Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Clocher du Portalet and Aiguilles Dorees

Finally got to the mountains during last w-end, and not anywhere - an enchanting spot, paradise for beginners, but also for advanced masters of the art. Overshadowed by Chamonix, the great neighbour, this backside of the Mt Blanc chain hides some real treasures - like the Clocher du Portalet, one of the rare, vertical to overhanging pieces of granite on 200 meters of perfect stone. Maybe it is not an equal to El Cap, but given the environment, the glaciers and the wonderful free climbing lines, it's not far.

We tried our teeth on Esprit du Clocher, beautiful crack line on the East face, just around the corner from the North one harboring such beauties as Etat de Choc by Remy brothers. This wall has to be seen to be believed - an incredible bit of rock sticking out from the ground, perfectly vertical and enourmously steep. The route prooved to be a bit over our heads - we reached the top grumbling and spending the whole day (+ 3 hour approach) there - alone, as another party bailed on the South-East pillar route. We did get to the top to get this picture -

After a nice accueil at Orny hut (plan to go up to Trient cabin prooved too optimistic as we returned to Orny at nightfall from Portalet), we went up for the second objective - the Aiguilles Dorees. Even further out in the wild, demanding some snow skill at Saleina window, these 400m faces are another wonder of this place.

The descent of the window was rather easy, hardly requiring more than ski poles (crampons didn't get out of our bag either...) and gettres.

However, what awaited on the other side, was certainly worth coming for. Maybe less impressive and vertical (in the first half), Aiguille de la Varappe has gorgeous climbing. Less difficult, on golden granite, it was perfect if not for the wind that chilled us to the bone on the first pitch. Aiguille d'Argeniere looked condecendingly on our efforts, with only 2 other humans crossing the glacier up to Saleina through the day. Certainly the Chamonix crowds are not interested in this place.

Mixing a couple of routes (Eole et Je suis le vent) we got 2 short pitches from the top, to only descend tired and satisfied. What a stone! Have to come back as many routes are still there, especially on Aiguille Sans Nom further in the Dorees chain, as well as on Portalet. Here is the view of the Orny hut on the descent.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Primitifs Flamands and another Art Minute

Weather being what it is, mind is a thing to work at. Visiting Brugges, I stay aghast at primitifs flamands, these painters not applying perspective, painting the uggliest babies possible - and still keeping so much mystery and beauty inside their works...

The Groeninge museum and the St. John's Hospital are definitely worth a peek for at least these two inhabitants...

Not to forget the French working during the same period, here is a pearl that stuck in my imagination - the portrait of Agnes Sorel, the king's maitresse, by Jean Fouquet, to be inevitably seen in Antwerpen.

PS - Do you know that all these unearthly-looking creatures had to shave their foreheads in order to follow the fashion of the time and resemble what we know of them - these paintings! I prefer shaving my legs, long live the 21st century...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Escapade à Paris

Having to study part of the w-end, we spent the other part rollerblading through Paris. Certainly it had to be the hottest day of the year, but comebacks are fun anyway. No old friends were at RDV though - Place Royal seemed abandoned by the roller crowd, no turns or figures there.

Musée Quai Branly substituted for the negative surprise. It is a very nice building, i loved most its naturalistic aspect. Nature is successfully integrated into the whole. Maybe the collections are just a repetition of what the old Museum of Man had to offer, but the new setting make it all much more accessible to the general public. And the Tour Eiffel looks beautifully young from its padio. Welcome to the Paris jungle! A definite must on the unending list of Paris' museums.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Eldorado, the Granite Mecca

Last w-end i finally reached the mountains. It happenned in the always welcoming Bernese Oberland, at the Grimsel Pass. Have not been in this region yet, and waiking up in the morning is definitely pleasant there. A view of Schreckhorn, afterwards Finsteraahorn's East face quickly make up for the driving and sleep deprivation.

We headed to Eldorado, a 500m granite slab over the west end of the GrimselSee dam. As the crowd headed up Motorhead (at least 4 pairs), we turned our attention to Metal Hurlant, a little bit harder alternative. Even here we managed to get off route during the beginning pitches, but did get to the crux arrete 6b through a traverse (photo). Very nice crux that goes through chimney techniques. The top was long and slabby 5a/c pitches. Long time i didn't do that kind of climbing - makes me think of Val di mello. With 2 bolts per pitch, even at 5a i failed to lead, but fun was there anyway.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Couleur Café

This w-end was full of discoveries - first and foremost at Couleur Café festival. We went there Friday, before the unfortunate fire on Saturday, and fun it was. Despite a slight disappointment with Gotan Project and Sanseverino, my favorite was Vetex Orchestra, a local band that kept me jumping on one leg up and down all evening.

Here is a link to their music, similar to Varda - and something to be seen in concert, or should i call it a rambling show with Kusturica taste...