Fun times last Friday climbing Petit Viking with Sam. It wasn’t our first choice objective, but with a short weather window we figured it was sensible to leave bigger routes aside and just have a quick, fun day on this modern classic. We chose to stay the night at the Argentière refuge, hoping an early start would mean we could be up and down the route before bad weather rolled in during the afternoon. With the poor weather forecast, our plans were met with some scepticism from the guardians at the refuge. Beatrice tried to persuade us against the idea and Fred just shook his head in a way that only a disapproving hut guardian can. However, their wise words weren’t enough to stop youthful enthusiasm and the following morning we got up at an unpleasantly early hour to skin up to the route. Unfortunately, our short weather quickly turned non-existent and thirty minutes after leaving the hut it started to snow. Undeterred, we soon reached the bergschrund and climbed on up into the spindrift. The climb didn’t get off to the best start, with Sam’s crampon popping off as he climbed a steep section around the schrund. Naturally, I thought Sam was a bit of a muppet for not putting his crampon on properly. Fortunately he soon managed to fix it and get himself safely up and over the schrund. Onwards we went and soon we got into the meat of the route. As I swung my axes on the first pitch of proper ice I was starting to really enjoy the climb, in spite of the wind and incessant spindrift. With good chewy ice and plenty of hacked out spots for axes and feet it was simple, fun climbing. The enjoyment soon came to a brief halt when one of my crampons popped off. Karama, ey. To be quick, we’d decided to move together and now the in-situ belay I clipped 20m earlier looked rather far away. I tried to place an ice screw but it turned out that whilst the ice was great for climbing it was rubbish for screws. Ultimately I just equalised my two axes, thought light thoughts and gently hung myself off them as I fiddled around with my crampon.
Photo: Sam Simpson
Crampon back on, we kept moving up. The climbing continued to be real fun, until my crampon came off again. After smashing the toe bail with my hammer for a bit, I was confident I’d now properly fixed it and we set off again. The climbing continued to be neither too easy nor too hard, just plain fun. Nearing the final pitch of proper climbing, my crampon came off yet again. By this point I was pretty fed up of trying to repair it mid-pitch and so hopped my way up the ice to the next in-situ belay. Though not something I’m psyched to do again, one legged ice climbing turned out to be easier than I thought. After what thankfully turned out to be the final repair job, I got the crampon back on and we set up the final pitch of ice.
Moving onwards together, we got closer to the top, but the weather wasn’t going to make reaching it easy. With each meter gained the wind got stronger. Persevering, we reached the summit ridge to be greeted with a full-on gale. I’d like to say the views were amazing and we stopped for a nice lunch, but we couldn’t see anything and our entire focus was on getting down as quickly as possible.
10 or so rappels later and we were back at the schrund. A scary ski down amongst massive, unseen crevasses soon brought us back to the Grands Montets ski area and after a quick ski down the pistes we were back at our car shortly after mid-day. As we sorted our gear in a rainy car park, it was pretty surreal to think we were on a remote, mountain ridge in a raging storm just a couple of hours earlier. All part of the weird world of Chamonix I guess.