Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Great Escape!

Despite the fact that we're nearly into the final week of July, summer doesn't really seem to be happening in Cham so far this year. We've had plenty of rain, some OK days with afternoon thunderstorms and the odd sunny day but nothing resembling a good, solid high pressure. The forecast is for things to pick up slightly but there's certainly no guarantee of any sun. The Chamonix Meteo team have been typically vague, describing the weather for the second half of this week as, "summer condition with diurnal instability". Clear as mud.

With this in mind I thought I'd put a post on about options for escaping the bad weather in the Valley. All of them are within 5 hours drive and generally at least one of them is enjoying good weather on any day of the year so get on yr.no, do some research and get in the car! Cham is a perfect climbing playground 90% of the time but here are the options for the 10% when you just can't think of anything to do.

Rope swinging at La Turbie, high above Monaco harbour.

South coast of France. Almost always sunny, loads of brilliant climbing (buy the guidebook here) and an incredible collection of good places to eat, drink and be merry - what's not to like? 

Sharon climbing the perfect slabs of Ailefroide.

The Ecrins. With everything from top quality cragging to high alpine missions (like the Traverse of the Meije) and brilliant multi pitch rock between, the Ecrins is great. One small thing, if you want to climb in the hills, you'll need to like walking - there ain't no cable cars here.

Peter Riley on "Pesce d'Aprille" in the Orco Valley.

Orco, Italy. A granite cragging venue which seems to be in something of a rain shadow. I didn't feel that the climbing was all it was hyped up to be but it's pretty good and beats watching the rain in Cham.

Tom Grant abbing off the summit of the Salbitschijen.

Central Switzerland. There is probably more good granite climbing in Central Siwtzerland than anywhere else in the World, seriously. Furka Pass, Grimsel Pass, Eldorado, Salbit, the list goes on.

Me doing a highball boulder problem in Fontainebleu back in 2006.

"Font" needs no introduction to most climbers and it's well worth the hype. If the weather is blowing in from the south, it can enjoy better weather than Cham and is pretty much the polar opposite to the stress and difficulty of alpinism!

Peter Riley climbing "Mad Max" at Les Dentelles, Provence. 

Provence is frankly awesome. Get the guidebook here

The final option is just sticking here and going climbing in the rain!

Wet, misty and cold...but at least we were out. Me climbing somewhere up at the Brevent. 
Photo Tom Grant. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Gozo Climbing

It seems that the sun really is shining on the righteous these days because I've just spent a week under perfect blue sky on the Maltese island of Gozo, and have now returned to a Chamonix enjoying its first good weather for 3 weeks. 

The climbing in Gozo was great and whilst it seemed that it has more to offer the higher grade climbers than those pootling around in the 6's like me, the situations, virtually guaranteed weather and solitude more than make up for any small downsides. We didn't climb on Malta but looking through the excellent guidebook (buy it here) I think there is a huge amount to do, so you could do a lot worse than spending a week or 2 climbing there in the autumn.

Easy but superbly positioned climbing on Wied il-Mielah. Photo Nick Taylor.

Trying to decide between another route or a jump in the sea.

An undeveloped sector at Mgarr Ix-Xini.

Sharon climbing at Wied El-Mielah with a pretty wild sea below.

Of course, it wasn't all climbing....

Sunday, 6 July 2014

More dodgy weather

After 2 really good summers over the past couple of years, 2014 isn't really delivering so far and the unsettled and rainy weather looks set to continue this week.

Options in the mountains have been limited but the ever reliable Aiguilles Rouges is always a good option at times like this. Higher up there is still plenty of snow about and many of the classic rock climbs above the Plan de l'Aiguille remain snowy and damp. Given the weather forecast for the week, I'd be heading up the Brevent or Flegere and climbing some easy classics in the fog if I was in Cham. Luckily for me (given the forecast), I won't be in Cham and will instead be on the tiny island of Gozo, just off Malta. I've bought the guidebook and the climbing looks amazing so I'll be putting some photos on here once I've checked it out. 

In the meantime, here's some shots from yesterday, a few hours of which was spent powering (running would be exaggerating) up to the Nid d'Aigle from Les Houches. It might not be a tough day by Cham standards but it just goes to show that whatever the weather, you can still have some great days in the hills.

Atmospheric views looking up towards the Aiguille de Bionnassay.

Sophie and Sharon high above Les Bettieres.