December 21st 2011

Encore une fois

Winter is in full snowy flow in Chamonix which has made it very hard to go climbing. Partly because the weather is so bad and partly because no one is the psyched when there is so much powder to ski. Fair enough. So the last month has seen regular visits to the Sallanches Dry Tooling venue, Le Zoo, with Adam George and lots of ski touring in between. Result, feeling great….but not much to aim for.

Nevertheless there was a hint of a break in the weather a few days ago and I managed to team up with dry tooling fiend and all round alpine wad, Jeff Mercier, for a scratch around on the Rive Gauche D’Argentiere. The route was Encore Une Fois which according to Bullock is definitely the best of the lot. Good recommendation.

Skins on at the mid station of the Grands Montets and it was a deep tour to the top of the route. It was still dumping and a white out but the clouds lifted here and there to reveal the Rive Droite which is starting to form nicely.

Heavy bags, deep powder, and approach skis…© Jeff Mercier

As Jeff had already done the route, but not the last crux pitch, he was happy to let me head up the first three pitches and then do the final arm blaster.

There was so much snow that we decided to do a direct start to the route so as to avoid the initial pitch of snow ramps which is always nicer than ploughing up 60 degrees of unconsolidated snow.

Snow clearing was the norm of the day, © Jeff Mercier

The second pitch started off nicely with a pretty dodgy rock over and then a deep channel dug through a snow ramp leading to an excellent section of thin placage ice. Lovely stuff.

The third pitch was really fun. An axe ripping, found me upside down 5 meters lower than I had been before. The pitch was capped off with a really brutal and awkward wall, great stuff.

Jeff seconding the really pumpy but short final section

Jeff now took over the lead and put in an impressive show on the final pitch. Hats off to Bullock for this route. It starts off really nicely with awesome, if thin, torques but a few meters from the top stuff suddenly gets really desperate. A stein-pull brings you up to within spitting distance of the top but suddenly there are no feet; Jeff shouted down that he was trying to scrape into the rock just to try and create a mono point hole….wishful thinking. The telltale sounds of metal scraping down rock and Jeff was off, caught by two lobes of a C3 000 no less.

All in all an awesome day and and now very excited to get back out as soon as it stops snowing 24/7!

The Alpine Exposures coffee table photo book