August 12th 2010

Mont Blanc - Freney Pillar

The blog has been pretty quiet so time to update it. A few days ago saw the end of a pretty intense few days of climbing up high. Starting off with some acclmitisation on the Tacul and ending on the Freney Pillar.

The weather has been pretty mixed for the last couple of weeks and it seemed that whenever it looked like the last snow fall might have finally been burnt off by the sun that another system came in. Last weekend the weather was predicting very much the same thing but the decision was made to head up to the Freney anyway as we got the feeling that it might have been our last chance to get on it this year due to snow fall and general autumn feel around the corner.

Saturday saw us head over to Italy and the long slog up to the Eccles hut. Though it’s pretty far on paper we ambled along very slowly and arrived 6 hours later so no big deal. We had decided that based on the amount of snow up high that the Eccles huts would be deserted so we didnt bring any bivy kit opting to go as light as possible on the route…big mistake- they were packed.

On the approach to the Eccles. The Aig Noire on the left, Pointe Innominata on the right

That evening we shared a bunk barely big enough for one person and managed about an hour of sleep at best. When the alarm went off the psyche was pretty drowsy but an hour later and we were stomping up good snow to the Col Eccles.

Some two hours later and we were at the start of the route climbing up some mixed terrain which should have been pretty bone dry- but no matter as it was just as easy on this angled terrain with crampons and axe.

On the lower section at sunrise. Aig Blanche de Peuterey in the background

Higher up and it was time to get the rock shoes out, well for me anyway. Awesome granite pitches flowed after that but interspersed with alot of snow which made for some tricky climbing at times- well more wet than tricky.

Two climbers approach the top of the Grand Pillier D’Angle. Grandes Jorasses in the background

We were doing well up to the Chandelle and enjoying a nice day out in the hills but I managed to get absolutely soaked leading the penultimate pitch to the Chandelle- something about kicking steps up fresh snow slopes in rock shoes and then straddling a snow arete didnt quite mix with my lightweight summer clothing at the time.

Just below the chandelle with the spicy snow arete

On the first pitch of the Chandelle

The sun left us shortly after the second aid pitch and I got unbelievably cold- maybe the coldest that I have ever gotten in the mountains. Thanks to Will who got me to the top in my frozen state.

Will leading the first aid pitch

Jon hauling ass up the last aid pitch on the chandelle, © Will Sim

The summit was seriously windy and nasty, as it always seems to be when i top out on Mont Blanc. I thought I was going to be ok to keep going to the Midi but my brain wasnt really working properly due to how cold I had gotten and we paid a visit to the Vallot. I’ve never been there before but two blankets were found and we slept wedged amongst the same Italians who had been with us in the Eccles the night before. They had done the Innominata…sounds awesome.

The Alpine Exposures coffee table photo book