Back from Pakistan and I felt weaker than I’d ever felt in the last few years. Months of cardio training leading up to the trip and then 7 weeks spent in the Himalayas did nothing for my arms. I’d gone from 7b+ to 6b in 5 months. But it did alot to boost my interest and psyche in less technical but much bigger ascents- single push link ups, huge faces; finding my endurance limit. I had surprised myself on the Peuterey Integral and I wanted more; I wanted to see how far I could push myself when my mind really wanted something bad enough.
Arriving in Chamonix and I was keen to put that thought into practice. I was fit and ready but unfortunately the mountains werent playing game and 2 weeks of bad weather saw me dry tooling and strength training again. It also saw me catch up with alot of great folk I hadnt seen for a long time including Jeff and Korra. The last time I had seen them had been at my ‘leaving’ BBQ over two months ago and back then I’d left them in a drunken haze in the middle of a bunch of Brits as they heartily attacked what was left of my drinks shelf at 2 in the morning. So it felt only natural to pick up where we left off.
Julien Desecures had found a new winter line on the Peigne; well he wasnt sure but it was possible. The British Route is an old aid route up the north side of the Peigne. It promises a healthy amount of A2 and A3 pitches and some unhealthy grade VI slabs. As the boys discussed with excitement this new project I took a step back- it sounded hard, really hard, and I was barely in physical shape for Dry Tooling let alone in a mental state for this kind of stuff. I was content to settle back in to ‘normal life’ and get ready to do a big face as soon as the weather cleared. But Korra has a boundless energy when it comes to climbing that is hard to ignore and it didnt take him long to convince me to join them and get some kick ass shots. We would be going as two rope teams allowing me a perfect shoot opportunity- something I’d never really done before.
The weather cleared, the mountains were plastered, and the team was bouncing off the walls. We walked in the previous day and fixed lines up the first two pitches for a speedier get away the following morning. Heading up first, the climbing looked more Alaskan than anything else with some interesting snow mushrooms at the top of the entry gully. Being on the sharp end again was an odd feeling and it quickly became apparent that on such an intense new line I was going to slow us down whilst I got my lead-head back in to play again- so with some healthy piss taking from Jeff and Korra I relegated myself to just seconding the following day and concentrating on getting some cool photos. It didnt feel right not putting my fair share in and I wasn’t totally sure if they hadnt invited me along to show me how detrimental 5 months of non techincal climbing had done to me…Damn French….
A night at the Refuge du Plan and an early start saw us jumaring up the first two pitches. The Foehn wind was blowing hard and, battling up through plenty of spindrift, it was a wet and cold 4 climbers that finally arrived out of the chimney system and into the meat of the climb. Above lay some of the most amazing climbing I have ever done in the range. Hundreds of meters of steep grey granite towered above; at the centre a key thin placage of ice that we were hoping would lead us somewhere…but we weren’t sure where. The original line had a very poor description and as we weren’t following splitter cracks we didn’t even know if the line would go in winter. But every pitch would lead to another 5 star hidden pitch. Getting progressively harder and harder the line took us through wild thin ice and steep corners offering just enough protection and ice to inch ever closer to the top. No pitch the same but each surpassing the last in style and quality and general wow factor until the final sting in the tail reared its ugly head in the form of a runout and tenuous crux pitch to the summit proper.