Ailefroide Multipitch

As the weather has remained excellent in Ailefroide we have stayed here to focus on multi-pitch rock rather than heading off somewhere else to do more alpine climbing.

Palavar les Flots, 12 Pitches, 430m, 5c

We started with the long but relatively straight forward classic of Palavar les Flots, which is a 12 pitch 5c which climbs the dominant arête above the campsite. The climbing was relatively sustained all the way up at 4b-5a which made for an enjoyable day out, the crux pitch was notably harder than the rest of the route but had an enjoyable sequence up the slab.

Despite being stuck behind a slower group of three, we made quick time up the route and we were at the top by lunchtime. After lunch on the top, we made the long abseil back down to the valley. By the time we were back down at the base of the route we were in the full heat of the afternoon sun, so we made a hasty retreat to a hotel in Ailefroide for a beer and some ice cream.

Pre climb selfie

Pre climb selfie

Becky on the fourth pitch

Becky on the fourth pitch

Becky leading one of the pitches

Becky leading one of the pitches

Long way back down from the seventh pitch

Long way back down from the seventh pitch

Great view down the valley

Great view down the valley

Becky leading to the top

Becky leading to the top

Summit selfie

Summit selfie

Near the end of the long abseil

Near the end of the long abseil

Little Palaver, 8 Pitches, 300m, 5c

Next to Palavar les Flots is a smaller ridge which is known as Little Palavar. It is an 8 pitch 5c, which while technically isn’t any harder, it is much more sustained with the majority of the pitches being 5b or 5c. An early start meant that we were the first on the route, or so we thought…

After the tough first pitch it became clear that a slower party had missed out the first pitch and cut in front of us. After sneaking past on the next pitch we soon accelerated away from them and were able to enjoy climbing without any queueing. The climbing was fabulous, with excellent positions, enjoyable climbing and good bolting. Unfortunately, the climb was only 8 pitches so we were soon at the top and had to start the abseils back down to the hot valley.

Great view down the valley

Great view down the valley

Looking down on the campsite

Looking down on the campsite

Thin slab climibng

Thin slab climibng

Becky at the end of the easy traverse

Becky at the end of the easy traverse

Becky leading up the arete

Becky leading up the arete

Exposed moves up the arete

Exposed moves up the arete

Enjoyable face climbing

Enjoyable face climbing

Summit selfie

Summit selfie

A Week in the Ecrins

For the past few years the weather has always been very unsettled during the time I have spent in the alps, so it has been great this year that the weather has been very stable since the day after we arrived. This year we have started our Alps trip in Ailefroide in the Ecrins.

On the first day the weather forecast for the afternoon wasn’t brilliant so we headed for some local multi-pitch rock climbing before the storm came in. As it was the first day we were a bit slow getting started, so our early start turned into a leisurely midday start. After enjoying six pitches of excellent climbing on brilliant rock we got to the top just as the forecast downpour hit. This lead to a rather soggy abseil off in the rain, before walking back and enjoying a well earnt drink in Ailefroide.

Roche Faurio

With a stable weather forecast for the next week we decided to head up into the high mountains for three days. We chose to acclimatise by climbing Roche Faurio at 3730m before climbing the Barre des Ecrins at 4102m. What I didn’t quite appreciate while making these plans is that the Ecrins Hut is very high at 3170m, although thankfully going straight up to a high hut didn’t seem to affect any of us.

Happy before the walk in to the Ecrin Hut

Happy before the walk in to the Ecrin Hut

First view of big mountains

First view of big mountains

The walk up to the hut was unrelentingly hot and it felt like extremely hard work with 1300m of ascent from the car park over 4 hours. After what felt like an endless climb we left the glacier for the brutal final 150m up to the hut. After a reasonable sleep we woke up to a beautiful starlit morning and after the obligatory coffee and dry bread we were out on the Glacier Blanc and heading for the Roche Faurio.

Walking up the Glacier Blanc in the morning

Walking up the Glacier Blanc in the morning

Golden Sunrise

Golden Sunrise

Becky and me ascending the Roche Faurio

Becky and me ascending the Roche Faurio

Becky in front of an atmospheric Barre des Ecrins

Becky in front of an atmospheric Barre des Ecrins

Unfortunately, as we were climbing the mountain it became clear that while the sky was generally clear, the larger mountains were all holding cloud around their summits. After ascending into the cloud, we were treated with fleeting glimpses through the cloud which demonstrated the stunning views which should have been visible. Within excellent time we were at the top of the snow and the start of the short section of rock to the summit. As the route was a Facile I was expecting the rock ridge to be a formality, however the rock up to the summit was really enjoyable scrambling which was more like a solid PD than a Facile.

Stunning view when the cloud cleared

Stunning view when the cloud cleared

Summit ridge in the cloud

Summit ridge in the cloud

Becky admiring the Barre des Ecrins

Becky admiring the Barre des Ecrins

After a quick descent we were back at the hut in time for a mid-morning snack, before spending the afternoon asleep recovering from the early start.

Dôme de Neige des Ecrins

Our plans for the second day were to climb the Barre des Ecrins, this meant a horribly early start with breakfast at 3am. The majority of the climb up the Barre is a simple, but steep, snowplod. However, it is threatened by huge unstable seracs for a large portion of the ascent which made it one of the more objectively dangerous peaks I have climbed.

Sunrise above the Glacier Blanc

Sunrise above the Glacier Blanc

Sunrise on the slopes below the Barre des Ecrins

Sunrise on the slopes below the Barre des Ecrins

Sunrise on the slopes below the Barre des Ecrins

Sunrise on the slopes below the Barre des Ecrins

Stunning views while climbing the NE Face of the Barre des Ecrin

Stunning views while climbing the NE Face of the Barre des Ecrin

We made reasonable time up to the end of the snow and the start of the rock ridge, however with too many parties trying to climb the mountain a large queue had formed at the start of the rock. After sitting around for over 30mins with almost no movement from the parties already on the rock we decided to abandon our plans to climb the Barre des Ecrins and headed over to the subsidiary summit of the Dôme de Neige des Ecrins.

Summit photo on the Dôme de Neige des Ecrins

Summit photo on the Dôme de Neige des Ecrins

Becky on the summit of the Dôme de Neige des Ecrins

Becky on the summit of the Dôme de Neige des Ecrins

Panorama from the Dôme de Neige des Ecrins

Panorama from the Dôme de Neige des Ecrins

Scary seracs

Scary seracs

Descending the NE face of the Barre des Ecrins

Descending the NE face of the Barre des Ecrins

It was a beautiful day and we head great views in every direction with almost no wind. After the obligatory summit photos and some food, we headed back down to the valley. In the daylight it looked a long way back down to the Glacier Blanc, and it certainly felt it while descending the still frozen snow. We were soon back at the hut, and heading off on the long descent back down to the valley which seemed to go on forever in the ever increasing heat. In total the descent was about 2300m which certainly makes you appreciate the lifts of Chamonix and Valais.

Back in the Valley

Unfortunately on the decent Becky twisted her Ankle so we have had a few rest days which involved an aborted attempt at some more multi pitch climbing and a via ferrata in the Gorge de la Durance. The via ferrata was enjoyable, however since taking up climbing sport via ferratas in the valley don’t seem to have quite have the same excitement.

Climbing above Ailefroide

Climbing above Ailefroide

Enjoying the Gorges de la Durance via ferrata

Enjoying the Gorges de la Durance via ferrata

Steep section at the start

Steep section at the start

Airy bridges

Airy bridges

Great exposure

Great exposure

High above the gorge

High above the gorge

Selfie on the final bridge

Selfie on the final bridge

Becky on the final exposed bridge

Becky on the final exposed bridge

Becky on the final bridge

Becky on the final bridge

Rock Climbing in Langdale

Having made multiple trips up to the Lake District with the hope of climbing only to be thwarted by bad weather and ending up at Shepards, it was great to finally have a weekend in the Lake District with decent weather and dry rock. Over the weekend I climbed with Becky and Andrew and come home having completed a decent haul of routes

  • Pavey Arc – Capella – E1 5b, 5b – ***
  • Pavey Arc Golden Slipper – HVS 4c, 5a, 4a ***
  • Gimmer – Intern – E1 5b, 5a ***
  • Gimmer – Whit’s End Direct – E1 5b ***
  • Gimmer – Gimmer String – E1 4c, 4c, 5b ***
  • Gimmer – Detour – VS 4b – **

Day 1: Pavey Arc – Capella & Golden Slipper

Having left bristol at an hour which should not exist we were enjoying a coffee and breakfast in Ambleside at 9am while looking at the unfortunately grey sky. Despite this we held our nerve and carried on with plan A, which was to climb a link up of two classic routes on Pavey Arc.

Having spent too little time in the the mountains and too much time sat at work, the walk in came as a bit of a shock to the body. Thankfully after not too long we emerged at the tarn and were able to admire the crag. We were soon at the start of the route, and thankfully it looked like the route was mostly dry. Unfortunately the start was not one of the sections which was dry, which gave me a good excuse for using the helpfully tree rather than free climbing the start of the route!

The first pitch of Capella was enjoyable balancy climbing which had plenty of gear, until the traverse out left. Thankfully the climbing was then easy and I was soon enjoying the view at the belay. Becky made quick work of the pitch and I was quickly heading off on the next pitch. The first few moves took a bit of working out, and felt pretty serious with poor gear and committing moves, but the climbing was enjoyable. After these first few moves it was an easy romp up onto Jack’s rake.

We enjoyed a nice lunch on Jack’s rake as we watched the rain go by without touching us, but unfortunately this didn’t last as we moved up Jack’s rake to get to the start of the classic Golden Slipper. Initially it started drizzling which wasn’t enough to deter me, so I set off on the pitch as the intensity of the rain was increasing. Thankfully it didn’t end up coming to much and the rock was dry by the time Becky was climbing.

From the top of the first pitch you are greeted by the fantastic slab of the second pitch, which from the ground looks immensely improbable for the grade. The climbing up this pitch was just fantastic with holds appearing all the time and just enough gear to keep you feeling happy. The crux was stepping right as the slab steepened and was just fantastic as just when it looked like you had run out of holds, a big jug appeared.

Becky lead the last pitch, unfortunately by the time we had swapped over who was leading it was properly raining and we got properly soaked. This lead to a quick stop on the summit for a photo, before running down to get out of the wind in our wet clothes.

Becky in front of Pavey Arc

Becky in front of Pavey Arc

Becky on the first pitch of Capella

Becky on the first pitch of Capella

Lots of rain about

Lots of rain about

On the sublime second pitch of Golden Slipper

On the sublime second pitch of Golden Slipper

Summit selfie

Summit selfie

On the way back down

On the way back down

Day 2: Gimmer

With a great forecast for the second day we debated taking a punt and heading up to Scafel, however due to the northerly wind and cool temperature we elected for the safer option of Gimmer. We chose the shorter approach and leant the hard way what the guidebook means when it describes the approach as arduous! After the warm up of the approach I set off on a shady Intern, which in the morning with cold rock suddenly felt very hard, but the climbing was fantastic with spaced but good gear. Andrew lead the stunningly positioned second pitch which just left me to enjoy the climbing up to the ledge.

From the half-way ledge we climbed the appealing slab of Whit’s End Direct, which was a long pitch with excellent well protected slab climbing. I only a short time cursing myself for choosing to climb a slab while trying to work out the very thin crux. Once you are past the crux there is just the easy but exposed move out onto the overlap, before the climbing eases as the top approaches.

After a quick abseil back down and some food we headed up the classic Gimmer String. Which was an outstanding climb, with the first pitch of Gimmer Crack’s being very enjoyable with nice jamming, exposed moves and a comfy belay ledge. Andrew got left with the second pitch which was a bit thrutchy at times, but surprisingly enjoyable for me.

The final pitch was just outstanding, with sustained climbing that was never too hard, in fantastically exposed positions. From below the final crack looked very tough, but as it was approached it was clear that there were plenty of footholds, before one hard pull up to the finishing jug.

After this we abseiled back down and climbed one final route of the day before heading back down in time for a BBQ in the sun.

Andrew on Intern

Andrew on Intern

Excellent slab of Whit's End Direct

Excellent slab of Whit’s End Direct

Exposed headwall on Whit's End Direct

Exposed headwall on Whit’s End Direct

Stunning finale to Gimmer String

Stunning finale to Gimmer String

Enjoying the view from the top

Enjoying the view from the top

Pre descent selfie

Pre descent selfie

Beautiful evening

Beautiful evening

Diedros Mágicos

On our last day we headed up to the the impressive south face of Puig Campana to climb the classic corner of Diedros Mágicos which is a 5 pitch f6a. Unusually for Spain, the route had no bolts other than for the belays which gave the route a UK grade of E1.

Also unusually for Spain there was actually a decent size walk in, although it looked pretty short from the car as the south face is so large. After a hot walk in with a fantastic view of the south face, we were soon at the crag which other than a team on the classic ridge of Espolón Central we had to ourselves.

Looking up at Diedros Mágicos in the morning

Looking up at Diedros Mágicos in the morning

Almost at the base of the route

Almost at the base of the route

From below the groove of Diedros Mágicos looked very impressive so I was pretty psyched to get onto the route and the lack of bolts made me even more excited. The first pitch was much harder than I was expecting, but the climbing was amazing. It involved excellent bridging and laybacking up the steep corner, with excellent unpolished rock, loads of gear and it finished at a very comfy cave belay.

 

Becky on the steep first pitch

Becky on the steep first pitch

The next two pitches involved more of the same, just a bit easier. At the end of the third pitch there was an excellent traverse over to a ledge, there is a vital flake at the start of this traverse which was very loose and will fall off at some point. The fourth pitch was meant to be very easy, but it turned out to involve enjoyable technical climbing which found the line of least resistance up a series of corners and cracks.

 

Approaching the exposed traverse on P3

Approaching the exposed traverse on P3

Local wildlife

Local wildlife

The penultimate belay was on a comfortable ledge below the outstanding final 50m long crux pitch which surprisingly was also not protected by bolts. This involved interesting climbing up to a roof, before some very hard & insecure (but well protected) moves out to the right into the corner above. A few easier moves lead to the second crux which was getting established in the left hand corner above, which was easier than the first but again very well protected. After this some easier climbing lead up to the final belay.

 

Becky approaching the final groove

Becky approaching the final groove

Long way down from the top

Long way down from the top

Summit selfie

Summit selfie

We quickly abseiled down the ground in four abseils down a bolted abseil line and made a hasty retreat back down to the car in order to get back to the airport for our flight home, late flights do have their advantages! (but did mean that we didn’t get home until 2am!)

Looking back up to Puig Campana in the evening

Looking back up to Puig Campana in the evening

Diedros Mágicos was an excellent finish to a brilliant trip, it was great to get on a long traditionally protected route with no polish. As the first few pitches were harder than I was expecting it made it a really balanced & sustained route, with most pitches feeling like HVS apart from the final pitch which was a solid E1. I thought the grades of the pitches were more like 5+, 5, 5, 5+, 6a+.