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Rod's Euro 2010 - Trip Report
6:43:11 AM
L'Envers des Aiguilles 3/3

...and so passed the rest of the time: great weather (clouds so arranged as to merely optimise the fantastic scenery); fantastic climber's only ambience at the cabane and really impressive, inspiring lines where you just gave it a go and sometimes a pitch seemed easy, sometimes a pitch seemed crazy hard all at the same grade. Apparently nothing anyone else encountered came close to my desperate "4c" chimney and we were all impressed by the ballsyness of some of the other teams we came across.

The following shot was taken on a rest day and shows that you don't have to go on a mission each day: the approach is about 10 seconds from the cabane past the marmottes.

2:12:18 PM
On 11/07/2010 rod wrote:
>Apparently nothing anyone else encountered came close to my desperate "4c" chimney and we were all impressed by the ballsyness of some of the other teams we came across.

Presumably they were climbing harder grades?
Do you know if the apparent inconsistency of grading extends into the higher grades there?

A good read. Thanks for posting it up Rod.
... I guess adventure is no respector of any grading system!
6:49:50 PM
G'Day M9 and thanks for the PM the other day.

>Presumably they were climbing harder grades?
The other 3 guys in my group climb stuff up to 8a and it quickly became clear to all of us that skills in one arena don't necessarily translate. As a general rule we found the "easier grades" (4c/5a) on older routes were desperate and poorly protectable but as we stepped up the grade rankings things got easier to protect and hence far simpler to get up. Compared to other groups in the cabane we were climbing similar graded routes but some of the stuff other guys were doing was pretty amazing.

For example: Regis and Steve rapping off, snare a rope. Casual as ever a Czech guy 20m above a single cam and well a truly beyond a #2 fall factor, traverses right off his route, untangles their rope, traverses back left and continues jamming his way up this crack system. The boys were still talking about it a couple of days later.

>Do you know if the apparent inconsistency of grading extends into the
>higher grades there?

No but in general my guess is that its probably more an issue of the evolution in styles of climbing. A lot of these routes date from the '80's when the evolution of grading systems was in full swing.

>... I guess adventure is no respector of any grading system!
No, thank goodness...but if I'd crashed and burned I'd perhaps be thinking of it in a less positive light :)

The altitude and style of climbing helped my power levels. Got out for a run yesterday and linked a bit more of the 7b Cyrille and I had been working on last weekend despite hot/humid conditions, torched everything at lower grades...nice to have a strong day every now and then.

8:58:17 PM
Nice report Rod, helps get us excited about getting there in a few weeks!

We're hoping to get in a few good routes around Envers and Requin (good for us, nothing too hard)
11:31:42 PM
Spam deleted and user account disabled by Chockstone Moderator.
5:35:02 PM
Pilier de la Maye, La Fouly, Val Ferret, 450m, 4a, 6a, 6b, 5c, 5c, 6a, 6a, 5c, 6b, 6a, 6a. 1 hour approach from the carpark.

Grey granite, north facing, sole route in the basin and quite unusual in style.

Highlights: the tricky boulder problem in the 6a pitch 2 was close to the hardest thing on the whole route, 6b pitch 3 has an awesome bit of rounded friction climbing in the first 15m coupled with a brilliant side on view of the leader for the belayer, pitch 6 at 6a contained lots of moments where the headspace comes into play with committing friction foot placements - sustained, pitch 8 with its rising traverse off the belay, pitch 9's memorable friction climbing seeing Alex take a nice zipper on lead, I only made it by the skin of my teeth on second...super sustained, pitch 10 has a lovely lieback section through a rounded corner.

Overall rarely athletic but most of the pitches are pretty sustained in difficulty.

The setting itself is brilliant - big glacier basin, no one around.

Top out

Rapping taken at about the mid point of the route

1:29:16 AM
Significant personal event for us this week, happy dual citizens.

Got out a couple of times this week.

One really hot day 6a+ through 7a/b including my project here but greased off it mostly.

Today it was a bit cooler, onsighted a bunch of steep stuff up to 6c to avoid flash pump on the proj and then jumped onto it on top rop to see if I could link through from just after the first third's crux right through the other 3 crux sections (no joke, I can get pitched off every one of them) - strolled it relatively speaking so all the moves are finally in the bag. Pretty bold this one so I'll give it a bit more work to drill it then get on lead...been looking at this line many a time over years in CH, feels good to finally be at a strength level to be able to give it a good crack and it really is the anti-Rod in style.

Hooked up with Regis - Simplon or Verdon during the coming 3 weeks, weather dependent.
3:12:15 AM
bloody hot to's doin' my head in. few decent calls work wise, something might turn up sooner rather than later and that was incentive enough to get out and give it a lash this arvo. i was as weak as a kitten. from feeling good at 7a/b to being shut down on 6a/b in a few days, i really don't know why i bother with resting it always seems to send me into reverse at least if i overclimb i have an excuse.
9:07:55 PM
stung into action by the crap effort the day prior, yesterday we got out and gave it a really good lash. onsighted 6a/6b's then decided to get some revenge: crushed a mantle coming out of the crux on a 6c that crushed me the day prior, happy man. didn't tackle the 6a that defeated me the day prior, i can't reach the key hold without a 6C boulder move so i figure its just a morpho issue or the original key hold broke off.

got onto the proj: spat off the entry crux but, dropping the transfer move, pulling straight back onto the arete and sending the rest went great, drilled the remaining the cruxes and wasn't quite pumped to oblivion for the first time.

entry crux is still giving me grief, only get it about 40% or 50% of the time - iron cross move to the overhanging arete sloper, paste the feet about 30cm below each hand, toe hook right foot, exit iron cross via transfer of right hand onto arete sees the barn door because i often just can't get enough out of the right foot toe hook or i get spat off as i release it. tried flagging right leg behind or in front of left leg yesterday, just puts right foot and lower limb into mid air and only slows down the barn door during the RH transfer. had a think on it last night and may be able to do it via paste right foot interior the left foot, send the left foot into mid air and use the resulting spiral twist to transfer the right try. if i can't do that, i'm going to film it and analyse with a few other heavyweights and if that doesn't result in a solution then I'll have to drop a couple of kilo's - cheating or not, it's too good a line to not try everything.

rain today, thank goodness...did a lot of metres yesterday and feel the need for a rest day.
8:15:21 AM
On 12/07/2010 rod wrote:
>>Do you know if the apparent inconsistency of grading extends into the
>>higher grades there?
>No but in general my guess is that its probably more an issue of the evolution

Our experience has been (only on Multipitch) that anything under 5a and you can expect 1bolt per 10m if you're lucky, seriously inconsitent grading & very hard route-finding.
That's not a general rule and once the climb gets harder the bolting is more generous.
When you consider that these are often 100-200m routes, that's a lot of bolts (often 4 multipitch climbs in a row!)
But, after about 5c I think the grading seems consistent.
Similar to Oz, or any climbs where the FA has to grade something half what they normally climb i guess...
5:20:40 PM

been doing a few walks exploring some of the historical side of the alps, the most recent was a bise (small canal) at torrent neuf in the valley which goes up to sanetsche. water was necessary to irrigate crops during the dry summer months and they had to go hunting distant water descending from glaciers. there's plenty of them throughout the valley but in this case it's a bloody amazing piece of work dating from the 1400's. look at some of the historical photo's to get an impression of the gas these people had under their arses with little protection other than paying attention. the face traversed is a chosspile so plenty of the people would have been creamed over the years.

the walk itself is a 45 minute stroll each way with some nice long suspension bridges offering really good views.

Also done quite a bit of socialising ahead of the swiss national day, these were on a friends wall.

1:17:56 AM
my girl went back to australia for a couple of months so i'm back to soloing and bouldering for the first time in nearly 12 months.

first stint lead soloing on wednesday evening scared me silly but up to 6a/b it seems to go ok provided the holds are positive.

a couple of days later i bouldered up behind branson at the same location as "danse of the ballrogs". first lot of this style of bouldering in a long while and i surprised myself by sending stuff i couldn't this time last the hell that happened i've no idea.

today i put in 6 pitches of soloing and then rigged the shunt to toprope the proj. entry boulder problem has been solved via a slightly more technical bit of climbing that makes it a bit pumpier overall but with higher ratio of success for that section so looks like it's time to start falling my way up it on lead.
10:19:23 PM
its raining, thank goodness...i'm knackered.

did another couple of big days lead and toprope soloing. got on 2 likely projects via toproping with the shunt but the angle and slopers aren't overly conducive. here's a photo, they're the 2 arete's and the photo is deceptive as the one on the left is about 3 metres overhanging in its 18m.

went for a mid-mountain jaunt looking for new rock, found it very dolomitic but with a hint of conglomerate around what was a 1 or 2 hour reccie turned into an 8 hour hunt for approaches and different styles.

right at the end i came across a magnificent limestone/conglomerate boulder in a brilliant setting, 30 minute walk in. it's between 5 and 8 metres high and the size of a garage with routes on all sides.

this is a view from the top of the boulder, awesome folds in the limestone cliffs which look to offer good rock...approaches are a mission but they're doable.

some of the slabs on the bigger cliff faces look to be similar to the structure of the boulder so i'm going to organise a few more crew and see what we can put up.

had a late climb after work last night with cyrille at one of those natural surprise city centre quartzite sites that seem to occur with surprising regularity around here. these guys have really got it good climbing wise.

8:25:09 AM
I have enjoyed reading the ongoing adventure installments rod.

>the photo is deceptive (snip)

Is that a climber on the right hand arete, just above half way and to the right of the dark horizontal overlap/break? ... or just sunlight catching an edge of rock?
4:55:04 PM
Its just sunlight M9. The only person who seems to get onto that route is me and I'm usually slumping, falling or trying desperately cold day maybe! Perhaps in another lifetime. I was talking to the guy who put it up the other day, he'd bolted it and given up but gave it another crack after 4 years of hard bouldering finally sending with the first 2 bolts pre-clipped. He's never been able to repeat it.
9:49:07 PM
Bought some new shoes, have done some fingerboarding and I'm suddenly all motivation which is a welcome change.

The day after the rain I hooked up with a young guy I met the other day and we got out and gave it a lash. Onsighting mainly, my funniest effort was late in the day when a bit tired: climbed really tactically, got through all the hard stuff during the first 20 metres then lost my balance during a slabby move and fell off. We jumped on one of the projects right at the end of the session and both got spat off the whole way up it, I nearly nailed the opening crux though for the first time...just feathering on the edge of making it when the rubber gave out and down I went.

Really muscle sore this morning. With lots of rain forecast I did a fingerboard session but the rain was holding off and its pretty cold so I decided on a quick trot up the hill to the boulders behind the house here in Branson. The air was quite humid meaning crimpers were not sticking beyond the first few seconds, I got spat off plenty. Jumped onto a 7B traverse that was a bit juggier and it went really well for a first crack at it, there's only 2 near shutdown moves in the whole thing and they come fairly early on so it'll go for sure. Considering 7B is my absolute bouldering max ever I can only say that it must be soft given the shape I'm blimp.

Took some photo's just before the rain started...

Couple of nice 6C's on this one, including the one on which I injured myself last year.

All sorts of stuff on this one from 6B to the 8A+ route La Danse de Balrogs or if that isn't hard enough for you the 8B+ Radja

3:56:33 AM
Well the weather's bad: lots of rain, snow at about 2,500m and humid conditions even in the dry overhangs...but it's made for some fine scenery and light conditions from time to time and I had some stuff to get done unrelated to climbing so all's good.

Went bouldering on the conglomerate at Salvan this arvo for a few hours, got rained on but decoded a few and got them sent. Late in the session got onto a 7B and nearly sent despite the aggressiveness of the rock on the fingers, good chance this one will go and it seems about right for the grade.

Forecast to be fine tomorrow so will have to see if I can russle up a partner.

Onsight: I saw Fred today for some treatment, your poster shot of Simon Mentz on the FA of the Tote is proudly displayed on the waiting room wall. He says G'Day and is going really well.
6:41:17 PM
Hooked up with young Paul late afternoon mid-week and did Kalynka: 5a, 5b, 4c, 5c, 5b, 4c, 5a about 250m of bolted alpine ridge climbing. Basic idea was to see how he was with something off the ground and the general discomfort that long routes entail – sore feet, anaconda ropes, uncomfortable belays, my crap route finding, etc. Did the mountain goat walk in, geared up and then Paul realised he'd had left the rope in the car. “Well mate, the options are either solo this, which despite not testing the things I'm interested in seeing today I'm quite happy with, or you can go back and get the rope”. With wide, spooked eyes he headed off at a trot. I settled in for the wait a couple of photos then got a bit of sun on the belly.

30 minutes later Paul arrived looking like he'd taken a shower in a sauna, I took the first pitch and off we went. The whole thing went OK reversing leads and after a few corrective suggestions his use of bolted belay's was sorted by the end of the route. ..and I managed to score 3 pieces of nice new shiny Black Diamond gear during the lovely moves around the arete in the last 5b pitch. The bountiful joys of debutant routes.

The next day I reccied the approach to Les Ecandies in the bucolique Vallon d'Arpette. After 4 hours walking and exploring the valley for boulders, potential new routes and bivouac spots all I can say is “fcuk me, the place is incredible”. Go there.

You can see the Ecandies ridge right at the end of the valley.

Plenty of granite towers around, plenty still virgin.

Looking back into Switzerland.

I texted Paul to see if we could do a day over the weekend, Saturday worked for him so an 8:30 RDV was made in Val de Bagnes.
7:03:23 PM
1/3 Les Ecandies, Vallon d'Arpette/Trient, Alpine – Pillars, Le Rasoir and Saut d'Ange, Trad, 5c max, 2h 30m 1,100m climb on the approach.

Saturday dawned with promise to be a great day for the mountains. Prepped the picnic, water, route guide and gear (not that much really: 4 Camalots (0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1.0), some nuts, 4 slings, 8 express, rap gear, belaying gear, climbing shoes) then set off for the 8:30 RDV. Paul was on time, after a quick control check I suggested he go get his climbing shoes but a minute later we were off. Parked just above the Relais d'Arpette then started the walk in. You can see Les Ecandies at the end of the valley about 10 minutes into the hike.

As for the hike, it's unending with all the food and gear: 1,100m, 2h 30m.

We finally arrived at the dump spot just below the first 4 pillars and the following arete, dried off, ate and drank, geared up and did the last 15 minutes of the approach to find the thing is in a top draw situation: glacier de Trient on one side with the Lac d'Emosson and les Dents du Midi in full view and, on the other side, there's the Vallon d'Arpette with it's one ridge line leading the eye right along to Pierre Avoi and the other ridge line featuring the peaks of Orny with a massive amount of mountains set into the view between the 2 ridges...but we were here to get the pillars and arete done.

I took the first pitch, nice bit of 5b crack/corner climbing followed by an arete then a quick nip up one of the pillars...where there was no belay station so I just down climbed and used a piece of tat at the base of the pillar.

7:05:29 PM
2/3 Les Ecandies, Vallon d'Arpette/Trient

Belayed Paul up, then a tricky downclimb got us established on a ledge below the remaining 3 first pillars. Following the guidebook, I climbed up a chimney/corner system to a ledge and from there could see no evidence that I was on route but could spy what seemed like a cordelette on an adjacent pillar. Downclimbed the 15m and reviewed the guidebook, decided to go back up and follow a crack corner system to the top of the most desireable looking of the 2 pillars (ie NOT where the cordelette was) and see if there was any fixed gear at the top. A nice bit of climbing ensued, 5 or 6 good cam and nut slots, and the resulting belay spot at the top of the pillar was spectacular – I could see Paul at the bottom of the pitch and there was a couple of rap bolts so it turned out to be a good call.

The photo's following are: Paul belaying, his view upon arrival and the following arete.

We rapped down. Pulled the rope. It jammed. I got the job of a lovely bit of desperate retrieval climbing which was unprotectable with the gear I had and the rock was a bit suspect. Got out of that little predicament...can't say it was pleasant though.

“ Le Rasoir”

Le Rasoir: 50 metre pitch where it gets interesting when there's about 200m of gas either side of a 10m long 10cm-50cm wide arete which can be protected. Following that there's a 5m steep section with a bolt, getting to the bolt requires a nice move protectable with a wire then there's a few delicate moves to get established onto a flake before getting on top of the ridge where there's a couple of good belay bolts. Great little bit of climbing.

Following that there's a long piece of protectable arete climbing normally followed by a down climb then a climb up a corner to the bum belay location before the “Saut d'Ange”...

...but I saw a “better” option. With 20:20 hindsight "better" means, off-route, quite tricky, lichen for the foot smears and fragile crystals in a crimpy ultimately unprotectable vein. It was desperate, probably 6b and the only protection was to get it done because once in the middle of the thing there was no going back. Made it through, signalled to Paul that he should down climb rather than tackle that section, established a belay on one badly placed nut. Truly it was just a bum belay position relying on the logic that I'm 20kg heavier than him and called for him to come on over...

...he followed my path through the desperate section and arrived all wide eyed, dripping in cold sweat and quite animated. I showed him the “belay” and he went silent.

“ le “Saut d'Ange”.

I strolled over all swagger thinking this would be just like walking along the pavement, took one look and decided to protect the fall with a good nut placement, there's no way Paul would have held it given our weight difference. Unnerved I calculated the rope necessary, angle to hit it such that any fall would hit the nut properly then launched on over. Here we go, a 1.5m gap and plenty of gas on all sides protected by 1 crappy nut behind a suspect flake...

...SO stoked to land it perfectly. Cruised further along the arete after placing a lot of gear for Paul in case he blew it and established a good belay station on the West side of the ridge looking up at the last of the big pillars and sole remaining crux pitch.

Looking back toward Le Rasoir and Saut d'Ange.

A bunch of Choucas flew overhead just as I finished the belay set up.

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