group of us used to use. Hadn't realised quite how out of date blogspot is! Anyone got any suggestions for a good format for writing trip reports?

https://scottishclimbers.blogspot.com/2024/01/sognando-aurora-tofana-di-rozes-5-year.html

Probably a bit wordy for JWI, but nowhere near as nicely written as Mischa's last piece (which I thoroughly enjoyed).

I liked it plenty! Just missing some info, such as a succint description of every pitch, access/parking info, season/aspect and preferably an artinasal topo :D.

Good to hear, thanks! 


Have you seen the book:

To be perfectly honest, I'd would love to have half the skill required to make a good hand drawn topo - I think done well (like those for the Marmolada) they can easily outperform a photo topo when the routes get over 200m long.

Quote
such as a succint description of every pitch, access/parking info, season/aspect and preferably an artinasal topo

I had actually thought of doing that at the end, but I don't have good notes from the day so it would be a bit of a memory lottery! I think I might try to take better notes in future, maybe I'll get the writing bug again.

jwi

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I had actually thought of doing that at the end, but I don't have good notes from the day so it would be a bit of a memory lottery! I think I might try to take better notes in future, maybe I'll get the writing bug again.

I usually try to do this as soon as possible, but even then sometimes I just draw blank. Like, I know that there was a 2n+1 th pitch, becasue I was leading odds so my partner couldn't have lead two in a row, but what that pitch consisted of, what grade it had, how the protection was: no idea.

Obviously more of an issue on really long routes.

 

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