Chamonix Summer 2016

Coming into this summer I had a simple plan. I was going to focus on climbing big alpine routes. Smaller, technically harder routes would be put to one side. This would be the summer of smashing out mega classics and getting beastly fit but super weak. To a large extent I did just that. Though I missed out on climbing some quality shorter routes and became frustratingly weak, I got a lot of mileage in on big alpine terrain. I would be lying if I said it was always enjoyable and fun. By it’s very nature big alpine can often be stressful. Bad rock, sketchy glaciers and long days with a crap bivi at the end are all part of the game. You don’t always do it for the quality of the climbing, rather the overall experience, though thankfully there was plenty of good climbing too! As always, I didn’t get quite as much done as I wanted and it’s much easier to dwell on the ones that got away rather than celebrate the successes. Nevertheless, looking back I’m pretty psyched on what I managed to achieve.

With plenty of good weather windows, at times it seemed like it was one big route after another with barely enough time to rest and recover. This meant I ended up with a big backlog of blogage. I’ve now finally had some time to write things up (control your excitement!). Below are some of the highlights from my summer. Missing are many fun day hits, but it’s the following climbs that I think will stick with me the most… Since this blog post comes in at close to 6,000 words (and something like 15,000 with all the associated links!) I’ve broken it up into various sections. Hopefully you might find one or two bits of interest.

1. A single push ascent of Mont Blanc’s Royal Traverse
2. A mid-summer winter ascent of the Brown-Patey
3. Mont Blanc, Bonatti-Oggioni
4. Chossaneering in the Ecrins
5. The Rochefort-Jorasses traverse
6. The Super Integrale de Peuterey
7. Ze Matterhorn
8. Grandes Jorasses, Walker Spur


1. A single push ascent of Mont Blanc’s Royal Traverse

My summer began with unfinished business, a single push ascent of Mont Blanc’s Royal Traverse. I’d tried this already last summer but poor judgement about weather conditions meant I got caught in a storm and shut down. I came back this year a little wiser and managed to pull it off. It was a mega day out in the mountains, involving nearly 5,000m of ascent. Looking back at the summer, I probably regard this as my single most rewarding day out in the mountains. You can read my full account of the traverse by clicking here.

Mont Blanc, Royal Traverse (12 of 12)

On the summit of Mont Blanc, finally. What a day.

2. A mid-summer winter ascent of the Brown-Patey

After the Royal Traverse I teamed up with Juho Knuuttila, a young perma-psyched Finnish alpinist who was in Chamonix for the summer. 

The weather had not been good. For three days storms had continually dumped snow on the mountains around Chamonix. This was not ideal since Juho and I had plans to try and climb the Brown-Patey on the Aiguille Verte. It’s a classic but somewhat forgotten route up the Verte’s mighty Sans Nom face. The route begins with around 15 pitches of rock climbing before giving way to ice and mixed terrain. These lower rock pitches would be considerably more challenging if covered in snow. Still, there’s nothing a bit of self-deception can’t solve. We told ourselves it hadn’t snow that much (it had). We told ourselves that it would probably have rained on the lower part and we could comfortably climb wet rock (it had very much snowed). In any event, we told ourselves the sun would quickly burn off any lingering snow or water (it didn’t get much sun).

The following morning we set off from the Grands Montets cable car station to the base of the route. We planned to do the route over two days, bivvying at the top of the rock section, leaving the snow and ice for the following morning. We figured that the rock section wouldn’t take more than half a day and so enjoyed a leisurely start, leaving the cable car station late in the morning. On the approach to the face it quickly became apparent that it had snowed a bit more than expected. Still, we carried on. The weather was good and the sun was going to quickly burn off any lingering snow (or so we told ourselves).


Juho at the start of the rappels down to the Nant Blanc glacier. It was at this point that I realised I had forgotten my belay device. Not ideal when you’re about to start a 1200m route. Even less ideal when the descent involves over 20 rappels. Juho’s ropes would never be the same again.


Myself on the approach across the crevassed Nant Blanc glacier. (Photo: Juho Knuuttila)

At the start of the climb things seemed pretty snowy and so we decided to keep our crampons on for the first couple of pitches until we reached drier rock. We soon realised that the crampons would not be coming off for a while. The rock was coated in snow and ice and the easy rock pitches we had expected were instead replaced with sustained mixed climbing. We started to burn through time and thoughts of a relaxed half-day’s climbing to a comfortable bivouac faded. Nevertheless, there was never any talk of turning back. For the most part, the climbing was never especially hard, just sustained. One exception was a 5b slab pitch. Usually this would be a moderate pitch of friction climbing, but the rock was either covered in snow or running with water. Friction was not-existent. Juho took the lead with crampons on feet and ice tools in hand. The pitch was bold, tenuous and pretty hard. It was a solid lead by Juho and I was glad to have a top rope.


Juho starting up the first pitch.


Juho joining me at the end of the second pitch. This was meant to be a pitch of 5a rock climbing…


Juho starting up another pitch of grade 5 rock that should have been a lot easier than it was.


Juho on an easy traverse pitch, the north face of the Drus in the background.


A small rappel to link up some of the climbing.


Sweet! An awesome 5b slab pitch. This would turn out to be the crux of the day, involving some run-out and tenuous mixed. Thankfully, it was Juho’s lead.


Me following on the slab pitch. Fun times. (Photo: Juho Knuuttila)


The Verte and the Drus towering above us. The view of the Dru’s north face from the Brown-Patey is pretty mind-blowing.


Looking up at tomorrow’s climbing.


Finally, some dry rock! Juho’s rock shoes actually left his bag for this pitch (mine never did). This was the only dry pitch on the route. This was meant to be the crux of the rock section but in the conditions was one of the easiest pitches on the route.

We finished the technical climbing just as darkness set. The climbing had taken us twice as long as expected and it was a relief to arrive at the bivi site a short while later. After hacking out a ledge to sleep on, there was little time to relax and chill out. We quickly got on with the chore of melting snow before heading straight to bed.


Nearing our bivi site as the sun sets.


Finally at the bivi! After a bit of work, I managed to hack out a pretty good site for myself.

The next morning we set off at dawn to finish the remaining 700m of climbing. The first few hundred metres passed quickly. Good conditions allowed us to simul-climb through the ice and mixed cruxes and before long we were at the Brèche Sans Nom. It felt good to be moving at a solid pace after the slow progress we’d made the day before.


Myself heading up towards the ice crux. (Photo: Juho Knuuttila)

From the Brèche Sans Nom we planned to join the Sans Nom Arête which would take us to the summit of the Verte. It was at this point that our pace started to drop off. The arête was heavily loaded with snow which made for slow progress. The easy rock pitches we’d expected were heavily iced up. We were once again forced to slowly pitch out the climbing. After climbing a heavily verglased rock pitch that was probably no harder than 5b, Juho commented that he thought it was 6b. I could understand the feeling. After another pitch of mixed climbing we arrived at an awkward-looking chimney. It was Juho’s lead. He was not psyched and I couldn’t blame him. It was hard to work out just how hard the climbing would be. I said it was probably just a bit of old-school 5b jamming, albeit not really sure if I believed this myself. Juho was not convinced and donned rock shoes before starting up the pitch. It quickly became apparent it would be a fair bit harder than 5b and before long it turned into a full-on aid fest (we later discovered this pitch actually was 6b). I followed, opting to climb in boots and crampons to save time, hauling myself up on a tight rope and whatever gear I could pull on. One more pitch separated us from easier ground. Once again conditions made things far more awkward than usual. I started the pitch laybacking up a flake, gloves and crampons off. A third of the way up I unclipped my ice tools, hooking heavily iced up features but still smearing my boots on rock. Half way up I reached a ledge where I could put on crampons for the rest of the pitch. It felt pretty Patagonian.

With some relief we finally reached the end of the difficulties and the summit of the Sans Nom. From here an easy snow arête would take us to the summit of the Verte. Conditions were still far from ideal. We were now exposed to a strong wind and a deep layer of fresh snow made progress along the arête tediously slow. Eventually though we made the final steps up to the summit of the Verte. We’d put in more than twenty hours of climbing effort to get there. The adverse conditions had turned the route into a far more demanding endeavour than either of us had expected. After taking a few moments to rest and let the achievement sink in we began to descend the Whymper Couloir. After many, many rappels we arrived at the Talèfre glacier and a short while later at the Courvecle refuge. Here we gladly settled in for the night. Taking off my boots, I saw the source of some pain that had been bothering me for the past few hours. My big toes were a complete mess, blood oozing out of them, the toenails completely detached. It wasn’t pretty and I knew I’d be hobbling around for the next couple of days. It had been worth it though. The Brown-Patey was as good as I’d hoped. It’s an awesome line up a great face that has it all – rock, snow, ice and mixed. Not to mention, it tops out on possibly the best summit in the massif. What’s not to love.


Juho on the final section of the arête. Neither of us took photos on the main section of the arête, which says all you really need to know about our level of psyche for it. In the conditions, it was long, tiresome and not so fun. 


Nearly there, the upper Sans Nom arête in the background.


Smack down! The wind gusts were pretty strong, at times forcing us to hit the deck to avoid getting knocked over.


Just a few more steps…


Woop! Summit of the Verte. My second time up here and Juho’s first.


About half way through the rappels down the Whymper Couloir.


On the glacier. Feeling pretty wasted but thankfully only thirty minutes from the Courvecle refuge.

3. Mont Blanc, Bonatti-Oggioni

After the Brown-Patey, I wanted nothing more than to chill out for a few days and let my body and feet recover. However, a spell of high pressure had arrived and Juho and I were keen not to waste it. Rest would have to wait. We decided to head over to Italy to attempt the Bonatti-Oggioni on the Red Pillar of the Brouillard. It’s a classic rock route on the south face of Mont Blanc that finishes with a long but technically easy ridge to the summit of Mont Blanc itself. It’s a line both of us were keen to have a go at this summer and conditions were reportedly good.

After a long slog up to the Eccles bivouac hut from the valley floor, we settled in for the night just a short walk away from the base of the pillar. Sharing the hut with us were two Brits, Rob and Lee, who also planned to climb the Bonatti-Oggioni. In what felt like a very British arrangement, we made a plan to start the route an hour apart so we wouldn’t get in each others way. Rob and Lee would head out first and Juho and I would follow an hour later.


On the way up to the Eccles bivouac, which is situated on the rocky outcrop just above the serac on the far right. The Bonatti-Oggioni climbs the Red Pillar of the Brouillard, which is the awesome-looking golden pillar to the left.


Juho on the final snow slope to the bivouac hut.


Just chilling in the bivouac hut. It’s pretty awesome to be able to lounge around on a bed at 4000m, basking in the warm sun with this incredible view.

After enjoying our extra hour of sleep, Juho and I got on the route just as the sun rose. The line was as good as I’d hoped. Superb quality rock and great, sustained climbing. The only disappointment was that it was all over so soon and before we knew it we were at the top of the pillar. What follows afterwards is a long ridge to the summit of Mont Blanc. The ridge is never hard, but it’s never really easy enough to completely switch off and much of the rock is pretty loose. Just before we’d left to climb the route I’d asked a mate who’d climbed it a few days earlier if he had any useful beta for me. “The ridge just goes on and on. It’s pretty soul destroying,” he responded. At the time, I thought this wasn’t the most insightful beta. In hindsight, it’s probably the most useful thing you could tell someone looking to do this route. Whilst the ridge is enjoyable at first, after about three or so hours it starts to get pretty old. Thankfully, it does eventually end and when it does you’re in a pretty cool position, bang on the summit of Mont Blanc.


Juho rappelling down to the glacier after a typical early morning start.


And we’re off. Such good granite! It’s one of those routes where it’s hard to fault a single pitch.


Juho climbing more immaculate rock.



Mega exposure.


Juho at the start of the ridge after reaching the top of the pillar.


Half way up the ridge. Still got this nightmare pile of choss to climb though before we can reach the summit of Mont Blanc, which is the somewhat uninspiring-looking dome top left.


Pre-summit refreshments with the British lads. We swapped positions with them throughout the day but never really got in each others way. It was good fun sharing the route with them and great to reach the summit together.


A super-psyched Juho doing his best to look like the first ten-year-old to have climbed the Bonatti-Oggioni  😉

A quick descent down Mont Blanc’s Goûter route saw us at the Nid d’Aigle just before darkness. Though it was probably only a further two hour walk to reach the valley floor and the comfort of our own beds, my feet had had enough for one day and so we opted for the comfort of the Nid d’Aigle refuge before taking the train back down the following morning. I must be getting soft in old age!

4. Chossaneering in the Ecrins

After a few days relaxing and a couple of days spent in the Leschaux basin climbing the Contamine route on the Petites Jorasses (quality, but not quite as quality as I’d hoped), the urge to go have a go at something big once again returned. After chatting over a few ideas with Sam Simpson, possibly Chamonix’s most psyched climber, we made a plan to jump in his van and head over to the Ecrins to have a go at the South Pillar of the Barre des Ecrins.

The South Pillar is a bit of an odd route. It’s got a reputation for being a load of choss, the sort of line that people climb and then don’t really recommend to others after. However, it’s such a striking and aesthetic line that in spite of this reputation it’s pretty popular. Like everyone else, Sam and I were prepared to overlook all the talk of heinously loose rock, captivated by the thought of climbing the mighty 1300m pillar to the summit of the highest mountain in the Ecrins massif.


The south face of the Barre des Ecrins in all its glory. The south pillar is the most prominent rock ridge centre-left.

After a late afternoon departure from Chamonix, we arrived in Ailefroide (a sort of mini-Chamonix) just in time for last orders at the local pizza joint. After stocking up on a couple of fantastic homemade brownies for good measure, we drove to the end of the valley and settled in for the night at Pré de Madame Carle at the foot of the Glacier Noir. This brought back a few memories for me as the Glacier Noir has been the sight of some of my more memorable solo climbs. This time however, I was happy to be sharing the place with someone else and was super psyched for the day ahead.

We woke a few hours later. Our plan was to do the route car park to car park, meaning we could climb the route with light packs. As we set off up the Glacier Noir we could see some headtorches in the distance and soon realised we wouldn’t be alone, with perhaps two or three other teams on the route. After a bit of a false start at the bergschrund we found the correct start and established ourselves on the pillar. The ground at the start is dead easy and you’re pretty much just walking with a bit of easy scrambling for the first few hundred metres. However, as the pillar progresses things start to become a bit trickier. After a few easy pitches on some questionable rock we encountered our first bit of rockfall. One of the teams above had dislodged a load of rock. From our position 100m beneath them there was little we could do but duck and pray we didn’t get hit. It was a pretty tense few seconds as a dozen cricket ball sized pieces of rock flew past us. Thankfully we weren’t hit, but it underscored just how dangerous the pillar can be, especially if other teams are on it too. With a renewed sense of caution we continued, being careful to avoid potential rockfall and ensuring we always had a couple of pieces of gear between us just in case we did get hit.


Sam on the approach.


The route begins with some extreme walking.


Sam getting stuck into some proper rock climbing. The route finding was easier than expected. So long as you look out for key features it’s pretty easy to stay on route.

About half way up the ground started to steepen and we caught the team ahead. On this trickier ground we realised it would be pretty difficult to pass other teams but we had little desire to sit around waiting for them. I opted to take a variation on the right, hoping to overtake them. I wasn’t sure the variation would go but figured I might as well try, sensing that the pillar was somewhere you could get away with climbing just about anywhere. After a long simul block on some pretty dubious rock we arrived at the base of some trickier climbing. Sam took over the lead. It soon became apparent that we would not be simul climbing the pitch ahead of us. The climbing was hard, scarily loose and the gear pretty marginal (it’d probably be E2 5b back home). It was a pretty full-on lead for Sam, especially in mountaineering boots with a big pack on, and I was very much glad to be seconding. After this pitch we rejoined the normal route and after another brief simul section we arrived at the base of what’s meant to be the crux. We’d been alt leading up to this point so in theory this was Sam’s lead once again. However, in his own words, he was too traumatised after the prior pitch to take the lead. It was to be my go, which seemed more than fair, especially as it was my variation that had forced Sam to climb the choss pitch of death. The pitch was once again tricky and I was starting to wonder why on earth we were carrying rock shoes in our packs but not bothering to put them on. On the plus side, the rock was pretty solid and the gear alright. After about 20m I came across an optional belay on my right. The climbing above looked harder still. Needless to say, I quickly readied every excuse in the book and took the belay. Sam joined me and once again took the lead for another difficult pitch of climbing. After a good fight he made it to the top, the most difficult climbing now behind us.


Sam approaching the base of the crux pitches.


Sam on our off-route crux. I was pretty glad he had about 5 pieces of gear in at this point. I figured at least one of the pieces might hold a fall.


Sam coming to join me half way up what is usually the crux of the route.  No doubt these two pitches would have been a lot easier with rock shoes or a more liberal approach to pulling on gear.

Now finished with the hard stuff, we still had a long, loose mixed ridge to the summit. The climbing here was frankly pretty shit and it took a fair bit of willpower to force ourselves to keep to the pillar proper rather than opting for an easy escape slope out left. Eventually Sam shouted down to me that the summit was straight ahead of him. I was convinced he was wrong since it’s pretty much a fundamental rule of alpinism that the summit is never as close as you think it is. However, thankfully Sam was correct and just a few moments later we were celebrating on the summit. #crushingit #ladsladslads #werecomingforyouBMG


Nearing the summit but still a lot of choss left to go.


Summit! Oooogh, ooogh, ooogh!

After a long but uneventful descent we arrived back at the van exactly 18 hours after we’d left. We had planned to go climbing the next couple of days, but both felt ice cream and beer was a better idea instead. After another night’s rest, we packed up and headed back to Cham, content with having climbed a beautiful line on a great peak.


A beer, a guidebook and a Vauxhall Combo. What more does a man need.

5. The Rochefort-Jorasses traverse

After a load of big alpine, I was keen to take it easy for a bit and just enjoy some high quality climbing without the stresses that bigger alpine routes involve. For me, there’s no better place for plaisir climbing around Chamonix than the Envers. It’s a granite mecca, with a tonne of superb quality routes just a short walk away from the Envers refuge, a strong contender for the most warm and welcoming refuge in the massif.

It was great to spend a few days up there, the highlight being an ascent of the Children of the Moon, l’Intégrale, an awesome 18-pitch Piola classic. I was pretty pleased to nearly get the whole thing onsight, a slippery 6b slab being my downfall, a feeling that anyone who’s climbed Piola slabs can surely relate to!

After the trip to the Envers the urge for some proper alpinism once again returned. However, I still wasn’t super psyched for something big so when Juho suggested doing the Rochefort-Jorasses traverse I thought this would be just right. The Rochefort-Jorasses is an uber classic ridge route, but one that I’d never got round to doing. Essentially it covers the crest of the French-Italian border from the Helbronner lift all the way to the summit of the Grandes Jorasses. It takes in several major peaks along the way (six ‘official’ 4000ers if you’re into counting) and has awesome views throughout on mostly solid rock. Though quite long, it’s never really that demanding, just sustained at a relatively low level. Like most teams, we opted to split the route over two days, climbing the Rochefort arête on the first day to the Canzio bivouac before traversing the Grandes Jorasses the following day. Though the whole traverse can be done in one long day, neither of us were that psyched for this, both preparing the more relaxed approach.

Aside from a slight panic on the summit of the Aiguille de Rochefort when we realised there were at least eight people ahead of us, all heading to the Canzio biviouac (it sleeps a maxium of eight people!), it was a pretty low stress affair. After realising things could be about to get a bit crowded, we upped our pace and managed to overtake the teams ahead to nab pole position just before arriving at the bivouac hut. This was just as well since a total of 14 people would turn up the bivouac hut that night. So much for thinking we might be the only people on the route!

The route was great. Never hard, but consistently interesting with amazing views from start to finish. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

Rochefort-Jorasses (1 of 21)

Juho at the start of the Rochefort arête.

Rochefort-Jorasses (2 of 21)

Yea, it’s pretty photogenic.

Rochefort-Jorasses (3 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (4 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (5 of 21)

Looking back the Dent du Géant and Mont Blanc.

Rochefort-Jorasses (6 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (7 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (8 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (9 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (10 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (11 of 21)

The hut logbook. Always nice to read these, especially when there are lots of familiar names.

Rochefort-Jorasses (12 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (13 of 21)

Juho climbing up towards Pointe Marguerite. This was one of the trickier pitches of 3c climbing I’ve encountered!

Rochefort-Jorasses (14 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (15 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (16 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (17 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (18 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (19 of 21)

Rochefort-Jorasses (20 of 21)

And down we go. Nearly 3,000m of descent to go. Fun times!

6. The Super Integrale de Peuterey

After the Rochefort-Jorasses traverse it felt about time for this summer’s big project, the Super Integrale de Peuterey, a mega enchainment of several big rock routes on the south side of Mont Blanc. My full write up can be found here.

The short version: we failed, but had one hell of an adventure trying and still managed to climb a huge amount of ground. It was by far the biggest and most serious alpine ‘route’ I attempted this summer and in spite of failing to complete the enchainment I’m proud of our efforts.


Juho approaching the summit of the Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey just as things were all starting to fall apart.

7. Ze Matterhorn

After a long summer climbing around Chamonix, I was keen to get out of town for a few days and visit somewhere new. After mulling over a couple of ideas, I settled on heading over to Zermatt to try and climb the Matterhorn. Despite the large number of major alpine peaks surrounding Zermatt I’d never climbed there before. The obvious mountain to have a go at is the Matterhorn. It’s probably the world’s most iconic mountain, instantly recognisable, even to non-climbers. I figured it was about time that I finally have a go at climbing it.

As I left the town of Zermatt, my initial high levels of psyche started to fade. Zermatt’s an expensive place to go climbing and to save myself a few dollars I’d decided to avoid using the lift infrastructure and hike to the base of the mountain. In the late afternoon heat and with bivi gear on my back this was far from fun. After a lot of hiking and a fair bit of self-pity, I finally arrived at the base of the Matterhorn’s Hornli ridge. Conscious that bivouacking is strictly forbidden near the mountain, I found myself a discreet site hidden away under a large boulder. The alternative would be to stay at the nearby Hörnlihütte, essentially a high altitude hostel. Everyone else was staying there, but there was no way I was going to fork out 150 Swiss francs for the privilege.


There she is. The Matterhorn and its Hornli ridge.

After a not so good night’s sleep (the bivi site was not quite as homely as it first appeared), I woke shortly before sunrise. For the Matterhorn, this was a pretty leisurely start. Everyone else attempting the mountain that day had left a couple of hours earlier. However, this suited me fine. I had no desire to get caught up in the crowds and far preferred to climb by myself in peace.

As I started up the ridge, it was hard not to have a big grin across my face. Here I was on an iconic, beautiful mountain in stunning morning light with not another soul in sight. I quickly found myself wildly off route, seemingly too close to the ridge when I was meant to be below it and too far away from the ridge when I was meant to be on it. Nevertheless, I made solid progress and eventually found the correct line just below the Solvayhütte, a small emergency shelter situated a little over half way up the route.

It was at this point that I started to join the crowds. As I progressed upwards, I encountered the guided groups heading back down the mountain after having successfully made the summit. I soon learnt that things work a bit differently on the Matterhorn than they do on other mountains in the Alps. In short, local guides always have the right of way. Get in their way and they won’t hesitate to shove you out the way (quite literally). I quickly adapted to this protocol and made sure I always gave them a wide berth. However this didn’t seem to be enough for one local guide, who for one reason or another took exception to me being on the mountain. In what was a blatantly obvious, aggressive and uncalled for move, he deviated off the logical descent line and quite literally lowered himself onto me before trying to push me out the way. Though I’ve had friends who’ve encountered such aggressive behaviour in the mountains before, I’d never experienced it myself. I called him a fucking idiot. He mumbled something back in German. Ultimately, we left it at that. High up on the Matterhorn isn’t really the best place for a game of fisticuffs.

I carried on, passing the rest of the Zermatt guides, the final one scolding me for not using the fixed ropes. I resisted the temptation to tell him to fuck off. With the guide train out the way, a more relaxed vibe returned. After a few final rock barriers, I arrived on the summit slope and a short while later found myself on the summit of the Matterhorn. It was great. No-one else around, stunning views and perfect weather. I sat down to take it all in. Though the route was technically easy, it felt pretty cool to be able to comfortably solo a route that several years back I probably wouldn’t have had the skills to do without a guide.


On the summit. Psyched!

Eventually I figured I should start descending, conscious that it would probably take as long as the ascent. On the descent I did a far better job of keeping to the correct line, though still managed to go off route on several occasions. Fortunately whenever I did a helpful American guide would soon catch me and point out the right route. I would then scurry off again before wasting time getting lost, at which point he would then catch me and tell me where to go again. Thanks! Arriving back at the Hörnlihütte, I decided to splash out and treat myself to a bottle of water to celebrate my success (9 francs!). There was then little to do but carry on descending back down to Zermatt and drive back to Cham, happy to have finally climbed this iconic mountain and content with a productive and rewarding summer.

P.S. I’m conscious that I’m making some rather sweeping generalisations about ‘Zermatt guides’. I hate to stereotype. There are good guides and bad guides of all nationalities. Being a dickhead knows no borders.

8. Grandes Jorasses, Walker Spur

After the Matterhorn, I was pretty ready to call an end to my summer of alpine climbing. However, conditions, weather, psyche and a capable partner all combined for one last big alpine hit, the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses, perhaps the iconic hard alpine route. My full write up of the route can be read here.


The mighty 1200m north face of the Grandes Jorasses. What a place!

The short version: it was awesome. Amazing climbing on an amazing face. What a way to end the summer. Now it’s time to enjoy some sport climbing and focus on getting strong and fit for the winter season. I’ve got some big projects lying ahead, particularly for spring. These will probably end in dismal failure, but I’m looking forward to giving them my all. Stay tuned…


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