Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Early Bird

Loch Tulla at sunrise (credit Sara Cockburn).
Winter arrived to the Scottish hills midway through November, with conditions getting better and better as the weeks rolled in. A series of snowy north-westerlies and consistently cold air transformed the autumnal hills into their winter garb, with ice beginning to form pretty rapidly.

Stob Ghabar (credit Sara Cockburn).
At the start of November an over optimistic trip into Coire an Lochain with Scott G was rebutted at the Lochain, where we both arrived soaked to skin, the cliffs tantalizingly white. Alas it was to be later on in the month until the season kicked off for me. I met up with Jonny Livesey on the 24th of November and we arranged to go for a look at Noe Buttress high on Ben Cruachan. I was up walking with Sara and Lewis a week or so previous on Beinn a'Chochuill and Beinn Eunaich and was impressed with the grandness of the Cruachan range. That along with the enthusiastic reports of the route Tainted Elixir online and more importantly in Simon Richardson's 'Chasing the Ephemeral', we were convinced to go for a look. 

Lewis looking to Beinn Chochuill with the Cruachan range behind.
It was a slow drive up Loch Lomond side with the roads not gritted or cleared, the fresh snow instilling some fear about the impending long walk in. We soon arrived at the Falls of Cruachan train station where we parked up. The walk in starts steeply up through a birch forest before crossing a stile and the ensuing bog march before reaching the dam. An easy walk alongside the the reservoir then branches left heading up into Coire Dearg. It was slow going breaking trail up through here with a mixture of bog and rocky terrain underfoot. A very slight navigational error put us on the top of Meall Cuanail rather than the bealach, a Munro for the purists lets say, but the clouds parted at its top giving us beautiful views across Argyll and Mull. From here a slow walk down then up the scree covered Ben Cruachan summit ridge saw us at its top. 

Gubbed. The Coire Chat walk in!
From the summit we got our first glimpse of Noe Buttress and it did indeed look promising. The cliffs were aesthetically white with the blustery snow showers helping improve this further. It was bitingly cold walking down the West ridge, we were both concerned for our numb digits! We dumped the sacks above an obvious gully which led down into Coire Chat and geared up. It was a simple approach from there thankfully and we eventually found ourselves at the cliff base four and a half hours after leaving the car! 

Jonny on P1 of Tainted Elixir.
Our first impressions of the cliff were good, it is compact with not much turf unlike most other South-West Highland crags, well featured and reasonably steep. In many ways it is pretty similar in style to the Northern Corries on compact granite, maybe Sneachda more so. Tainted Elixir is located easily at its left hand side following an obvious corner groove system. It is described in three pitches but we elected to climb it in two, preferring to extend them out. 

Jonny doing battle with the initial tricky corner on Tainted Elixir.
Jonny took the first pitch which kicks off straight away, taking the obvious right facing bulging corner by way of some good but reachy hooks. The feet were pretty thin through here requiring some thought and warm biceps. After sussing out the moves Jonny moved through the hooks no bother and up onto some easier ground. An enjoyable steep cracked wall continued above before Jonny belayed immediately below the impending overhanging slot above. 

Jonny at the steep cracked wall, Tainted Elixir.
I was feeling a little intimidated by the sight of the overhang from below, after the usual first winter pitch of the season jitters. Although there wasn't much time for hanging around with day light soon to fade. I moved up off the belay using a good front point nick out right and spanned my left foot out wide onto the wobbly perched block. The gear wasn't obvious at first so I battered in a solid bulldog before committing a little higher to search out the blind hooks and gear. It was soon laced up leaving me with no excuses to pull on through the overhang. The blind but good hooks continued to come and the climbing was enjoyable although over all so quickly. Easy ground then led back up onto the ridge and Jonny soon followed up just before day light faded. 

A gub foo of jelly babies.
Some night navigation practice eventually found us back down at the car, although just a little too late for the chippie at Tyndrum! It was a good start to the season and good to check out a new crag which has great views down Loch Etive with guaranteed solitude. Toxic Brew felt fair at V,6 with the initial bulging corner and overhanging slot above being the standout sections of climbing. It was enjoyable although it is a little short at 70m lengths, especially so for the arduous approach. But Scottish winter climbing is nonsensical after all!

Lewis on the Aonach Eagach. A cracking day.
A couple days later myself and Lewis Ferguson headed up the Coe keen to make the most of the good start to the season. The uber classic Aonach Eagach was on the agenda. I've never actually been onto the ridge before, the closest being spectating the Glencoe Skyline from Am Bodach. We had a leisurely start leaving the car around the back of 9am before taking our time pulling up onto Am Bodach from Allt-na-ruigh. We passed a couple on the way up but didn't see anyone else for the rest of the day having the entire ridge to ourselves. Not knowing what to expect we carted up a short rope and some gear, although in the end this just stayed in our bags. We found the initial drop off Am Bodach okay to down climb although I'm sure if there was insitu tat in place we probably would have abseiled. 

Beautiful light through Glencoe from the Aonach Eagach.
The pinnacles were great fun and much more sustained than I was expecting. No show stoppers but nice sections of scrambling in fantastic exposed situations. The cloud parted for us leaving us with beautiful light throughout the Coe and west to the Ballachulish horse shoe. It would be great to get the ridge in proper alpine condition but it was just as fun snowed up. We found the slabby descent off of the penultimate pinnacle to be the most awkward, with the outcome of a mistake focusing the mind! We didn't fancy a mini epic so avoided the Clachaig gully descent and headed further onto the Pap before descending down. All in we were seven hours glen to glen but we took our time and it was a thoroughly enjoyable day out.

Looking to Bidean and SCNL from the Aonach Eagach.

The ridge in profile from the west.
A week or so into December I was back up in the Coe with Jonny. It was a beautiful crisp still starry morning which we enjoyed with a leisurely pace up into Stob Coire nan Lochan. There were a few teams leaving the car park but it was pretty empty for a weekend, the hoards were obviously in the Northern Corries - bonus! There was a lot of ice forming now lower down in the hills and we were anxious that the cracks may too be pretty icy, thankfully this was not the case. We were both keen on Crest Route having heard various glowing reports about it. I've not done masses in SCNL although I think the steeper the route is in there the better its quality. This was certainly the case for Crest Route! The route is nestled away over the west end of corrie to the right of NC Gully. It takes the striking steep corner groove system directly up the crest of the buttress. 

Seeing as Jonny got dibs on pitches last time round I elected to head off first so I could get a shot with the crux high on the route. The first pitch starts off pretty mellow with big turfy ledges which you step up before reaching a couple short steep cracked walls. The top wall gives you a wee warm up for things to come and you belay on the pedestal above. 

Jonny starting out over the inital slab on P2 of Crest Route.
The second pitch gets you into the meat of the route and provides superb sustained and steep climbing on secure hooks up the corner. There is an initial slab to negotiate but once cleared it provides enough edges to gander up on leading you into the corner proper. From here to the belay it is unrelenting hero hooks on the well featured Andesite, with some cool moves in-between (see Distilled with Andy Cave). Unfortunately for Jonny he was so immersed in the climbing that he climbed straight past the spike belay to the left. An awkward down climb resulted in a semi hanging belay immediately above the spike.

Jonny entering the steep corner on P2 of Crest Route.
This pitch provided a great warm up for the third pitch and I was glad to be able to get into the zone on it before the next lead. After exchanging gear I left the small stance and reentered the steep groove above. There was a thinner move leaving the belay but once committed back into the groove it was back onto good hooks and solid gear. I steadily moved on up the groove until reaching a couple of small loose blocks which could do with being frozen in. I tentatively pulled up on them to get established at the lip of the crux wall with my feet at the loose block.

Someone's been doing their yoga!
This is a brilliant position right on the crest of the wall with some nice exposure - thankfully there is excellent gear at chest height. The vertical wall above is a short corner with a uniform narrow crack running vertically down the back of it and a small ledge at its base. The crux is pulling over the lip and getting yourself established into the corner. I placed my tool into the wider crack running through the base of the ledge expecting a solid hook. None. After probing around I managed to get the head of my tool to seat if held correctly at the edge of the cracked ledge. There was a lot of play in it however so it was a delicate position but secure with good feet below. I searched for any taper in the narrow vertical crack above with my other tool but to no avail. In fact, I realised I was in a predicament as my pick weights were too wide for the crack! I gave the tool a short swing hoping to get the pick weights to bite a bit, then torqued the tool in place. Now it was just a case of committing through the sequence of moves I'd planned through. A high left mono point on the lip, bump the right up onto a decent edge all the while keeping the tension through both tools. I found myself still on and now having to commit fully onto the torque. I released the lower tool out, slowly stood up onto the feet pushing out on the right, while staring out the torque ensuring it was staying in place. I spanned as high as I could with the free tool and hooked a square cut edge at the top of the corner. This allowed me to bring the all important knee into play and finally stand up into the corner.

Higher on P2 Crest Route, with the steep head wall of P3 above.
Some more straightforward although not gimme moves followed before topping out at the huge freestanding boulder belay. It was a great pitch and I was chuffed to nail the moves after some initial probing. It was a laugh following the UKC thread, 'This ridiculous behaviour must cease forthwith', so I hope not to be crucified for saying so but I thought the moves felt pretty stiff at tech 6, harder than The Messenger in Sneachda which seems to be garnering a bit of a rep as a sandbag. 

Anyway, this is a top top route which can be climbed in a snowed up state and is pretty safe with superb climbing. Everyone should go do it.

Ben Ime. Check out ktlphotog

Friday, 22 December 2017

A Belated Summer Review

"Spring is the best time to be in Scotland, don't bother visiting in the Summer".
I think I must have paraphrased this a good few times to visiting tourists through May. Summer arrived at the end of April and hung about for a couple weeks. Like everyone else I was keen to get out to make the most of it knowing fine well that these two weeks would be the best of the year before the Summer monsoon arrives. 

Davie Bird on a wet Resurrection VS,4c at Polldubh, photo credit Andy Nisbet.

I made a quick day hit to Glen Nevis at the start of April with Davie Bird where we hooked up with Andy Nisbet who was keen to get some new guidebook shots. We got a couple classic VS ticks at Polldubh in Resurrection and Damnation before heading up the Glen to the Gorge Crags. Here I made an ascent of the underrated Conscription E1,5b which featured a steep jamming start before moving into steep, juggy, fun climbing. Andy got his shots of myself on Plague of Blazes, however I was unable to commit into the sapping wet upper groove and had to traverse off.
Myself on The Way Through E2,5b at Dunkeld, photo credit Iain Smith.

Another day trip this time to Dunkeld with Iain Smith saw me on Twilight a punchy E1,5b, The Way Through E2,5b before finishing off with the classic VS The End.

Smiles all round after the Arisaig half marathon and 10k.

At the end of April a bunch of us hired out a wee lodge up near Arisaig for a long weekend as we were all running The Road to the Isles Half Marathon & 10k. It was a great weekend of running, beaches, fires, sunsets, picnics and chippies!

Picnic spot at xxxx

Sunset over Eigg and Rum, credit Sara Cockburn.

Sean Henderson on P1 of Secretaries' Super Direct, a fairly wild one at HVS. 

Another trip up to Glen Nevis, this time with Sean, saw us warm up on the classic HVS Storm at Polldubh before moving higher to climb the infamous HVS Secretaries Super Direct before rounding off with Sean making a grand lead of Vincent E3,5c.

Sean Henderson engrossed on the initial traverse of Vincent E3,5c at Polldubh.

The day was rounded off perfectly as we arrived back down into the Glen to a fire, beer, venison, sausages and tatties cooked by Sean's brother and wife. Thanks again, it made the day!

Glen Nevis wildlife.

Sean Henderson leading on Tartan Terror, a standard Kilt Rock E1,5b.

We continued North from the Fort after meeting James Jackson the next day and headed for Kilt Rock on Skye. A day here with James always provides you with some good jamming practice, as he does his best to seek out the most brutal cracks which Kilt Rock has on offer. James made some big ticks on Skyscraper, Road to Ruin and Godzilla.

James Jackson high on Skyescraper E2,5b, Kilt Rock

Sean Henderson emerging into the light Wide Eyed, E2,5b Kilt Rock

Scotty at Kilt Rock - top crag dog.

Mountains all around; looking North across the Aonach Eagach, photo credit Sara Cockburn.

Happy as larry; atop a squinty Stob Coire Sgreamhach.

Myself and Sara had the privilege of attending Stuart Ferguson's final Munro, Beinn na Laap, at the start of June. I will always remember the giddy excitement of driving North as a kid, normally at break neck speed if Stuart was behind the wheel, for a weekend of hill walking. It was this excitement that kindled my passion for the Scottish hills and later climbing, and as such I owe a great deal of gratitude to my Dad and Stuart for that. It was a great day of torrential rain, sunshine and thunder storms, but the best bit was getting to catch up with folks who inspired my youth and seeing Stuart himself complete a lifetime ambition which clearly meant so much to him. Drams at the summit were enjoyed with the drawl of pipes in the background before further drams back at Corrour station and later the Tyndrum Inn. To quote Stuart himself on the day:

"It is about a milestone achievement but also about celebrating lifelong friendships". 

At the start of June I managed to squeeze in a one day hit to the Cobbler with Hannah. Despite walking up the Cobbler many times, climbing on it had eluded me so far. I've never quite fully enjoyed schist as a rock type for climbing on, it's snappy nature spooks me. Nonetheless, Hannah pointed me in the direction of the classic Whither Whether as a warm up, which turned into a nerve shredding VS experience! We also managed ascents of the excellent Punsters Crack and Direct Direct.

Hannah following up the wild Whither Whether.
A quick trip North to Diabaig with James was squeezed in between the showers at the start of July with James. Unfortunately the weather didn't play ball but we got a taste of the quality of the climbing on offer with ascents of the superb Route Two, Black Streak and Route Three. The rock here is amazingly grippy providing confidence to the leader to just push on.

A quick hit into Stob Coire nan Lochan with Hannah and Rowen saw us on the classic Unicorn. Unicorn takes the most impressive line in the corrie by means of the eye catching dihedral left of Central Buttress. The first pitch is the best with sustained climbing at E1 on perfect andesite. 

Hannah starting up Unicorn with some traditional back and footing.
I was gifted a copy of the new 'Scottish Bothy Bible' by Geoff Allan for my birthday. The cracking photography rekindled some enthusiasm for a grand trip into the hills, so I managed to convince Sara, despite the threat of ghouls, that we should head into Ben Alder Cottage for the weekend. This was to be Sara's first bothy experience so why not go for one of the most remote. Saturday's weather was horrendous through the day, so we started late in the afternoon and began our long 14km approach from the West end of Loch Rannoch. We made decent time along the 4x4 track before it petered out into pure bog for the last couple kilometres. Despite some hangry and tired legs, Sara dug in and was rejuvenated after a late dinner was served in front of the open fire. 

The next day we woke to blue skies and began our plod on up the approach slopes of Ben Alder with heavy legs. Some braw views were taken in up on the plateau before descending back to the col before finishing up onto the second Munro of the day Beinn Bheoil. A quick reverse from there saw us back down at the bothy and contemplating the walk back out to the car. We put in a good pace and were soon at Dunkeld enjoying some well earned fish and chips. I was proud of Sara as it was a big couple days; 40km with heavy packs for two Munro's is no wee day out!

Ben Alder cottage and Loch Ericht (photo credit Sara Cockburn).

Loch Ericht with Ben Alder above right (photo credit Sara Cockburn).
I've been meaning to spectate the Glencoe Skyline the past couple years, so was glad that this year I was free. Myself, Sara and a couple of her pals headed on up to the top of Am Bodach to watch the runners flee'in along the Aonach Eagach. It was great day with a continental atmosphere of spectators lining the tops. Inspiring stuff such high calibre athletes come to play in your own hills!

The Aonach Eagach from Am Bodach (photo credit Sara Cockburn).

Chamonix Summer 2017

Our bivvy before the Midi-Plan traverse. Braw.
 Scotland in Summer is rainy, although Chamonix Summer 2017 gave it a run for its money! I returned to Chamonix at the end of July to meet up with Sean who was out there on his sabbatical. It was a trip of disappoints and ego bashing, if I'm being brutally honest, which has probably delayed the publication of this post a fair few months. 

Sunrise over the Grand Jorasses.
After catching the early morning flight from Edinburgh, Sean picked me up from Geneva before we parked up at Montenvers and began sorting the gear. The plan was to right some wrongs from last year straight off the bat. Exiting from the Midi lift station the Midi - Plan looked beautiful, its untouched snow arete tracing all the way along high above the Chamonix valley. Walking down the Midi arete always gets the heart going, especially in its current crevassed state after a series of poor Winters and warm Summers. Nonetheless it was great to be back, feeling that crisp Alpine air on your face, crunching neve underfoot and the breathtaking views of the Mont Blanc Massif all around. Sean broke trail down the down the Col du Plan ridge before we located an excellent granite pillar with a flat top for bivvying that night. 

Early bird catches the worm on the Midi-Plan.
We enjoyed a beautiful sun set over the Massif while brewing up and sampling Sean's excellent bivvy food concoction of smash, couscous, tomato puree and tinned fish, with a side dish of chorizo and cheese. Delightful. It was a stellar clear night with excellent views of the milky way and shooting stars. The only downside being that it was too warm!

A quick breather on the Rognon du Plan.
A 3.30 am rise saw us brewing up and back on the ridge early doors with Sean continuing to break trail while I blew along in my unacclimatized state. Conditions were pretty thin with the exposed slope traverse being in particularly poor nick, we were glad to be moving through these areas through the cool cover of the night. Despite the conditions it was excellent as always, taking in the blue hour and sunrise upon the Rognon du Plan. 

Morning light over the Mont Blanc and Aiguille du Midi.
We made quick work of the abseils off of the Rognon, armed with the beta from last year and began the plod through soft snow across the top of the Envers Glacier. It was at this point last year where we quickly realised that an about turn was required. We had started late in the morning and taken in the tops of all rock rognons across the traverse, leading to a rather late arrival above the Envers. The midday sun had done its work by that point and we were mostly traversing porridge, so we thought better of the final snow slope. An unplanned bivvy high above the Chamonix valley was the end result. A steep learning curve but a great and memorable experience nonetheless. 

Final slopes before the Aiguille du Plan.
It was great to summit the Aiguille du Plan and equally it felt like a great start to the trip. Giving confidence for the following couple weeks. We ran back to the Midi station before the impending storm arrived, having a wry chuckle while passing teams who we knew were making the same punter mistakes as us last year. We arrived back at the Midi for 2.30pm just before the forecasted blizzards blew in.

All smiles atop the Aiguille du Plan with the Verte standing behind.

Exit chimneys from the Envers Glacier.

The weather provided us with an enforced rest for a couple of days and it was good to catch up with Sean over a few beers down in the valley. Once the weather cleared we headed to the Blaitiere for some mid mountain rock climbing. Majorette Thatcher proved to be a brutal introduction to Chamonix granite crack climbs. The 6b+ jams through the roof were particularly tough but every pitch was a physical battle despite just dogging my way up on second. The rock was however immaculate but it was all too much too soon.

Myself and Anja. Wild exposure on Majorette Thatcher.
Another days enforced rest before a break in the weather saw us heading up the long but beautiful approach to the Envers hut. The Envers sits far up the Mer de Glace, poised high above on a small ledge. From its terrace your panorama takes in the Verte, Dru, Grand Jorasses and all the way round to the Dent de Geant. Spectacular. Still not fully acclimatized it was tough going with the heavy pack, while an acclimatized Sean sauntered on miles ahead. The Envers is known for providing some of the most immaculate granite lines in the Mont Blanc Massif and was opened up by Swiss alpinist Michel Piola. Those immaculate lines come at the cost of some pretty stiff grading however!

Morning light from our bivvy at the Envers.

Sun rise above Les Droites.

Shortly after arriving in Chamonix Sean managed a bit of a mini epic on Le Marchand de Sable. Unfortunately whilst traversing easier ground a hold snapped resulting in a twenty metre pendulum whinger. Fortunately he escaped with only a badly sprained ankle as well as some physical and mental bruising. So we were here for redemption of sorts. After a fitful nights bivvy, being awoken with the regular booming rockfalls, we were soon skating (literally) our way up the snow cone to the base of the route. Glacial retreat has created a new first pitch across blank ice smoothed granite which you aid across via some bolts to access the original start of La Marchand de Sable.

An Aussie powering up the entry pitch of Le Marchand de Sable.
We managed to beat an Aussie and English boy who were staying in the hut to the start despite skittering our way up the old glacier, so Sean didn't hang about despite a brief false start on the first pitch. Soon Sean was faced by the easy traverse pitch underneath the roof which he took his whipper on a couple months previous. No trouble this time, dispatched. 

The following pitch was described as 'the amazing layback crack' which appeared obvious, soaring up on the steep right hand side wall above the belay. Sean jumped on this and got stuck into what became a seriously physical battle with some pretty tentative feet. In hindsight we had accidentally taken the wrong pitch and the supposedly 5c layback crack was an Envers 6b+ (good lead Sean!). At the time though this screwed with my head big time. How on earth could a 5c layback feel like a seriously physical E3? My head was fried and any prospect of leading any of the following pitches was gone as far as I was concerned. 

Aussie delicately dispatching the techy finger crack crux on Le Marchand de Sable.
This was a real shame because this route is mega and should be savored. Unfortunately for me I was just wanting to get to the top and begin the abseils. I felt bad because Sean was having some of the leads of his life on it and I was fully aware that I was being a dour sod. I think the tough introduction on Majorette Thatcher combined with this really screwed up my psyche and I was finding everything really tough going mentally and physically. 

The crux finger crack slab is something special. Techy finger locks combined with thin feet and a constant demand on keeping your balance, whilst being situated high on the face with the exposure dragging at your heels creates a pretty memorable pitch. Sean kept his cool and moved through the series of locks with confidence. 

Sean high on Le Marchand de Sable.
Easier climbing then led to the summit where we briefly watched in awe as the Gendarmerie plucked a climber off the neighboring pillar. A series of quick abseils saw us back at the base and heading to the hut for a refreshing pint whilst watching the sunset over the Verte. 

Not a bad view from the terrace. Sunset on the mighty Verte.
We decided the following day to do the classic La Piege directly above the hut. This would allow us to march back down the Mer de Glace later in the afternoon. It yet again provided some superb granite climbing and good pinnacle top out. My head though was all over the place so it was difficult again to take it all in, at least this was climbed clean...on second :/

First pitch of La Piege.
It was all getting pretty frustrating, two weeks holiday, a lot of rain, a flooded tent, a brutal introduction to Chamonix granite, a complete loss of psyche and an acute awareness that I was letting Sean down as he was stuck climbing with a gibbering punter for a fortnight. 

The soaring exposed arete pitch on La Piege. Brilliant.
Thankfully we toned things down the next day, Sean obviously in need of a rest after some seriously impressive back to back leads over the past couple days. We opted for an easy active rest day taking in the Arete a Laurence along with the Cosmiques. It was good to be back up high taking in the views of the Massif and this helped rekindle some psyche. 

An easy but enjoyable day around the Midi.
Another weather enforced rest day saw us assemble a full fry up in Sean's van while the rain battered down, along followed an afternoon of movies. Not really what you come to the Alps for, more what I do in my day job.

The weather cleared and thankfully we had a great day with some great weather on the Peigne. We arrived nice and sharp at back of 6am to catch the Midi lift, unfortunately about a thousand or so tourists had the same idea! Fortunately sporting my new Patagonia Nano Air jaekit, I passed as a guide and managed to blag a couple of guide's express passes, allowing us to swan straight to the front of the queue. We enjoyed a leisurely walk across the Plan de l'Aiguille to the base of Papillons Arete. 

Entry chimneys on Papillons.
The arete itself was brilliant, we moved together in approach shoes hauling on the finger lock crux move only. It takes in some great scenery and rock through some easy but enjoyable climbing. The highlight is the 'letterbox' pitch where you thread right through the ridge at a jammed block before continuing up a steep corner then rib on the right. Then follows and excellent exposed slab traverse underneath the crest of the ridge before finishing more directly along the crest. We stopped for a quick chat with an Irish lad we had bumped into a few times before continuing on from here up the Peigne Normal Route to take in the summit. 

Teams ahead on Papillons with Aiguille du Peigne standing proudly above.
From the couloir you traverse rightwards to reach the Breche which is a flattish but loose piece of ground before making some steep but juggy pulls before soon reaching the Salle a Manger. Unfortunately here we witnessed a bad fall. An Italian guide was belaying his English client across the downward traverse on descent. Unfortunately high above on the pedestal the woman slipped taking a twenty-metre pendulum straight onto her head. Nasty. Through luck she wasn't seriously hurt and put a very brave face on it. Meanwhile the Italian guide was being...well Italian! Moving on we continued up some steeper but loose chimneys before reaching the excellent exposed summit ridge of the Peigne. It was great to eventually enjoy a proper day out and take in a great top at the same time. We made quick work of the abseils before running on down to make sure we caught the lift back down to the valley.

Some great settings on the Papillons.
The weather was back in again for the last few days of the trip so we took in Crakoukass which is a meandering bolted route off the Brevent. The route wasn't up to much but it had us doing something anyway despite the clag.

Sean coming up from the Letterbox corner pitch.

The exposed slab pitch on the Papillons.
In reflection I learned a lot again, namely Chamonix granite is hard and it takes time to grasp the style. Realistically for me going back out there I would just want to run big easier routes with grades in hand, at least till I have a feel for it. The rock is sublime and it must be thoroughly satisfying climbing on it in such fantastic surroundings. It was a tough couple weeks mentally, as we had bigger objectives in mind, but unfortunately the weather and conditions put them to bed. The limited amount of clear weather also meant a limited amount of time on the rock so it was impossible to get flowing on the granite. Finding the small amounts of routes which we did manage to squeeze in pretty hard going meant it was difficult to enjoy them as Sean was rope gunning for us meaning I was more a surrogate on the route. 

The airy summit of the Aiguille du Peigne.

Beginning the abseils off the Aiguille du Peigne.
It wasn't all so bad though, being in Chamonix and spending time up high is good in itself, as the place has its own buzz and atmosphere being filled with like minded people. It was also great to catch up with Sean and see that he's climbing strong these days. Not sure he will qualify as a punter when he's finally home! Hopefully this ramble wasn't all doom and gloom but I guess it gives some balance as climbing trips aren't always great despite what social media would have you believe.

The Alps are good. Honest.