Monday, May 12, 2008

Alps skiing and Alaska alpine cragging

After wrapping up a stellar late season of ice in the San Juans, I headed to Chamonix to guide a group of 4 guys from Atlanta. We met at the Hotel Richemond on April 2 and promptly set out to check out the Vallee Blanche. This classic ski mountaineerng descent starts at the top of the Aiguille du Midi telepherique and skis mile after mile of glacier down to the Montenvers Train Station. We had beautiful snow and weather and and an incredibly fun start to what would become a challenging traverse.

We started out on the Verbier Haute Route on the 4th, reaching Zermatt 6 days later in a total whiteout. Throughout the tour we had new snow, poor visibility, and challenging conditions most days. All four guys showed a great attitude and enjoyed the week of touring. The Haute Route is a very unique cultural and alpine endeavor. It utilizes a variety of different mountain skills and allows motivated skiers to meet and ski with folks from all over the world, brought together by the spirit of wild snow.

The Suisse Essentials: Castor Pants, Outline Zip Pull, Extreme WS Jacket, Monte Cristo

After a week at home, I headed up to the Alaska Range for a couple guiding trips on The Mooses Tooth. We were based out of the Root Canal Glacier under the South Face, an amazingly beautiful place to camp, and land a plane. 

The first week's weather wasn't so good, and we weren't able to climb much more than a few pitches of Ham and Eggs and the Incisor. Week two went much better. Ridgway resident, Bob O., and I flew back into the Root Canal late on the night of the 4th. The next day we climbed Ham and Eggs (IV AI4 5.6) to the Main Summit in a fine alpine push.

We took two days off in great weather to eat and rest for an attempt on Shaken not Stirred (IV WI6 M5), just down the glacier. Shaken was thin this year, but had seen a couple ascents by strong parties this year. Bob and I went up to have a look, and were able to climb up to Englishman's Col without too much struggle. The first 4 mixed pitches were incredibly fun with delicate climbing; and the upper Narrows was one of the funnest features I've climbed in the mountains, with numerous chimneys, chockstones, and slots to keep things interesting. 16 or so raps later we had a fine round of Tasty Bites and  Miller High Life. 

You can check out Bob's photos and report on Shutterfly at this link.

Thanks to everyone at Mammut for the great gear that makes these trips all the more easy and fun!

Cheers to a good spring! Clint